“The heavy scrutiny that society places upon our physical appearance lends itself to certain types of consequences depending on whether or not you fit the 'standard.' Young girls become acutely aware of this very early on.”
At 9 years old, I should not have been concerned with whittling down the space I took up just so I could blend in with the beige expectations of my classmates. But external and internal pressures had succeeded in convincing me otherwise.
In ainThe Guardian, Dan Milmo and Clea Skopeliti cite research from Girlguiding that states, “Two in five girls (40%) aged 11 to 16 in the UK say they have seen images online that have made them feel insecure or less confident about themselves,” and the percentage only increases with age. Likewise, leaked research from Facebook back in September told the
Wall Street Journalthat “more than 40% of Instagram users who said they felt ‘unattractive’ said the feeling began while using the app.” It comes as no surprise that many of those users were young women.Teenagers and young girls, trapped in the throes and struggles of growing up, are highly susceptible to social media’s lure of attractive celebrities and their even more attractive lifestyles. Sonia Livingstone, a professor of social psychology, describes to
The Guardianhow adolescents are “assailed with many answers to their dilemmas and a prominent answer at that moment is that it might be what they look like, that it matters what they bought.”Being “pretty” thus remains a chase to open opportunities and achieve the life those opportunities might grant you, whether it’s on the playground or in Hollywood. As young girls scramble to make themselves resemble the photoshopped images that plaster their homepages, society’s ever-present pressure to conform to beauty standards is only heightened. headtopics.com
Of course, with these expectations being impossible to satisfy, many young women remain haunted by the enthralling lives of social media influencers, feeling ashamed to look and sound (laugh, hiccup) the way they do.I may have grown up on the cusp of social media’s explosion into the mainstream, but my own experience still resulted in a similar shame. Not being “pretty” meant I became ashamed to make any kind of noise, I second-guessed every outfit I wore, and I worried incessantly about appearing “weird” to my 10-year-old classmates. I had learned to doubt who I was.
Today, I still have my “kitten hiccups,” as anyone who has ever finished a meal with me has noted with delight, and my sneezes only shake a room when I’m utterly alone. What I have reclaimed, however (after years of relentless un-training), is my witch cackle. Though I may always carry the marks of the beauty standards I sought so desperately to conform to in my youth, as I grow older, I’m learning to redefine what “pretty” means to me. Because after all, as the old saying goes, “pretty is as pretty does,” and pretty is fickle and fleeting. Making noise and making trouble, however, creates a life of genuine fun, one that will outlast the flash of a camera.Read more: Women's Media Center »
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