We are obsessed with good looks, fair skin and lean figure, and living in such a hyper-aesthetic society is harming our overall well-being. On Monday, a woman in Delhi committed suicide, because she was unhappy with her looks. While the police are still investigating the case, we need to start talking about our obsession with looking good, perfect in fact.
The Eternal Pressure to look Good
The pressure to look good has always been there, especially for young and unmarried woman. Even in this millennium, the matrimonial columns are full of ads which both advertise and demand “fair, beautiful and slim” brides. This checklist forever accompanies women, who are judged by others mostly on parameters of physical appearance. Hence, their scholarly or professional achievements do not matter.
But the issue now has surpassed social judgement and become an obsession with both the sexes. Again, social media and increased virtual social interaction play a big role in it.
We make sure our hair, our make-up, our clothes are perfect during every virtual and physical social appearance.
This pressure is doing more harm to our self-esteem, than good. We are a generation of eternally unhappy and dissatisfied people, when it comes to aesthetics. We want a zero body fat figure, a perfect chin and nose, along with flawless hair and impeccable clothes.
Photoshop apps are making us virtually perfect. Thus, we are unhappy with our looks in reality.
This dissatisfaction seems misplaced because the comparison is with photoshopped images. Earlier it was restricted to film stars and models on magazine covers. Now it has entered our lives via photoshop apps. We can remove dark spots and crow lines. We can become two shades fairer, and can also trim our figure. No stretch marks, no wrinkles, no blackheads. Not a single strand of hair out of its place. No bulging tummies or flabby arms and thighs. No wonder, many of us dread to make public appearances these days. The world will see our failed attempts to hide body fat. It will see how despite spending thousands of rupees on body massages and clean up, our face still isn’t perfect.
This obsession with plasticity makes us resent our natural looks. We look into the mirror and we can always find something which can be improved. Which is where the industry of aesthetics comes in. There is a solution for our every grievance, both non-invasive and invasive. We spend a fortune on creams, salons and beauty products.
The aesthetic industry plays on our insecurities in matters like dark skin and ageing and we play into its hands like puppies.
How far are people willing to go to attain perfect aesthetics?
People these days just cannot accept imperfection. They are willing to pay hefty prices for bone correction surgeries, Botox treatments, silicon implants and every conceivable procedure which will make them feel that they are closer to perfect looks than ever.
It’s only natural for us to care about our looks. There is nothing wrong in decking up every now and then for an occasion. Or getting a spa treatment to feel fresh and pampered. But there is a difference between self-care and obsession with personal grooming. Our beautiful skin, no matter how flawed it is, is what makes us human.
Our face, with the imperfect nose and the jawline, we would rather change, is what makes us unique.
Why do we resent what makes us unique and human?
The so-called flaws are in fact a way of nature to give each one of us a uniqueness. It is disheartening that for us perfection is akin to beauty standards set for plastic dolls in the last century. The failure to achieve these beauty standards makes us unhappy. But we do not care about our mental well-being. Nor do we care about the harmful effects of invasive and non-invasive beauty measures. We need to stop this epidemic before it claims more lives.
Actors, models, beauty bloggers etc, need to motivate people to embrace their natural beauty.
Our hyperaesthetic approach can only be checked in its steps, if the very people who endorse it, shed the light on how harmful obsession with looks can be. This is highly unlikely to happen, considering the amount of money being invested and earned from the beauty industry.
Late actor Carrie Fisher was body shamed and criticised for not ageing well when the Star Wars Reboot film “The Force Awakens” came out. The so-called franchise fans found it hard to grasp the fact that the sex symbol, Princess Lia, didn’t look the way she used to thirty years ago, anymore!
Carrie had questioned her fans then, “Youth and beauty are not accomplishments, they’re the temporary happy. I identify more with who I feel myself to be than what I look like. Either way, am I obliged to entertain you with my appearance?”
If only more of us realised that beauty is so temporary.
Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own