A Society’s Perception of Beauty

Jessica Chang

The digital age has brought with it wonderful advantages in all aspects of people’s lives, but it has also created unexpected troubles, one of which is a detrimental change in society’s perception of beauty.

Prior to computers, magazines and cinema were the sole outlets influencing one’s definition of beauty. Movie icons were admired on the silver screen, admired for their beauty, style, and grace. They were role models – marveled at, but not copied, because it was understood that they lived a life far different from the average person. Stars were admired – from afar.

Fast forward to the present, constantly-changing computer age where teens and adults alike are bombarded by images of the same celebrities who were once glamorized and seemed impossibly distant and different. Their lives are chronicled on a daily basis thanks to Twitter, blogs, online magazines, and other easily attainable media, creating an almost intimate relationship between the public and the stars. This change in society’s relationship has changed its view of beauty and given people a sense that they, too, can be like those stars.

The bar for men and women has been set unrealistically high by the “role models” of today and numerous studies have revealed that the impact of social media on women could include an increase in negative or obsessive thoughts about appearance. Pressure on media also creates an environment where disordered thoughts and behaviors thrive and images of thinness are used to advertise the recipe for happiness. Unfortunately, validation online can falsely fill the need for acceptance.

This universal feeling of acceptance is one that exists no matter one’s age, sex, or ethnicity. A lack of relationships or socializing naturally produces a desire to find a place where one is “accepted”. However, social media has a tendency to foster unreal relationships and can even make one feel more lonely.

Essentially, what social media has taught teens to do is “fake it”. The content that is posted on social media is fitted to support the life one wants others to perceive. What does it mean when the vision of yourself that you’re creating online isn’t necessarily the real you?

Society creates certain expectations of the perfect experiences and many individuals set high standards for themselves. When people are unable to live up to those standards, they can easily lose confidence in themselves or feel left out, which could have severe mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.

Women have been taught to compare themselves for most of their lives. There are signs everywhere, at every corner, flashing the words “you aren’t good enough” to every teenage girl in America. No matter how much self confidence one possesses, it is almost impossible to ignore what society defines as beauty.

Magazines, movies, and commercials, have spoon-fed girls with the idea that they can only be beautiful if they have long legs, great hair, and curves in all the right places. According to modern day society, girls should walk and talk pretty, have perfect skin, and cake on makeup; they should watch their weight and keep up with the newest trends in fashion. The question is, how does an intelligent, attractive woman in today’s society adjust to these unrealistic messages around her?

infographic 2For centuries, society has shaped and changed the way we define beauty. As information technology continues to evolve, the presence of media has continued to nurture our obsession with perfection, causing many to turn to cosmetic plastic surgery to achieve perfect beauty. But is cosmetic surgery an evolution of beauty, a new way of self-expression, and rebirth of identity? Or does it lead to a more misleading definition of the term “beauty”?

In certain parts of the world, such as Asia, beauty is homogenized. Since ancient times, Asian cultures’ ideal view of “perfection” has been highly regarded. The emphasis on female beauty has been carried into the present day, where outer beauty is prized. For instance, South Korea has developed into one of the leading countries in the beauty and cosmetics industry with one of the highest rates of cosmetic surgery. Their typical perception of beauty, which is to have pale, baby-like skin, soft brown hair, and big brown eyes, has significantly increased the amount of surgical cosmetic procedures performed. In August 2015, South Korea was found to have the highest ratio of people who underwent cosmetic surgery in the world. Western facial features pressure Korean men and women into enhancing their facial features. They insist on achieving “beauty” through surgery. Not all South Koreans change their natural features or agree with those wanting the “ideal” face. Many who are against cosmetic surgery believe changing genetic features is the same as disrespecting their ancestors and bloodlines. Despite opposition to plastic surgery, it is becoming typical for most people to approve and encourage those who try to fit into the idealization of beauty by undergoing cosmetic procedures. It a problem within South Korea’s society that is negatively affecting how people of all ages view others and value themselves.

