Toxic beauty standards and their effects.

Photo Via: Under the Creative Commons License.

Rose Pena, Editor

(TW) This article contains mentions of eating disorders.

A few months ago, I overheard a boy in my grade poking fun at my weight for no reason. I was on the verge of tears and my whole day was ruined. I then realized that body shaming isn’t just a small problem to brush aside, it’s a real issue that causes teens all over the world pain and mental health issues.

The Problem

Growing up on social media in this day and age is very toxic and harmful to one’s state of mind and the way they view themselves. Many young girls have had their confidence and self-esteem destroyed due to the unrealistic beauty standards that have been set by millions of influencers and lionized celebrities. An alarming amount of girls have gone under the knife and have had insanely dangerous procedures to achieve the picture-perfect look and to be perceived as “beautiful” in society, which is concerning and scary. These standards have also caused eating disorders to skyrocket amongst teens. Some of the most common disorders contain BED (binge eating disorder), anorexia nervosa, and bulimia. 

Peer Pressure/Influence

When it comes to making most decisions as a child/pre-teen, they are heavily influenced by their friends, family, or even a peer in their school who is dubbed as “cool”. Peer pressure can cause many teens to make unhealthy decisions about themselves, which isn’t okay in any way. People have to eventually learn how to be independent and how to make decisions by themselves. 

Taylor Cholewa, an 8th grader at WMS, said, “ I don’t have many negative pressures in my life, but there are occasional ones where someone may encourage me to hurt another person’s feelings or to do something that might get me in trouble. I believe that people mostly listen to positive peer pressure rather than negative, but it really depends on who is pressuring you and what they might have against you.”

Celebrities That Contribute to the Problem

Many prominent celebrities have been called out for causing and setting unrealistic beauty standards, but the most notable of them is socialite Kim Kardashian. Kim was in hot water earlier in 2022 not only because she wore the famous “Happy Birthday Mr. President” dress, but what she said she did to fit in it. “I tried it on and it didn’t fit me. I said, ‘Give me three weeks.’ I had to lose 16 pounds down today,” she said to a Vogue correspondent. 

This caused many negative reactions from the public and from certified dieticians. “The health risks of what Kim did include many of the serious side effects of starvation such as altered electrolytes, dehydration, dizziness, fatigue, and lightheadedness. The impact of cutting out those foods causes increased obsession, negative body image thoughts, and oftentimes, an unhealthy relationship with food and body. My message for people wanting to attempt to do what Kim K did is DO NOT DO THIS. It is a terrible example that she is setting, and her behavior is perpetuating eating disorders,” said Elaina Efird, the lead registered dietitian at the Kahm Clinic in Burlington, Vermont. 

Elyse Arnold, also an 8th grader at WMS, said, “Most of the time I want to expand my taste in fashion, so I turn to my favorite celebrities to see what they’re wearing. Social media isn’t always a negative place. You can go on an app and find some really positive and nice advice from strangers.”

Though social media is seen as a negative and toxic place by most, some people, like Elyse, think that there are some positive aspects online. 

Celebrities are good at lying to the public and making people believe that they stand/support something, even when their actions suggest the opposite. This might seem contradictory, but a way that you can spot this going on is by doing your homework, meaning checking out the celebrities’ social media and seeing if they’re really supporting the cause they say they are.

Is There A Solution? 

Though it is very difficult to disregard the toxic beauty standards that are being spread around, there is a solution and a way to overcome them. One way is to read self-compassion and uplifting affirmations. By reading these positive notions on a daily basis, it can completely change the way people think about themselves. 

There are some positive aspects to social media, though. Like finding beauty within yourself, finding new interests, and many other things that can positively affect you. Overall, the best advice is to put your phone down and think critically about who you follow. Deleting social media might be too hard of a task for most people, but you could limit yourself to 20-30 minutes of screen time each day. 

From my standpoint, there is a solution for anything, including this topic. I recommend people completely turn a blind eye to the many celebrities that are encouraging unhealthy lifestyles. I myself have been a victim of listening to those celebrities and it had a tremendous impact on my health and well-being. 

Going back to my experience, I overcame it by remembering that the only beauty that truly matters is the one in your heart. I will admit that I was very upset because of the whole ordeal, but I was reassured by an amazing friend. If you experience something similar, tell an adult or friend and explain the situation. Talk about your feelings and how they hurt you. It is best to not bottle up your feelings because it can, surprisingly, affect how you deal with things in the future.