Pressured Beauty

(Photo by Lindsay O’Neil)

Pressured Beauty

By Zelda Dominguez

At what age is a girl cognizant of her beauty? Although they say at adolescence, I beg to differ. I recall in second grade being very aware of the girls who were most popular and who the boys were that chased after. I was also aware I wasn’t one of them.

Opinions about attractiveness depends largely on what kids observe in their day-to-day lives. Media images and cultural messages are the most obvious factors in how body image takes shape. Another factor is parents.

Studies show that self-critical mothers tend to have daughters with lower self-esteem, and I can personally attest to that being true. I remember my grandmother and mom buying my little sister a girdle, who was eight at the time! What does a child need that for? At a young age we were also told to train ourselves to suck in our stomach and have good posture.

Self-esteem is how one thinks and feels about themselves as a whole. Body image is how one thinks and feels about their body. Therefore, body image is a component of self-esteem.

My mother, although not overweight, was always concerned about her weight and appearance. By the end of middle school, I too started going along with her to diet doctors for shots or pills for weight loss. It is important for parents to use positive language when discussing physical appearance to help their children develop healthy body images. On the contrary, negative comments and nicknames, shaming, ridicule from parents, family, or peers, does the opposite.

By middle school 40-70% of girls are dissatisfied with 2 or more parts of their body. On a typical day, American children ages 8-18 are engaged with some form of media for 7.5 hrs. Body dissatisfaction is the number one risk factor for a number of unhealthy behaviors, including, eating disorders and chronic dieting.

When I started High School, I moved and experienced total culture shock as well as feeling very sad to leave all my friends. Moving can have a negative effect on teens that have difficulty adjusting. If your teen isn’t making friends or starts struggling academically, they may be at a higher risk of mental health problems or substance abuse issues. I noticed there wasn’t anyone who I could identify with. I became super aware that I looked different than my new peer group. I was very insecure and became even more self-conscious of my appearance. I would stop in the bathroom in between each class to look at myself to make sure my hair was in place, outfit looked good, and my makeup was perfect.

We live in a world surrounded by a discouragement tidal wave called advertising. They convince us that we need those products that promise, longer lashes, less wrinkles, plumper lips, rids cellulite, and guarantees whiter teeth. They set us up to feel inadequate, to make purchases, and then, we will be enough. But another flaw is quickly pointed out and we continue to quickly chase after the next thing.

Mid the COVID-19 crisis, the global market for Cosmetic Skin Care estimated at US $145.3 billion in the year 2020. United States was the leading consumer of beauty products worldwide based on value and millennial women (ages 18 to 34) as the heaviest buyers of beauty products.  Although surgical and non-surgical procedures are one the rise, this also includes men now.

By my early twenties I started to use my body to get attention with tight, short clothing, or low-cut necklines. I found myself secretly having an eating disorder. I, like many, just wanted to be accepted and loved. I thought if I was thin enough, I’d achieve that. It wasn’t until I lost the guy and my health that I was led on a journey. One day I heard a sermon where the pastor preached, “Jesus loves you just the way you are!” ‘What, me?,’ I thought. Every person has a great need to feel loved. I had been desiring that my whole life and made a commitment to follow Christ that day. No one, or nothing, could fill that void but Him. I felt instant peace, embracing God’s love for me, and satisfied in who I was. His love was enough. The pressure could be taken off.