Being An Indian-American Means You're Breaking One Or Both Societies' Beauty Standards
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Being An Indian-American Means You're Breaking One Or Both Societies' Beauty Standards

On top of having to worry about body image, skin color is another problem on the list of issues that Indians in America have to face.

Being An Indian-American Means You're Breaking One Or Both Societies' Beauty Standards
Unsplash // Avnish Choudary

As a female, I can understand how difficult it is to live in today's society where impossible standards for physical beauty are set by both genders. And in my personal opinion, it is nearly impossible to reach these standards. It's become more popular to see self-love campaigns today, and though they may attempt to improve self-esteem, a female can especially explain what it feels like to be under pressure from society's critical eye. This is why I decided to ask my friend, Sahana Basker, how she pictured herself according to both society and what made her comfortable.

Can you explain what pressures you face as an Indian woman?

"When it comes to how society pictures women, people always think that it comes from how males picture [them], but it actually comes from women themselves, their peers, the people around them and the people that they trust the most. I've dealt with impossible societal standards all my life, and because I am Indian, there are two types of pressures that I deal with frequently, which are quite contrasting. The first comes from my Indian heritage, and the other is from American society in general.

"As an Indian girl, I face a lot of pressure in every aspect of my life. With my lifestyle, everything has to be pin-straight. Everything has to be unbelievably perfect. I mean, with things like my hair, it has to be straight, or it's messy. If my grades are not perfect, I feel like I'm letting someone down. If I don't wear appropriate clothing, I feel like I'm insulting my entire religion. With beauty, there's always been this pressure to have light skin.

"Even though I don't feel it directly from anyone, whenever I'm in India, everyone's always saying something along the lines of, 'Lighter skin! Lighter skin! Lighter skin!' I just feel like I'm disappointing Indian society by having darker skin and being OK with it. I tried to get makeup in India once, and they suggested a shade that was two or three shades lighter than my skin. Skincare, here and in India, always has some kind of whitening or brightening component to it. It's like it's saying, 'Your natural skin color isn't beautiful.'"

Can you explain what beauty standards are forced upon you in American society?

"In America, skin color is not the big issue. A lot of [the problems have] to do with how your face and body look. I don't wear a lot of makeup, and I feel like I'm constantly judged for it. I don't like using it [makeup] unless it's a really special event that I'm going to. I don't care about my acne, and I don't feel like it's OK to judge someone for such a natural thing.

"The main thing with American beauty standards is the body. I always hear, 'Whatever you look like is beautiful!' or 'You're beautiful just how you look!', but it just sounds like pity to me. If you say, 'She's still beautiful,' you're trying to ping yourself as a saint. You're trying to recognize something that should already be a fact: everybody is beautiful. With beauty standards in the U.S., it seems ironic that there's a message that 'however you look, you're beautiful,' but people really just want us all to look the same."

What is the biggest problem you personally face today?

"This is gonna be a lot of the Indian side of me versus the American side of me. Indian me wants everything to be perfect. It wants everything to be polos and jeans everyday. It wants sweaters and my hair pinned back. It wants every inch of my skin covered. But American me wants my hair curly, for me to wear whatever I want, for me to be as imperfect as possible. It's really hard to assimilate the cultures. If I wear a shirt I like from a thrift store, I feel disapproved of, but I also feel like I'm being judged by my white-dominated school if I wear something 'Indian.'

"The biggest personal problem I face is how I present myself. I always see myself caught between these different personalities of me, and I never know if I should present my studious, quiet side or my loud and witty side. You know, clothes are a big part of how you present yourself, and that's how people get to know you. You can never read the situation completely accurately, so it's slightly difficult to balance these two parts of my life to figure out who I want to be. These pressures that I face, I realize they're there to make you a distinct part of one certain group, but they just make me more confused."

In the end, I could relate to some of the issues Sahana felt were natural parts of beauty standards as both an Indian and an American. Beauty standards extend to more than just makeup, for they also define who a person sees him or herself as and who he or she wants to be. I want to give a quick thank you to Sahana for agreeing to do this interview on such an important topic, and I hope that this new perspective brings more insight to a problem that a lot of people go through.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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