“There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion.” ― Edgar Allan Poe
As a twelve-year-old girl, I knew I looked different than all the other girls my age. I had darker skin, and I was also built taller and heavier than an average person my age.
We all watched Disney and Nickelodeon growing up, didn’t we? And the problem with my body issues started when I’d watch actors in their mid-twenties play the role of a high school student in his/her early teens.
And I’d wonder, “Are all teenagers this good-looking? If yes, then why don’t I look anything like them?”
If only, movies and TV shows start hiring actual teenagers instead of actors in their mid-twenties or early thirties, wouldn’t our perception of beauty be different growing up? Wouldn’t we be less insecure about our forming bodies and imperfect skins? If only magazines did not heavily photoshop their models, wouldn’t we be more confident of our unsymmetrical facial features and natural bodies?
Everywhere I looked, on the magazines, billboards, TV shows, and advertisements, I saw women with stick-thin bodies, perfect white skin, shiny brunette/blonde hair, and a spotless face. Those women were beautiful, without unkempt eyebrows and skin without melanin. And I was the complete opposite of what the world deemed “perfect.”
If I am being honest, growing up, I felt ugly. I felt like I wasn’t good enough. However, I did not know back then what I know now. If I could meet my younger self, I would tell her this, “Your skin, which is as brown as the color of earth, is beautiful. Your black eyes which you deem to be plain, are as dark and mysterious as the night sky filled with twinkling stars that give hope to a lost traveler or a sad soul that there is still beauty left in this cruel world. Tell me, dear, what might be more beautiful than the dark night sky? Your asymmetrical facial features are a piece of art. After all, some of the most beautiful paintings in history were far from perfect. Yet, they were considered to be priceless. Your hip dips are not ugly, one day you will learn to appreciate them. You will learn to appreciate your legs because they have walked with you to some of the most beautiful and memorable places.
You will learn to appreciate your long fingers, with them you’ll write some of the most extraordinary literary pieces that will be read and appreciated by people worldwide. With time, you will learn to build confidence in yourself and realize that you don’t have to look like the girls in movies and TV shows to be considered beautiful.
With time, you will realize that the true meaning of beauty lies in the way you speak, the way you act, and the way you present yourself to the world. With time you will learn to love yourself and appreciate the little thing about yourself that you once considered ordinary. With time you’ll realize, that those ordinary things weren’t so ordinary. They are a part of you, they made you who you are. With time, you will learn that those ordinary things make you beautiful.”
The struggle to look “perfect” is never-ending. We live in a world of mass media consumption and the media plays a significant role in shaping the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us. Companies and brands use mass media as a way of promoting their services and products. Nutritionists use media as a way of promoting weight loss tips and “before & after” pictures of their clients. Skincare companies use media outlets to showcase the “results” their products will have on the user. Anti-aging creams and lotions manufacturing companies use media outlets as a way of showcasing to their audience what benefits their products will have on their skin. Why are we all so scared? Why are we so scared of growing old that we constantly pile up anti-aging skincare products? Why are we so scared of putting on a little weight despite knowing how much we love to eat our favorite foods? Why are we so scared of being a “flat girl” or a “boy with a belly”? Why are we all scared of not being a “size 0” or the “ideal heel”?
Unfortunately, both men and women have been victims of body-shaming over a span of a few decades and this has further surged since the evolution of the internet. Wherever we see, whether it is Tiktok, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter, we are constantly reminded that we should look a certain way to be considered “perfect.”
On Quora or Reddit, you can see people fighting between who is considered attractive: Tall or short boys? skinny, or curvy girls? Muscled or skinny boys?
Why can’t we just appreciate each other a lot more? Why do we judge each other constantly on the basis of skin color, body type, nationality, race, religion, or ethnicity instead of appreciating each other for who we are, how we speak, and how we treat those around us? Why are we all so hell-bent on becoming the “perfect” person when in reality our version of perfection only exists in movies, TV shows, and advertisements which is far from reality? In reality, human beings, and human relationships are flawed. But we learn, with mistakes we learn to become better human beings for ourselves, and our loved ones.
The struggle of looking “perfect” has made many people depressed. It has ruined relationships and led people to cheat on their partners. The struggle of looking “perfect” has also driven many people to commit suicide. It is unfortunate, but it is true. However, Gen-Z is showing hope for a better tomorrow, and a better future for everyone. Many influencers are coming forth in the media showcasing their natural bodies, and skin, further dismantling the definition of “perfection,” and encouraging many young girls and boys to embrace their natural selves instead of forcing them to look a certain way according to society’s standards of beauty.
As a community, it is also our responsibility to preach to the younger audience, especially teenagers, that there is nothing wrong with the way they look.
There is no “perfect” version of who you’re supposed to be. The only “perfect” version you must be is your own self. Stay true to who you are, that is the only perfect you need. That is the only perfection you’ll ever need.