Ordinary people now have the opportunity to change or improve their appearance, with common operations such as nose jobs or liposuction surgeries. However, is it worth altering one’s looks? Is it betraying who they truly are as a person? According to Ridgewood High School students, there clearly appears to be a divide.

Ashley Eapen, a senior, believes that, “it’s okay if it is a small thing that one is changing to make themselves feel better about their appearance and self-esteem. For instance, if someone had insecurity with his or her nose or something else small, then it would be great confidence booster. But if that individual became obsessed with surgery and constantly does it in order to keep changing how they look, then it would be just unhealthy.” In addition to Ashley’s comment Brianna Patek, a junior, shares a similar view: “I honestly think plastic surgery is entirely up to the individual.”

Patek explains, “It is difficult for me to take a firm stand on this. Honestly, like a lot of things, I think it’s okay in moderation. If you have the means to afford it and really want to do it, it’s up to you to decide how you want to spend your money. I also think that it serves a good purpose for burn victims or for people who have been severely disfigured because to a certain degree, it helps them look like their old selves. Cosmetic surgery could help people for many reasons, such as being big self-esteem booster in fixing some of their imperfections that they were insecure about. But on the other hand, if it is detrimental to your health and you become somewhat addicted to it and keep getting procedures, that’ll just worsen your appearance.”

James Wright, a freshman, agrees with Patek that there are benefits to cosmetic surgery. “I would support plastic surgery because it gives people a chance to recover something they lost physically about themselves or something they want to change about themselves. It gives them the opportunity to transform themselves into something that gives them more self-satisfaction.”

However, a few people tended to lean towards the importance of natural beauty and were inclined to think otherwise about cosmetic surgery. Senior Austin Smith states: “Personally, I am not a fan. Plastic surgery ruins the person’s natural body image. They should be okay with who they are and not feel that they have to change themselves to please others.”

Clearly, there is a fine line between needs and wants. On one hand, surgery is beneficial and can improve a lifestyle which can provide comfort to the low self-esteemed and the distressed. While on the other, cosmetic surgery contributes to the growing trend of the superficial society. In a time when the world is trying to make the word “beauty” revolve around the points of happiness and confidence, cosmetic surgery doesn’t seem to be helping. Instead of embracing what is unique and what separates us, plastic surgery provides the means for people to conform to society’s standard of “beauty.” But in all, the best thing one could do for him or herself is to do whatever it takes to make them happy. So if it means getting a nose job or a boob job to help boost confidence in your appearance, and then go for it, because in the end the only person you should be doing this for is yourself.

infographicCelebrities have obvious physical transformations after being exposed to the public eye, yet many of them feel the need to deny having had any surgery. With millions of Instagram followers to back them up, big-name celebrities exude exclusivity. The Internet is filled with models with long legs, shiny hair, straight noses, and perfectly toned bodies. Naturally drawn to fault, people realize that they are not similar to the models they see who receive hundreds of thousands of likes and comments. People want to be recognized and the easiest way to draw attention in today’s digital age is through physical beauty.

The technology of our generation damages people, regardless of age, race, and gender. Our culture sells us beauty in the media of movies, magazines, advertisements. Whether we are conscious of it or not, daily doses of pressure are spoon-fed to consumers. Mainstream acceptance of having “work-done” provides people with a temporary solution to personal or professional problems. Our generation does not receive criticism like previous generations; and now, we do not have to. Self confidence, or a lack thereof, does not have to be an issue for many people anymore. If it is so easy to change things about yourself, what prevents more people from venturing down the track of cosmetic surgery?

