Battling Beauty Standards

Societal expectations for beauty can impact self-esteem


Amelia Vohsen

Elisa Carter stands, at first covering her midriff and eventually embracing it. As Carter has learned to reject beauty standards, she has grown more comfortable with her body.

In today’s world you are taught to hide the “ugly” parts about you. Now, your parents didn’t sit you down and tell you to cover and change everything about you, at least mine didn’t. I learned to do that in middle school. There were popular people and at the time that mattered. The “popular people,” in my eyes, were all these beautiful people who were all incredibly confident and fit into the category of what society determined beauty was. 

I did not fit into that category. But I tried so hard to, it hurt every single day to not look like the pretty girls, so I started wearing makeup. I started to suck in my stomach, and when I did, I would wear clothes to reveal my body so I could show people that I could wear crop tops, that I could be one of those girls who was skinny enough to wear those types of clothes. I wanted to wear tight fitting clothes to make my boobs look bigger so guys would like me. I wanted to look pretty, not only so guys would like me but so the popular girls would think I was pretty enough to talk to.

 Middle school is what I think starts the overall insecurities of every teenager today who has ever struggled with self-esteem and body confidence. I remember once in eighth grade, I was talking to someone and they pointed out a girl who was wearing a crop top and had a little stomach fat and said, “Why is she wearing that, she can’t wear that, you can only wear crop tops if you’re skinny, crop tops are for skinny girls, not girls like her”. I laughed it off and agreed, because that person was popular and I had been taught that only skinny girls can wear crop tops. That nearly shattered my confidence. I hurt so much because according to that person I wouldn’t be considered a skinny girl because that girl had the same body type as me.

Having struggles with body confidence has caused me to struggle with finding myself and who I was because I didn’t know how to express myself with clothing. I thought I couldn’t wear certain things so I never got to experiment with different clothing styles.  I also began to struggle with depression and anxiety freshman year for many different reasons but one of them being that I thought my body wasn’t good enough and was considered ugly I saw myself more and more worthless every time I looked in the mirror.  It wasn’t until I really gained a strong body confidence this year that I found myself and found what clothing expressed who I was in the best way. And today I still struggle with body confidence, not as much as I used to but I still struggle. I still look at myself in the mirror and think my arms are too big, my face is too fat, my thighs are just a little large. It hurts, it hurts to look in the mirror and see this “ugly” body that just so happens to be mine. 

Living and growing up in a world where you feel like you have to look a certain way to fit the mold that is society’s idea of beauty: that is how it feels to be a teenager struggling with body confidence. The society we live in decided that it is only normal to wear clothes that reveal skin like crop tops and tube tops and short shorts if you are skinny. However you can’t be too skinny, that goes outside the boundaries of beauty as well. To be beautiful you definitely can’t be fat. Not any part of you can be too fat, not your face, arms, thighs, calfs, back, belly, anything. 

People become sick because of these societal norms, they can develop body dysmorphic disorder, constantly feeling ashamed of your body and comparing it to others. Or they can develop eating disorders like anorexia, where you constantly think you’re overweight even if you’re significantly underweight so you watch what you eat all the time. There is also binge eating where you frequently eat large amounts of food in a small period of time. Then there is bulimia where people have an obsessive desire to lose weight, so many times people with bulimia will eat and then purge, vomit so they lose the weight of what they just ate. People struggle with anxiety about their weight, become depressed and feel worthless because their body type doesn’t fit inside the boundaries of “normal” or “beautiful”. So many people, especially teens, suffer from these issues, and it has a lot to do with lack of body confidence because of societal norms on what is an acceptable “beautiful” body to have. 

 This is exactly why the standard of what beauty is should be broken. Why should anyone have to change who they are for you, why should anyone have to look a certain way to be “pretty”, why should anyone have to eat more, or eat less, or bulk up, or slim down, why? Someone’s body shape and size and how much they eat and exercise is none of your damn business so back off and keep it to yourself, because they don’t have to change for you or anyone who thinks that they aren’t beautiful, because every single person is different and doesn’t have to change who they are to be beautiful. They are perfectly beautiful exactly how they are now.

 People aren’t what needs to change, society and its standards are what need to change. All people, no matter size or shape, should be able to feel comfortable and confident wearing the clothes that express them without fear of being judged. If you want to wear something but you’re afraid of what someone might think or say, forget them and rock the hell out of it. Keep your head held high and work it because even though not caring what people think is a very hard thing to do, remember somebody’s opinion on how you look doesn’t matter. If you see someone who you find a little too skinny or just too fat for your pretty little head to accept, find something deep down in your heart that helps you keep it to yourself, because you have no idea the impact your words will have on someone if you do. So whether you feel like you are too big, too small, too tall, too short, or just have something about you that you think is too something, you’re wrong because there’s no such thing as being too much or too little when it comes to beauty and your body.