Our society puts high importance and an even higher price tag on beauty. We are told and reminded from adolescence that we need to fit a specific mold and form to be considered “beautiful”; and if we don’t fit society’s norms and expectations than we are not up to par to the glamorous models plastered on magazines and newsstands on every corner. But since we have grown up and matured in this society we already believe that we need to meet their vain requirements to ever succeed in this competitive, aggressive, and sex oriented world. We should meet those standards because, let’s be real, pretty people always make it further in the job field.
Women are hired based on their looks, how white their teeth are, how smooth and poreless their face appears, how small and non-existent their waste is, rather than the job requirements. Sure they may possess some sort of stipulations that helped them to land that position, but if a heavy-set woman with frizzy hair and bad skin came in with the same expertise and capabilities, she would be turned down without hesitation. But this topic also strongly relates to men and young boys who are, in addition to women, influenced by what society tells them to believe. Men are constantly over- sexualized in the media and in society, BUT we are so much more lenient on the issue. It’s considered innocent “fan-girling” when a girl has a shirtless poster of Chris Hemsworth (Thor) adhered to their bedroom wall. But for a guy to do the same thing with a poster of the cover girl of a Sports Illustrated magazine it would be considered crude, inappropriate, and bordering on pornographic. Why are our standards for men and women so skewed in the favor of the situation?
So the question is, should we condition our youth to beautify themselves on the outside to help them thrive in this modern and proud society? Or should we be the ones to encourage themselves to beautify themselves on the inside and to cultivate talents and strengths that will launch them to success and happiness in this simple existence?
We can find beauty and loveliness in everything around us. A common phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” holds so true to its meaning. We are being oppressed by letting society deem what is and isn’t beautiful. Beauty can be found in all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities. Beauty isn’t skin deep; it’s much more important than that. It isn’t what clothes we wear, or how much makeup we put on in the morning; it is the beauty in the soul.
In a very sweet and endearing letter that a father wrote to his daughter he spoke of how when he was in the makeup aisle at Target all he could see was so-called “perfect” models staring back at him from the front of glossy magazines. Each cover clamored “Affordably gorgeous, Infallible, Flawless finish, Brilliant strength, Liquid power, Go nude, Age defying, Instant age rewind, Choose your dream, Nearly naked, and Natural beauty.”(Flanagan, 2014) It was in this moment that he realized how incredibly oppressive and ruthless the beauty industry is. Through the eyes’ of every parent their child is beautiful. They see their young as innocent, happy, and carefree. But having to raise a child in a world that tells them that they don’t measure up to the expectations that the media has set, and that they aren’t good enough, is a battle that every parent has had to fight. Who was the person that decided for all of us that our outward beauty would be the judge of our intellect, personality and talents? Who was the ignoramus that made the decision to completely mask over our nature and character with caked on concealer? The dear father then goes on to tell his young and still amenable daughter that beauty is found on the inside and isn’t something that can be bought at a makeup counter. “May you discern in your center who you are, and then may you fearfully but tenaciously live it out in the world. Choose your dream. But not from a department store shelf. Find the still-quiet place within you. A real dream has been planted there. Discover what you want to do in the world. And when you have chosen, may you faithfully pursue it, with integrity and with hope.” (Flanagan, 2014) He encourages and pleas with his small child to discover her inner beauty and to take hold of her dreams. She needn’t listen to the barrage of voices telling her that she won’t amount to anything. She just needs to follow her heart and dreams outside of society’s limits and boundaries.
Every lesson on talents that we are given, whether it be in family home, Sunday School, or Priesthood/Relief Society, we have been told that we have come with the mission to bless the lives of others with our blessed talents. In Matthew 25:21 it says, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” We are constantly reminded not to hide our light under a bushel; and we shouldn’t cloak our talents and capabilities from the world. We are to share and cultivate our talents with others so that we may all grow and learn from them. Nowhere in any of those lessons did it say that we have to be flawless and beautiful while doing it. Our Heavenly Father is the only one that has the responsibility of judging us. He judges us by how we spent our time here, whether we served others, learned and grew secularly and spiritually. He’s not going to determine our salvation on how well we dieted or if we spent a decent amount of time fixing ourselves up in the morning.
