Breaking down harmful societal norms

Elaina Seybold

As a society, we need to remove the standard around weight. It is the most damaging, toxic and widespread unhealthy standard of beauty. We need to feel safe in our own bodies and stop pushing ourselves to unhealthy places. Everyone has a different role in helping break the standard so that we can accept people as a society.

For healthcare professionals, this means education and helping to set goals. 

For parents, this means positive reinforcement and no shaming. 

For peers, this means not commenting on anyone else’s body. It’s none of your business. 

For individuals, this means not comparing yourself to others. Accept every part of yourself, and disregard any standards of our society that prohibit you from doing so. 

People should stop trying to change their weight drastically. Each person has a weight at which they are most healthy. The speed of metabolism differs greatly among individuals, so it is highly irrational to create one ideal. Teens who try to live up to unhealthy standards of their weight can cause eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

The pressure to look good all of the time can also be detrimental to teen’s mental health. This is harmful since many have not developed proper coping methods and end up turning to drugs and alcohol. Some people may take their frustration out on friends and family, which affects things that are truly important, much more than appearances ever are.

One’s own insecurities may also lead to them to make comments about someone else. Although it may not be intentionally harmful, body-shaming is never okay. The excuse, “I just want them to be healthy,” is not valid. Quite honestly, the health of others as it pertains to their weight is a private matter. Each person is healthy at a different size. People are not bullied or treated differently for the amount of sleep they get, so why are people bullied for their weight? 

Furthermore, the societal standard of “beauty” that has been furthered by social media and programs like Photoshop and Facetune needs to be dissolved. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I notice that I compare myself and my looks to people on the internet. I know that I shouldn’t, I know that it is unhealthy and unfair to myself, but I do it anyway. I know that a lot of other teens do it, as well. This is such a big problem since they will start to aspire to have a look that is not even real. It is really unfortunate that, as social media gains even more power, the problem only gets worse. 

It is so important that societally imposed “imperfections” like stretch marks, loose skin, scars and cellulite are normalized instead of shamed. Most Americans experience acne, yet society tells us to try our hardest to cover it. There are so many ads that market a make-up product that creates the appearance of “flawless skin.” This is counterproductive as it promotes the stigma around acne instead of normalizing it. Other imperfections should also be normalized, because, to some extent, they all happen to someone at some point in life.

To solve this problem, we need to stop comparing ourselves to everyone, especially to people online like influencers and celebrities who have filters, stylists, makeup artists and professional lighting. Pictures are also heavily edited to achieve “perfection.” How they present themselves online should not be a goal to achieve since it is next to impossible to emulate a digitally altered appearance.

Obviously, the world will not change over night, and centuries worth of beauty being praised unnecessarily will not be erased, but it is possible for individuals to change the world gradually. It’s time to start feeling comfortable in our own skin and encouraging others to do the same.