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons the 2014 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report ranks the top five cosmetic surgical procedures as breast augmentation, nose reshaping, liposuction, eyelid surgery, and facelift. From 2013 to 2014 the amount of cosmetic procedures increased by three percent. A total of $12.9 billion dollars were spent in the United States alone, with the majority of patients being between 40 and 54 years old. Thirty percent of cosmetic surgical procedures are in the Mountain and Pacific states. Diana Zuckerman, PhD, president of the National Research Center for Women and Families, believes that “There may be strong cultural pressures that are so unrealistic in terms of how we’re supposed to look.” She believes that “Psychologists should…figure out why this is happening and what we need to know to make sure that people aren’t going to be harmed by this.”

The distortion of self image is a critical issue for teenagers. Millennials and Generation Z have the ability to hide behind a computer screen and manipulate their social lives in ways the Baby Boomer generation could not. The growing industry puts the average American in a position where they feel they do not meet an expectation of greatness. This added level of pressure distracts young people from more important things in life. Anxiety, depression, and substance-abuse rates amongst teenagers have increased significantly over the years.

Improvement and change are important parts to our evolving characters, yet the motive behind cosmetic surgery is not constructive. Demeanor and presentation are important to successful social and professional careers, but assimilating into the homogenous model of “perfection” our society is so familiar with does not improve any individual. Rather than building our society on principles of physical beauty, our society needs capable minds to make the world a better place.

Jamie Lim
features editor 

Emily Kopec
features editor

Shrea Mitra
opinion editor

Elaine Kim
staff writer 

1 thought on “A Society’s Perception of Beauty

  1. Hello,

    I enjoyed reading your article about Plastic Surgery from a teen’s viewpoint.
    You mention some great truths about society’s idealization of beauty and increased social pressures
    faced by teen agers today.

    Beauty has long been coveted and valued in all societies and altering or enhancing one’s features dates back to
    ancient times. It has been scientifically proven that we are hard wired to appreciate beauty. With today’s advances
    and technologies, Plastic Surgery is more accessible and prevalent allowing us to modify our looks and to age more
    gracefully. Social media has provided yet another outlet for this obsession with its imagery and
    temptations as celebrities bombard us with their excessive enhancements and unreal photo shopped images.

    Adults and teens alike are pressured with today’s unreal beauty and youth standards. As a Plastic Surgeon I sense the
    anxiety and depression that may ensue if individuals fail to maintain a healthy dose of reality, confidence and self control.
    Plastic Surgery can be excessive much like anything in life, but in moderation in individuals who are mature and grounded,
    it can be positively life changing. Plastic Surgery is a broad field including treatment of deformities, burns
    and other quality of life issues(think full face transplants). Breast reductions, ear pinning and reducing a very large nose
    can all provide individuals with a sense of comfort and confidence that is difficult for most to achieve naturally. I caution
    individuals to avoid seeking one beauty ideal but to instead address their own specific personal concerns which they
    are unable to overcome.

    Teen agers typically are self conscious and not mature enough to undergo elective cosmetic surgery to alter their looks.
    Boys are now suffering from eating disorders as well since the “thin” obsession is universal. Men are increasingly undergoing
    Plastic Surgery to look trim and youthful, and to stay competitive in the work force. It’s truly a diffuse phenomenon.

    There’s no doubt that society and media continue to objectify women and teens alike . It is our choice to more so invest our time
    and efforts into education and achievement to bring about change, respect and self acceptance. In moderation, Plastic Surgery
    can be complimentary, healthy and empowering as we feel good when we perceive ourselves as looking good. Our appearance
    simply compliments our inner strength and character. It will not in itself create happiness, nor success. Is is my job as a Plastic
    Surgeon to screen my potential patients for emotional stability and realistic expectations before agreeing to perform surgery.

    Perhaps we should consciously minimize our exposure to frivolous social media and celebrities and pursue more respectable
    and accomplished role models. We can strive to embrace our uniqueness and avoid the trap of conforming to one ideal of beauty,
    and most likely others will follow suit. We are visual beings and will always take an interest in looking our best and can incorporate
    Plastic Surgery into our lives in a constructive and healthy manner.

    Dr. Pedy Ganchi

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