Ironically, in the age of the Body Positive Movement, it seems like people couldn’t be less happy with their looks. Plastic surgery rates are increasing, (they are up 3% since 2013, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons) while the success of mobile apps such as Facetune and Airbrush, which are used to augment personal photos (such features include face and body reshaping tools, eye-color change tools, and “smoothing” tools, which are used to perfect complexions), suggests that people aren’t as accepting of their flaws as they would like to be.
I’ll be the first one to say I can relate. Just because we’re told that we’re beautiful no matter what does not mean that we’ll believe it. In this day and age, we are taught to love our bodies—curves, dimples, wrinkles and all. We are taught that our hair does not need to be manageable (or that we don’t need hair at all), that our skin does not have to be as smooth as a baby’s bottom or a specific tone. We are taught to consider every one of our physical characteristics as unique and beautiful. But how can we assimilate this belief if society constantly negates it?
Yes, it is okay to be fat, but we also don’t want any fat girls on our runways (plus-sized models aren’t even considered regular models. They have their own league just for bigger girls. Aren’t all of our characteristics supposed to be equally beautiful?). Yes, it is okay to have acne, but we also won’t place any man or woman’s face on our magazines and billboards without their skin being perfectly retouched. Yes, it is okay to have darker skin, but we also continue to promote and market skin lightening products.
An ad for “Snowz Seoul Secret,” a skin lightening cream
Our insecurities are fueled by societal beauty standards, while our insecurities force us to submit to these standards, ensuring that the system stays in place. We want to believe that not being conventionally beautiful is okay, all the while still striving to be just that. We spend money on procedures and apps to change our appearance, and support and admire those that are conventionally attractive.
How many "ugly" women are famous singers and actresses? Very few.
Take Kylie Jenner for instance, who is only famous because of her physical appearance (which isn’t even natural, by the way). She has had surgical work done and uses body enhancement tools (waist trainers, “flat tummy” tea) to appear more attractive. She has millions of followers just for being conventionally pretty, while "ugly" men and women are never openly celebrated. If we truly believe in our body positivity principles, why don’t we apply them in the real world?
The epitome of conventional beauty
There are thousands — no, millions — of other young women who are more talented than Kylie Jenner, but will never have the opportunity to amass the amount of social media fame as her, simply due to their appearance. Compare Kylie Jenner to Tayja Jones, a teen from Philadelphia who was bullied online after posting pictures from her junior prom.
Online users spewed verbose amounts of hate towards Tayja based on her weight
According to our body positivity principles, shouldn’t both ladies be equally beautiful? What makes Kylie Jenner better than Tayja Jones? What makes Kylie more interesting and more deserving of respect and admiration? (The answer is nothing, because I’ve watched her reality show and the girl is as dull as dishwater).
We push the narrative that defying beauty standards is great and makes us even more attractive, but continue to influence the oppression and negativity fueled from said standards by submitting to them. If we want to be accepted for our flaws, maybe we should, I don’t know, actually accept people for their flaws? And I don’t mean half-ass it, I mean ACTUALLY do it.
I want "ugly" people to be on T.V. and in movies, to be plastered on every magazine cover.
I want "ugly" people to be the face of beauty, because they are beautiful.
We are taught to see certain characteristics as unattractive, simply because we are told that they are. When did we learn to see body fat as unattractive? (It was actually highly desirable at one point in history.) When the modeling industry became big and the only people who were allowed in were either stick thin or extremely fit. We have to demand to see more "unattractive" people in the limelight, to show that there isn't just one type of beauty. We have to support "unattractive" people just as much as we support those that are attractive.
We tear down beauty standards by refusing to lift them up. If we truly want total body acceptance, we have to change ourselves and our thought processes. We have to stop isolating and lessening the worth of unconventionally beautiful people. We have to stop trying to fit into these standards.
The next time you look in the mirror and you see a flaw, embrace it. Don’t try to hide it or cover it up; don’t let it hurt your self-esteem. By doing so, you’re allowing them to win. Society doesn’t get to tell us who and what is beautiful—we do. Each and every one of us has the right to feel pretty or handsome, regardless of what society has to say about it, and we have to protect and uphold this right.
The next time you see someone and you judge them based on their looks, love all of their flaws. View their terrible skin, cellulite, and love handles as if you were looking at gold. Stop believing that certain features make people less than they actually are. After all, our perceptions of beauty aren’t even our own. They’ve been determined by the powers that be. When we stop feeding into these perceptions, we have the chance to look past the guise of conventional beauty and see people for who they are. We get to appreciate them on the deepest and most personal level. As cliche as it sounds, it is what’s on the inside that matters. Maybe if more of us took the time to look past the guise of conventional beauty, we’d see that some of the most attractive people are actually the ugliest.
My hope for the future is that every person will wake up every morning and feel beautiful, because we should. Our bodies, all uniquely made, are living and breathing right here on this Earth, at this very second. There is nothing more beautiful than that.