Beauty is Pain, But Does it Have to Be? | Teen Ink

Beauty is Pain, But Does it Have to Be?

April 20, 2019
By abbyhigbee01 SILVER, Highland, Utah
abbyhigbee01 SILVER, Highland, Utah
5 articles 0 photos 0 comments

We’ve all heard of gruesome and strange beauty rituals and standards from around the world, such as foot binding, long necks, and lip plates. People often wince or cringe when these rituals are mentioned because of how unpleasant they sound, but I can’t help wondering why we don’t have the same reactions to the crazy socially normal beauty rituals and standards we have. Have we become too vain and numb to these things that they are so commonplace in conversation and media?

The Mursi tribe in Ethiopia has the unique beauty standard of lip plates. Similar to ear gauges, girls lips are pierced when they reach puberty and a small plate is inserted; as time goes on the size of the plate is increased. The bigger the ring, the more desirable and beautiful they are to men who are looking for brides. Another beauty standard is that of the KayanLahwi tribe in Burma and Thailand where they focus on long and slender necks. The way they achieve this is by wearing heavy rings around their necks starting early in their childhoods and over time increasing the number of rings. What both of these beauty standards have in common is the pressure to modify your appearance to fit what other people think is desirable. This is also a common theme in our own culture.

Though it was banned in 1912, foot binding has been a significant part of Chinese culture for centuries and its effects can still be found in old women in rural areas of China. This practice was done by breaking women’s toes so they would be bent against the sole of the foot and bound tightly in place. Small and dainty feet were viewed as status symbols, so the practice was extremely popular despite the pain. This sounds atrocious, but what is the difference between this and women in the United States breaking their noses to “fix” them? Young people in Iran often wear bandages on their noses or other parts of their face to give the illusion that they have undergone plastic surgery because it is a symbol of wealth. Sometimes these bandages cover legitimate nose jobs or even nose jobs that had been performed weeks earlier, but usually, they are for show. This obsession with plastic surgery is similar to the plastic surgery craze in Eastern Asia, specifically Thailand and Japan. The most dangerous beauty trends in Eastern Asia are skin whitening- the bleaching of skin to get the perfect “porcelain” look- and eyelid surgery to change a monolid to a double eyelid, a coveted feature based in Western culture.

While Japan is one of the most cosmetic surgery-obsessed countries in the world, with approximately 5% of the population undergoing some kind of plastic surgery, it is not the most obsessed. The country that takes that spot is… the United States at a whopping 18% of the population getting plastic surgery! While I whole-heartedly respect people’s decisions to undergo cosmetic surgery, we have to address the dangers of plastic surgery both psychologically and physically. The global beauty industry is worth approximately $256 billion because of the societal standards that have been set that make people feel like they will never be good enough; never beautiful enough, fit enough, lovable enough, attractive enough, and the list goes on and on. When people feel inadequate, they are willing to spend a lot of money and put their own health at risk to get rid of those feelings. Most people who get plastic surgery don’t just stop at one, they keep altering their body pursuing the feeling that they will someday be enough with these alterations. There is always a health risk with plastic surgery if things don’t go as planned. Common procedures like tummy tucks, liposuction, and butt lifts become extremely hazardous, especially for people who can’t afford a reliable and safe surgeon. People wear painful waist trainers that damage their bodies and do “beauty hacks” at home that can be really dangerous, one example being the Kylie Jenner challenge from 2015, where mostly young girls would try to plump their lips using a small cup, usually resulting in bruising and long-lasting damage around the mouth. Beyond the physical dangers of beauty trends and expectations, we must acknowledge the psychological toll that beauty standards take, especially body standards. In this wonderful age of technology, people are constantly bombarded by images that seem impossible to achieve. This is a horrible mindset to be in because you’re trapped in a cycle of self-loathing. Anxiety and depression are at an all-time high, as well as eating disorders. In the U.S., at least 30 million people of all ages, genders, and races suffer from eating disorders and approximately once a minute, someone dies as a direct result.

No matter where we are from, we shouldn’t be trapped by beauty standards that put us at risk, because what is most important is the physical and psychological health of human beings. We can’t be complacent and blind when looking at the common beauty standards in our society. People have the right to indulge in any beauty trends they want to as long as it doesn’t put them in danger. Beauty doesn’t have to be pain, because beauty comes with confidence and security in the body you were given. It’s easier said than done, but we cannot continue down this path where our children think that people like the Kardashians were born looking the way they do and feeling inadequate in comparison. Although body positivity has come a long way, cosmetic surgery is still at an all-time high and continues to rise without public awareness. I hope to raise awareness so that people will realize that they already look the way they need to and don’t need to change, just do what makes you happy and safe.

The author's comments:

As a woman, I've always had to deal with the beauty standards of the world. Though I still struggle with these beauty standards, I have found a love for myself that I want all other people to have!

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