Dating back to 4,000 BC, ancient Egyptians used kohl to create those signatures, cat-like winged eyes they are infamous for. Now, whether that stemmed from their utter worship of felines themselves, or their wish to look a certain, powerful, and even intimidating way, should we say – is rather unknown.
But one thing is certain, it was the need for beautification that stood in the center of it.
Fast forward to 1500 BCE, in China and Japan, folks used rice powder to create a more pale or rather white-looking face. It is what they perceived as beautiful and wealthy at the time. Contrary to what we do now, they would also paint their teeth solid black, to further beautify their overall appearance and face.
As you can imagine, the look of beauty or the beauty standard has since changed quite a bit. And although it does vary from culture to culture, one thing stays the same:
Our society, as well as our inner selves, were and most certainly are, utterly obsessed with beauty.
Beauty in architecture, cars, interior design, paintings, literature, and the occasional tragedy – societies have been able to find and define beauty in many things. In the mid 17th century, when Baroque took a somewhat inwardly ugly turn, beauty had its own way of being displayed. A rich and “over the top” surface, with a rather empty and melancholic secret – it was a cat and mouse game of the two polar opposites.
During the Renaissance period on the other hand, when the idea of the artist as a genius was born, there was no shortage of beauty-oriented minds and pieces of art.
During that same point in time, it was individualism that dominated all throughout. Quite possibly, for the first time in such a direction. And the more individualism there was within society, the more ideas, beauty, variations, and subcultures and genres were being born.
That’s where we’re at today.
Most of what we see on Social Media is described as rather superficial and hollow, but that just might not be the case. People’s infatuation with beauty is as high as ever. But with Social Media playing an important role, beauty has become more individualistically expressional than ever before. And channelling that need to beautify one’s personal appearance, rather than doing it culturally or within the masses, has been both good and bad for us.
In many ways that we’ll get into. When beauty is translated to freedom of self-expression, it doesn’t come across as depthless. But the current lens we’re looking through is too filtered and staged. So…How did we get to such a point in visual time?
Distorted Features & Deadly Filters
“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”…
That famous quote from the 90s supermodel Kate Moss sure has had a rather dreadful impact on the youth at the time.
These same 90s had girls starving themselves to get that size zero figure, eating cotton to suppress appetite, engaging in eating disorder-like behavior such as throwing up meals. Self-harm and mutilation in the name of beauty? Seemed worth the awfully superficial Victoria(n) Secret price.
In 2015, the world was in “shock” when the then 17-year old Kylie Jenner revealed she had her lips done.
“Kylie started the big lip trend”, “Every girl wanted big and full lips after that”.
And although that message might have been somewhat true, full lips have been around for far longer than Kylie’s been on this Earth. It was social media, predominantly Instagram and Tumblr, that pushed the narrative of what would have been considered “the standard”. In other words, Kylie was just the first domino out of the bunch.
Before you knew it, fillers, in many forms, were severely normalized. Even amongst teenagers and people way too young to be making such life, and quite literally, face-altering decisions. Rihanna did this or Kim posted that…The masses became captivated with waiting around to see what the leaders of pop culture and media will do and come up with next.
A pop-culture dictatorship, if you will.
Very young girls became depressed for not having hourglass figures, thick and luscious hair, perky noses, glowing skin, and a tremendous money-making following on social media.
I’ve had the misfortune of stumbling across many comments and videos of girls talking about their lack of confidence. As if the whole world became one big filtered Instagram feed. To some, this doesn’t seem like that big of an issue. But what if I told you that since 2007, the percentages of suicide for girls, ages 10 to 14 progressed to 12.7% per year, matched with 7.1% for the boys of the same age.
That number has been on the rise ever since. Especially in association with looks and outer appearances, or lack of confidence in such areas, so to say. Men have not been excluded from this online parasite either. Feeling the urge or need to follow trends and popularized niceties in order to fit in, especially online, has affected their self-image as well.
“You’re too masculine, that’s toxic!” or “You’re too feminine, that’s gay!”
There doesn’t seem to be a concern for well-being when it comes to the internet.
Reflecting on the Past
In Ancient Egypt, makeup was often used to signify one’s wealth or appeal to the Gods. It even had ritualistic undertones to it as well. In other words, pursuing external beauty wasn’t the goal, but seeking an internal sense of honor, mindfulness, and power.
Not to say folks don’t engage with those characteristics of makeup today, they very much so do. The problem is, it isn’t so much as a choice, as it is a necessity to look a certain way.
Not for the gods, nor for spiritual purposes, but for instant gratification, male or female validation, and the occasional like. That’s very different from the history that we know of.
Death of Traditional Hollywood
The last decade has been a rather bizarre one for the culture. We’ve lived and died with movie screens and culture-defining records being played in the background of our upbringing. Traditional Hollywood celebrities, from the golden age of America, all the way to that urban 2000s MTV phase we’ve recklessly been through, have led and set beauty trends for the people at home. And the people at home loved it!
We had every other girl walking around LA with the signature Christina Aguilera black and platinum blonde hair. The modern-day Marilyn Monroes and Audrey Hepburns were all around town too. But how does this relate to today’s topic of toxic beauty standards? Allow me to clarify.
15 years ago, Angelina Jolie was probably one of the most beautiful creatures within the entertainment industry. Were many girls envious? Sure. Was it as big of an issue like it is today? No! You see, Angelina Jolie’s beauty was not shoved in your face every time you wake up and take a scroll down your feed. Don’t get me wrong. traditional Hollywood had no halo over its head, not in the very least. But the bond we’ve had with traditional celebs was much more distant than the one we have with the influencers of today.