Another article that brought shame to our public was a story written about how Girl Guide (the UK equivalent to Girl Scouts) has created a badge of “self worth” for Brownies and Girl Guides to earn. These badges would be rewarded to them after having attended two seminars about body image and unhealthy dieting. It’s such a shame that a badge has been made to accommodate to the increasing beauty standards of the world. Brownies and Girl Guides was originally founded to teach young girls important and vital values including honesty, trust, respect, talents and abilities, environment protection, courage, strength, and sisterhood. These organizations were created with the belief that all girls are innately beautiful and possess different and unique talents and abilities that enhance who they are. These groups were a safe place that girls could retreat to from the daunting suppositions of the world. A place that encouraged them to be who they are and told them that beauty wasn’t how much time you spent in front of a mirror. It is quite a tragedy to see that “beauty” has slinked its way into a realm of safety and security. Although it is really unfortunate that young children are bombarded with so much pressure to fit in, it is wise that they are enlightened on unrealistic and unhealthy body images. (Sanghani, 2014).
This is how the beauty market targets the youth. They prey on the weakness, insecurities, and diffidence of people. They’ll find the problem area that we try to hide from everyone and the world, and then they’ll tear down self-esteems for the sake of their wallet. Everyone should be educated about keeping good hygiene habits and routines, but we shouldn’t have to be caked with cosmetics to be considered “presentable.”
But on the opposite side of the spectrum beauty will generally get us farther and more success in life. In “Beauty vs. Brains”, an article published by “Economics Letters”, it states that people who are more esthetically pleasing to the eyes are the ones who tend to be more successful in life. Throughout the paper it says that individuals that are better dressed, more confident, and overall more appealing are the ones that had higher salaries, and better outcomes at finding occupation than those who weren’t. “The results also provide suggestive evidence that for very attractive individuals, increases in ability are associated with increases in wages…” (Fletcher, 2009) This statement only goes to show that their previous abilities were only strengthened because of their position. It’s a vicious cycle: the pretty person is hired, the pretty person gets paid more, and therefore the pretty person is the one is more motivated to become better skilled at their profession. Daniel Hamermesh, the author of Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful, claims the opinion attractiveness is subjective is a misconception: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Hamermesh writes, “but most beholders view beauty similarly.” (Williams, 2012) Daniel Hamermesh also says that people who are less attractive than their beautiful counterparts tend to be at a disadvantage. These “plain” people are almost considered to be disabled, and may in fact even be susceptible to physical discrimination.
An article published on psychologytoday.com (Beckwith, 2011) spoke of how our brains determine attractive faces from unattractive ones. According to their research we aren’t drawn to a bunch of super attractive features all placed together, but we are inherently lured in with familiarity and symmetry. A symmetrical face is easy for our brains to recognize and therefore more likeable. We are comforted by the symmetry and the ease at which our brain can recall faces. This is an interesting concept because it’s the idea that our brains telling us what we like rather than society. Society hasn’t managed to sink their claws into our thoughts, because it’s a proven fact that our brains our doing the judging and not the media. Sure a woman could be wearing a beautiful face full of makeup, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we will be attracted to her. Asymmetrical faces are more difficult for our brains to process, so even if she is wearing makeup that has been artistically applied, if her face isn’t proportional, then we won’t be as allured by her looks.
So then why are we all striving to become successful through intellect and wisdom, when we obviously should all be rushing to the Botox counter? Why are we enduring through long lasting school lessons and persisting in an education that seemingly doesn’t matter when our more attractive peers are the ones that are higher above us on society’s success ladder? Although we should be knowledgeable in some areas, what we should undertake is the responsibility to be beautifying and perfecting our very temporal bodies because that is what will assist us in becoming prosperous and will keep us a step ahead of the “Plain Janes”.
I can remember when I was growing up my mom wouldn’t let me wear makeup until I was twelve years old, and it couldn’t be too dark or heavy. Needless to say my virginity to cosmetics greatly hindered my ability to actually apply makeup attractively. So I was left with clumpy black mascara coating a majority of my eyelashes and pressed powder, that kind of resembled my skin tone, caked on my face. I didn’t necessarily want to wear makeup then, what I really wanted was to look mature and beautiful like the rest of the girls in my grade. I felt like I had been somehow left behind. Everyone was getting pretty and kissing boys, and I was still an awkward and uncomfortable 11 year old with transition lenses and bit of baby fat. I felt that during the summer between elementary and middle school everyone had gotten the memo to become gorgeous and popular and I obviously hadn’t been there for that how-to meeting.
