How Modern Beauty Standards Affect our Self-image

One of my favorite parts of being a reporter for DelVal’s student media is capturing creativity in people and in our community.

  • – Maria Viola / Full360

By: Maria Viola

The standards of beauty for women are becoming harder and harder to achieve, especially because apps such as Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat offer filters that can blur out your imperfections, or even slim down your nose or cheeks.

When that is suddenly the new normal, naturally, people want to look like that on an everyday basis.

The Wall Street Journal article reports that “32 %, of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.”

This statistic, although not entirely surprising, is the sad truth for women and girls living in this highly digitalized new age. While the rise of social media certainly has its positives, the downfalls can be quite grim. Dr. Jessica McCall, an English professor at Delaware Valley University, weighed in on the topic,

“If everything I’m looking at is filtered, then I’m going to start to assume my picture should start to look like that. Especially because there’s sometimes no way to know if a photo has been photoshopped or filtered.”

Obsessing over beauty standards within society is nothing new. It has been occurring for centuries. McCall mentioned that it is simply “the most modern way to push body and beauty standards onto women.” On top of all of this, we have influencers and celebrities that have built whole careers off of this extreme digital perfectionism. This leads to many people wanting to retouch their own photos as well. And people are obsessing over this at alarmingly young ages. One article states,

“Retouched images are now what we’ve come to expect from certain influencers, particularly the Kardashians, with their impossibly long toes and weird-looking calves. But with the influx of “beautifying” lenses on social media, such as those that add “light makeup,” ordinary people are retouched beyond what we’ve seen before. This leads us to believe that we fall short of normal standards, which can be even more damaging than celebrity comparisons” (Why Overstimulation of “Beauty”).

The before and after effects of extreme filters and editing.

This can be especially damaging towards young girls who are growing up with this constantly around them. Young women and girls reported apps like Instagram making them feel worse about their physical appearance, comparing themselves to the ideal “Instagram Face” they often see every time they open the app. This new wave of filtered beauty can be dangerous for girls to constantly view. Especially as they are still growing up and learning about the world themselves. A quote from an article states,

“‘Whenever we look at images of others, we have a strong tendency to compare ourselves to them,’ Dr. Petya Eckler, professor of body image and social media at the University of Strathclyde, argued in dialogue with the British magazine The Face. ‘If those comparisons are, as academics call them, ‘upward comparisons,’ we feel that we are lesser than that to which we compare ourselves,’ she said” (Why Overstimulation of “Beauty”).

This can also bring up the topic of plastic surgery, which can be quite a controversial topic for some. Especially as more and more people are seemingly wanting to take part in such thing. The question it brings about is – are people really altering their bodies for themselves? Or do they want to have the perfect face and/or body to “compete” with others on social media?

Extreme editing often manipulates women to have unrealistic bodies.

When asking Dr. McCall about this topic, she mentioned that there are two sides to plastic surgery. People who are disfigured, or truly want to change something about themselves should be able to. Although she also mentioned how young people should, “at least wait until their twenties” to get any sort of cosmetic surgeries or altercations done. Plastic surgery can become a problem when it is targeted towards a younger audience, or when young people feel the need to get it done in order to look like they fit into societies beauty standards.

Beauty standards have evolved throughout time drastically. But one can argue not quite as drastic as when social media came into play.

What can we do about it?

Stay as informed as possible about the topic. Know when you are looking at an edited or filtered photo. Know that the perfect faces of famous influencers and celebrities are not something to be taken too seriously. Beauty standards in society are not going anywhere, but it is important to take a step back on occasion and view this sort of topic with a critical lens.

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