Now, when every other girl looks like the ghost of Megan Fox, it’s hard not to compare yourself with what you are lead to believe is the norm. And let me tell you, it most certainly isn’t.
The death of traditional Hollywood didn’t only take away Grace Kelly, Robin Williams, and Heath Ledger from us; it also took the distant line society needed to have with such an insane world known as the entertainment industry. When everyday folks and life migrated to La La Land, that’s when things took an awfully wrong turn. Not everyone can be Scarlett Johansson…But social media will make you believe that you should and that you can. Vey unattainable beauty standards have become the standard.
Failing at doing so is what begs this self-hating spiral.
The underlying issue has been brought to the center of the theatre stage; what was meant to stay on screen has been brought right to your front door. No wonder you’ve opened it to a handful of doubts and insecurities.
Photoshop In Full Speed
And if it wasn’t so apparent already, most of your favorite “creators” heavily rely on Photoshop to achieve the faces and bodies they so fancy. It’s an image they try to keep up with; a chase for visual fulfillment, if you will. That is how Social Media sets unrealistic beauty standards for everyone.
The people you aspire to look like don’t even look like themselves, let alone the image they so profoundly portray online. The sad truth is, most of you already know this, yet it still doesn’t seem to solidify anything. It just intensifies your desire to download FaceTune yourself too. Which is an impediment in and of itself. Social Media beauty standards are getting out of control by the minute.
The Lost Sense of Self
“Everything’s a copy of a copy of a copy…”
Narrated in the 1999 award-winning movie “Fight Club”, it sure has predicted an even more amplified sense of the copy&paste trope. In the last couple of years, individualism has evolved to be the most prominent piece of modern culture, especially in western society; it’s funny how most of what originality has to offer is a direct response to something else. And that’s how we build a pyramid of beauty standards in society.
There’s nothing wrong with self-expression and the need to discover your true outer appearance. In many cases, it even helps boost your overall confidence. But soaking up the patterns and criteria around you may poison your sense of self, and overall, your opinion on your own little piece of virtue.
Not to say inspiration hasn’t always functioned that way, as it most certainly did. But there is a fine line between being inspired and being managed. When I was a kid, all I ever wanted to look like and be is Robert De Niro. Especially from all the mobster Scorcese films. And I’m talking cross chains, pinky finger rings, Hawaiian shirts, and the occasional pink suit. That’s being inspired.
When I was in high school, I felt stupid for liking that fashion, but it just “felt like me”. I ended up changing it to feel less dense. Now that’s being managed. The day we lost our sense of self is the day we lost our courage.
The day you stop trying to impress men or women; the day you stop wearing only what looks best on you and the day you stop grieving for not doing so is the day you’ll start to get inspired again. Thus, revealing your true sense of self. And once you go to her or him, trust me, you’ll never want to go back.
Expose pages on Instagram
Instagram sure has given us its fair share of self-doubts and “superior beauty” complexes. But why is no one talking about the folks on Instagram exposing the exact behavior that lead to all of this absurdity?
The absurdity being:
Normalization of plastic surgery, excessive photo-editing, as well as the glorification and romanticization of mental illnesses. The list goes on, though. Celeb Face, one of the biggest expose accounts out there, sure knows how to shove reality right in your face.
View this post on Instagram
They love to strip celebs away from filters and show us some structure. Some realness. Fine lines, cellulite, and the occasional stretch mark; now that’s normality. With 1.5 million followers and counting, people sure have seen some benefits by having this false perception and image of perfection being burned down. There is no more room for unrealistic body standards here.
Another good expose account is @beauty.false, with their goal to debunk all your doubts about your own face and body. Trust me, the more perfect things appear to be online, the more insecure those exact individuals are.
View this post on Instagram
How To Get An Idea Out of Your Head
Although many people struggle with originality, sometimes, getting an idea out of your head is even more challenging than getting it in…This is a frequent phenomenon with severely distorted or damaged minds. People raised under extremely difficult circumstances often struggle to cope with “normal” everyday life. In many ways, they are required to “rewire” their disfigured way of thinking in order to survive.
Although in a less sinister tone, the same goes for unrealistic beauty standards. It’s unrealistic for a reason. An idea, just like any other, is a seed deeply planted within the mind. The more you water it, the more it will grow, taking up more room than you can bear. Here’s how to get the fucker out.
Firstly, address it. Give it a name, a label..some sort of identification. But the trick is, don’t engage, nor talk back to it. Leave its negative and overly demanding beauty yearnings for the abyss.
Secondly, sincerely ask yourself: Is this really what I want to look like? Is this really who I want to be? Who was I when I was a kid? What were my aspirations?
They most certainly had no heavy emphasis on appearances. When you boil desires down to such purity, almost to a child’s level of need, you’ll see the lack of shallowness it comes with. In most cases, when kids want something, it’s because their inner being requires it. When an adult wants something, it is the social norms, excessive self-awareness, and worry that drive the adult in things they just might not even be that interested in.
In other words, getting an idea out of your head is questioning whether that was your idea, to begin with.
While you’re at getting these silly beauty standards out of your day-to-day life and mind, you might as well water the less fading parts of you. Physical beauty comes and goes, but what stays when it’s all gone, is what you’ll wish you have paid more attention to when you had the chance.
Let that not be the case, sincerely.