Fast forward to the end of my sophomore year in high school. I had become and avid watcher of YouTube “beauty gurus”. I watched nearly every single makeup tutorial online and scoured through Seventeen Magazine trying to perfect a natural eye and flawless skin. It wasn’t until then that my self-confidence really boosted and took a turn for the better. I could hide my blemished skin and dark circles with a bit of concealer and a pump of foundation. I could widen my eyes with cat eye eyeliner and lengthen and volumize my eyelashes with a few coats of mascara. I felt like a new person. I could “face” the world without being self-conscious of what I looked like.
But the makeup didn’t stop there. My fear of going to school without my “face” on escalated to where I felt embarrassed by my body. I was never skinny enough, and when eating right didn’t change the number on the scale I took matters into my own hands. I survived off of coffee and the ever-consuming idea that I could lose weight. In my head I told myself I was the one in control. I told myself that I didn’t have an eating problem, I had just set strict regulations on what I ate, which was usually a few crackers. I refused to believe that I had let societies expectations into my head and dictate how I lived. I insisted that I was doing this for myself, to get healthy. But in all reality, and looking back on it, I wasn’t in control and I wasn’t healthy by any means. I was obsessed with the idea that if I could lose a ton of weight and become beautiful enough, then my life would pan out in front of me. I held onto the twisted and confused thought that “beauty” would get me what I so desperately wanted. But with time and a lot of praying I slowly came to realize that no amount of store bought beauty and no matter how wide my “thigh-gap”, I wasn’t getting anywhere. My supposed beauty hadn’t made me successful, it hadn’t made me popular, and it definitely hadn’t gotten me any closer to where I wanted to be in life. It had shoved me in the opposite direction, down a path of confusion and fixation. To say the least I felt like I was bordering on the edge of crazy.
Yes the media and society constantly bombarded me with unfeasible “beauty goals”, BUT I could have been stronger and more resolute to my own beliefs and convictions. Their unrealistic expectations didn’t sneak their way into thoughts; I gladly welcomed them to accompany me on my downward spiral to darkness.
“The diet and fashion industries are not totally to blame for society’s obsession with thinness. We are the ones keeping them in business. We buy into the idea that we can attain the “ideal” body image. We allow ourselves to believe the lies being thrown at us constantly. We buy their magazines, diet books and products, hoping that this time they will work.” (mirror-mirror.org) This quote absolutely rings true. Blame and fault cannot be completely put on the shoulders of the beauty industries. We all have free agency to choose how we will think and act. President David O. McKay said, “Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God’s greatest gift to man…Freedom of choice is more to be treasured than any possession Earth can give.” Our choices and decisions are so important and should be regarded with high esteem. They are our own and we WILL be responsible for them on judgment day. No one but us is accountable for our own actions. In Doctrine and Covenants 6:33 it says, “Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward.” We alone will bear the consequences of our decisions.
Through the freedom of speech, fashion, beauty, and diet magazines are still in print, but just because they are available does not mean that their advice should be taken in and lived to a T. Idolizing beauty “perfection” will only lead to a life of low self-esteem and feelings of never measuring up to the world’s standards. In this life no one will ever reach perfection. We can certainly try to reach for it, but it is impossible to withhold ourselves from Satan’s temptings. Our dear Savior and older brother, Jesus Christ, came to this Earth perfect and flawless prepared to take on the burden of our sins and transgressions so that we could return to live with our Father in Heaven. Through his service and selfless life he gave us something that we could never purchase from the local beauty counter. He, the Prince of Peace, gave us the blessed gift to leave this temporal and sinful world to go back to our heavenly home on high. Our bodies are but “fleshy vessels” in which to transport our eternal and everlasting spirits. Our spirits and salvation are what we should be so intently focused on. We need to fix our attention on us, our talents, service, faith, and relationships with others. Beauty fades, and the memory of our beauty fades even faster. These bodies won’t last us forever so why should we be investing so much precious time and money into them? Improving our talents and expanding our wisdom is what is necessary, because even waterproof mascara can’t break the bands of death.