“If the whole world were blind, how many people would you impress?” -Boonaa Mohammed
I had a crazy week, and I nailed it. I finished all of my mid-term papers, made the most sales at work, and still managed to hit the gym nearly every day. I had earned a night to unwind. By the time Friday night rolled around, some friends and I swung by our favorite bar.
As I was buying myself a beer, a girl next to me turned to her friend and said, “It’s insane how many girls drink beer. It’s so trashy and fattening.” She then rattled on about how many carbs are in a beer or something, and followed up with asking if she “looks hot enough to be out tonight.” Not kidding.
I was insulted. First of all, I am of a clinically healthy weight. Secondly, it’s one Bud Light. Third of all, I actually felt bad about drinking it. Although I eat well and exercise, I felt bad about indulging a little in a setting where I’m trying to shake off the stresses of the previous week.
Everything about that situation was wrong. I was wrong for feeling self-conscious due to a comment that wasn’t even directed toward me. She was wrong for insulting others for their appearance, including herself.
I’ve seen too many scenarios like these through the years to ignore it any longer.
Simply put, we need to talk about image. More specifically, we need to address how something seemingly small is devastating Generation Y, and warping the priorities of young men and women.
I was insulted. First of all, I am of a clinically healthy weight. Secondly, it’s one Bud Light
I have proof and the effects span far wider than a bar in Colorado. 63% of women in the UK hate their bodies, modern Mexican culture dictates that weight gain only occurs in “lazy people”, and overweight people are “meant” to be laughed at in India. Social media across the globe has made everything fast, easy, and visual. An ever-growing obsession with the perfect appearance has affected me and nearly every person I’ve met in my life.
Am I stretching the truth? Let me ask you a few questions to put this into perspective:
- Have you ever been rejected by another person, and start to doubt your attractiveness?
- Have you or a friend ever gotten on Tinder and laughed at the “unattractive people” who put themselves out there?
- If you lost your most physically attractive trait, do you think you would like yourself just as much? Do you believe you would be as liked?
- Have you ever reasoned that if you lost a little weight or worked out a little more, your life would vastly improve?
I know these questions are relevant, because I can answer them with a few of my experiences. When a romantic relationship doesn’t work out, I instinctively critique myself before considering the very real possibility that our personalities simply don’t mesh. I’ve seen the growing reliance on the physical first impression through the very real and frequent use of social networks like Tinder. I’ve often considered those who are thinner than me more carefree and happy, while my thinner girlfriends will argue that they don’t feel like a real woman due to their “lack of curves”. Simply put, if I had a dollar for every time I or my friends have said, “my life would fall apart if I gained twenty pounds,” or, “I wouldn’t have a care in the world if I went down a pant size”, I’d have enough money to buy us all lipo or something.
These scenarios aren’t even representative of the extremes. Eating disorders claim thousands of lives every year. Young adults are developing melanoma out of desperation for darker skin. More and more people define a wasted day as one that didn’t involve endless hours at the gym, and we put ourselves on display online to be judged and critiqued by those who know only what we look like.
And for what?
I believe people seek out unattainable perfection to gain love and acceptance. It could be self-love, love from others– whatever hole needs to be filled. So, let’s talk about that love. I know I would want to share love with those who wholly love themselves. In turn, those people will have a positive effect on me. I want to love myself first and completely, including accepting my image, but also being confident in my intelligence, my values, and the way I carry myself. I think most can relate to this wish, and that everyone wants to be self-actualized.
The problem is true self-actualization gets crowded by the visual obsession– now more than ever.
We have always lived in a visual world, but those images are shifting from being a part of our lives to a part of our being. What I mean by this is that we are stimulated more and more by materialistic images as new media continues to replace the traditional. While we check out a stranger’s Facebook profile and assess if he or she is attractive, our favorite television show is playing, featuring impossibly beautiful people, and that show is woven with commercials promoting the newest diet trend, handbag, or beauty product. Advertisments grow more racy, Hollywood socialites become immortalized and worshipped on their image alone, and, most alarmingly, committed relationships are becoming more difficult due to the constant growth of social networks that open up users to an endless amount of potential mates. Previous generations were once only exposed to those physically around them, now we can access any community. We always want more; the grass is always greener.
I looked around the bar, where half of the people were on their phones. I saw more girls utilizing the restroom for its mirror than for the actual restroom, and guys shamelessly approaching girl after girl to achieve the quick hookup. I was there to have a good time with my friends, while others, I feel, were there to prove something to complete strangers. To seduce, to dominate, to get away from reality.
Before this visual obsession, we weren’t feeling guilty about one beer. We weren’t counting calories. We didn’t wish for a thigh gap. We didn’t put our self worth on how many Instagram likes we got, nor did we go into a first date having already judged their online image.
Now we do. I only wonder as these values take prevalence, what other values are then being thrown away?
It’s not all negative. I believe Generation Y, who are incredible young adults with a lot of education and fight in them, can push back. I’ve seen evidence of this: in the “fit not skinny” trend, focusing on healthy and proper weight loss, the Dove Beauty Campaign, which is all about body acceptance, and Humans of New York, which purposely contrasts the “first impression” visual with the humanity behind that impression.
I’m no better than anyone else. I’ve both participated in and rebelled against the visual obsession. All I can do is strive to be better. I will vow to take care of myself, but indulge every once in a while. I vow to seek what makes a person profound. I will be defined first by my kindness, wit, and accomplishments.
If I am also beautiful, then great.