The Pressure Of Perfection

Emily Rutledge, Writer

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Value is highly placed upon physical appearance in society, making it an integral factor of people’s lives. The importance of image has led to a specific standard that many people strive to achieve. In order to strengthen their self-image, some people develop techniques that allow them to assess their self-worth based on superficial qualities.

With a sudden realization that she had only been degrading herself, junior Jewell Regan gained a confidence boost after a supportive friend revealed to her a way to see her image as it really was. She was told to take a string and measure out how large she thought her thigh was, a body part she was self-conscious about, and draw a line on it. After doing this, she measured how large it actually was by wrapping the string around her thighs to see if they met the drawn line. Seeing that is was much smaller than expected, she felt more comfortable with her body image.

Regan is one of many who come into conflict with their appearances and how they view themselves. They feel that they must look a certain way, and if they do not, it can challenging to fit in with society.

“[In today’s society], it is like a ‘luxury’ look,” Regan said. “You have to be tan and have a nice body with nice hair and wear a lot of makeup. And when people do not feel like they fit in, they do not think they are worth it.”

Many students struggle with accepting their self-image, attempting to meet a standard set by society. Junior Tessa Haley believes she does not fit this standard, but she accepts her image and embraces it.

“I’m roughly 5’11, so my legs make up more of me than my torso, neck and head combined,” Haley said. “I have large feet, large hands, long arms and fingers, broad shoulders, a short torso, and a mop of unruly blonde curls on the top of my head. When I was in fourth grade, my nickname was literally “Sasquatch” because I was bigger, taller and had larger feet and hands than anyone else in my grade. Now, I love my Yeti background. I am the ‘Sassyquatch,’ the sassiest Sasquatch of all.”

Out of 101 students surveyed, 69.3 percent agree that there is a societal expectation that they feel obligated to meet. Many believe it includes having the perfect body shape: girls being skinny but also “thick,” and boys being athletic and muscular. 75.3 percent feel that they do not meet these expectations, and that because of this, they do not fit in. Haley believes that these standards stem from what students see on a day-to-day basis.

“What we see every day sculpts our expectations of who is beautiful and who is simply average,” Haley said. “Pictures or posts on social media revolve around the visual appeal of a pose, specific body part and so on and so forth. As time goes on, certain features are praised more than others. By feeding our minds this idea that perfection is what we see in photos, we begin to make our own definition of what is perfect.”

The established beauty standards have been ingrained into students’ minds since their childhood, pushing some to grow up doubting their image.

“I played with Barbie dolls growing up, and [I believed] you had to be tall and skinny with pretty blue eyes to be perfect,” Regan said. “Luckily, Barbie is changing, but still, the things we grow up using and the people we see on TV is what we want to make a reality.”

Many agree that while the idea of perfection is always present, standards change over time.

“It seems like for every century it is something different,” Regan said. “In the Victorian era, women being pale meant they were pretty, but now it is all about being tan. Something is just established and it changes throughout time.”

When it comes to determining the worth of someone’s self image, sophomore Jeremy Lowrance believes that it is up to individuals themselves. Appearance cannot always be controlled, and as a result, people may come to terms with their image and accept it with pride.

“You are as much as you make yourself,” Lowrance said. “It has nothing to do with things you cannot control. Everyone worries too much about how others act. That contributes to [how people are viewed]. However you choose to [view] yourself is what matters.”

The idea of being extremely healthy with a perfect shape is sometimes expected when someone is an athlete. Being involved in many school sports, freshman Madison Kennedy feels that she must maintain a healthy appearance to fit in with her teammates.

“I see people with a certain shape, and I know I should not, but I question myself,” Kennedy said. “I feel the need to get to that point even though I feel like I really cannot.”

Despite the self-consciousness she deals with, Kennedy does not feel inclined to change her appearance in any way.

“I do not want to necessarily change, but instead, better myself,” Kennedy said. “I try to eat healthier even though I should not have to change my entire diet to meet [these standards], but that kind of ties into being athletic, too.”

Today’s society consists of an idea of a perfection that is typically impossible to obtain. However, although this idea remains, there are many who have also accepted themselves and their image, attempting to share this developed sense of pride with others and allow them to see their inner and outer beauty.

Darling, there is nothing more stunningly beautiful than a good soul,” Haley said. “Every time I meet a new person, I do not recognize facial features; instead, I recognize personalities and heart. If someone is rude and hateful and unpleasant, I find them physically ugly. If someone is kind and caring and a good person, I see physical beauty. An ugly heart is detestable and disgusting, but a good soul? That’s where you find the real good mojo.”