Ideal Isn't Real

By Angelica Crisostomo

“I gave up on looking like one of those Instagram girls a long time ago.”

I’m all for perfect looking eyebrows and sharp winged liner because I, for one, couldn’t achieve these things if my life depended on it. I admire those girls. But that’s that. I admire them, I love that they are so confident in themselves and are doing something they enjoy.

For a lot of other young women, though, it doesn’t stop at admiration.
In a 2015 Dove campaign, 6,400 women ages 18-64 were asked to categorize themselves as either average or beautiful. 96% of all participants said they believed there was something beautiful about them, but 80% would not use the word “beautiful” as an adjective to describe themselves. 78% of the sampled women admitted to not having confidence in their beauty.

This issue cannot be boiled down to one cause, of course, but the overbearing presence of impractical beauty standards has been established as one of the main reasons self-esteem has decreased in such a large percentage of women all over the world.      

As a concept, “Instagram beauty” defines a right way to be skinny and a right way to be curvy; where there is a right and where there is a wrong way to be a 21st century woman.

I’m sure we’re all familiar with this concept. It can be disputed- we can say that allowing social media to affect us is a choice, that comparison can be easily avoided by simply logging off. However, this counter notion is just the ideal. It’s been scientifically proven that advertisement and the media have psychological effects on their audiences (University of Chicago Press Journals 2010). Even if one was to “log off”, there’s no running away from all the other ways beauty standards leak into our everyday lives.

Social media is arguably the most powerful communication platform today. The ideals behind “Instagram beauty” are harmful not because of their outright attitudes, but the preconceived notions behind them. It promotes the idea that is that there are expectations for things that otherwise wouldn't be considered. How you fit into clothes, for example, has two acceptable options: tiny waist and wide hips or a size 2. Natural eyebrows are fine- but only when they're naturally thick and shaped. Makeup’s only okay if you’re perfect at doing it.

This is not to say that these things should not be striven for. I'll forever be one to support the belief that your life is your own and the best way to live it is in a way that makes you happy. What I don't think is fine is that social networking and the media is so romanticized when in reality, all it is is a highlight reel. 

There’s no room for growth with the current expectations. There’s no room for beginners, for people that just aren’t into the specific scene, for people who can’t afford to be or physically can’t be like the women they see on a day to day.

Nobody on this planet is happy 24/7. It is not typical to be constantly travelling at 22 years old. Women don’t just wake up with perfect hair and makeup. Most of the bodies we’re comparing ourselves to are surgically or digitally enhanced. But those aren’t things that are reassured regularly, and the people who do try to shut down the system through the support of such reassurances are not taken seriously.

When people get relatively personal online, we don’t get jealous. We feel sympathy or pity, or even annoyed, but I for one can’t say I’ve ever been jealous of somebody who airs their dirty laundry online. That’s why the people we tear ourselves down over don’t do it. They show you what they want to be seen. They don’t post their money issues, but they post their vacations. They won’t show you the photos in which their skin acts up, but rather the finished look when it’s all covered- in calculated lighting in a calculated setting with a calculated angle.

That’s why it’s so harmful. Young women are comparing their constant ongoing realities to small squares of someone else’s seemingly flawless life.

Despite my knowledge of the fact that comparing myself to other women is the worst thing I could do for my confidence and character, I still find myself picking at aspects of myself I wouldn’t have taken a second look at when I was a little girl. The way my hips turn in instead of out, or the fact that I don’t wear size 2 jeans when I know people that do, or how I have neither the money or the patience or the skill to put a face on every single morning. Luckily, I know when enough is enough and I am eventually able to snap out of it and remind myself that I’m proud of who and what and how I am.

I can’t do the same for other women. I can write until my hands give out and talk until my face turns blue about how literally every woman in this world is beautiful whether they believe it or not, but I have no power to force them to agree with me.

But I’ll keep doing it.

People tell you to not believe everything you see on the internet. You know, “just because WebMD says you have a life threatening illness because your symptom is a cough, doesn’t mean it’s true?” Let that apply to when you start comparing yourself. Just because it’s getting shoved in your face that you have to live a certain way to be considered ideal, doesn’t mean you do.  

There are multiple things we’re supposed to be doing with our time here. Letting people convince us we’re supposed to be anything other than what we want to be isn’t one of them.

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