Monday, April 25, 2011

The Pressure to be Perfect By Hannah Davis

Why are looks so important to our society? There are stereotypes abounding about what the perfect man or woman should look like. A desired man tends to be tall and muscular while women need to be lean, tall and endowed with large boobs. People are struggling with their reflection because society has put so much pressure on everyone to be attractive and seductive.

I don’t know about you but I feel the pressure to always look my best, buy the trendy clothing, and use dieting and exercise to reach that impossible body image of models. While I may not actually do all these things, there is a voice in the back of my mind that says I should. Others are dealing with these demands by undergoing drastic processes like plastic surgery. Others are developing mental disorders such as eating disorders or body dysmorphic disorder where they believe themselves to be ugly even if they have no noticeable flaws.

In regards to plastic surgery, the trend is quite frightening to me. Since 1997, there has been more than a 162% increase in cosmetic surgery. The top five surgical procedures for men, according to the ASAPS’s 2008 statistics on cosmetic surgery, were liposuction, rhinoplasty, eyelid surgery, hair transplants and breast reduction surgery. Women’s top five was breast augmentation, liposuction, eyelid surgery, abdonimoplasty and breast reduction. There is now even a television show called Bridalplasty that has women competing to earn cosmetic surgery so their wedding can be “perfect”. I watched an episode once and was shocked when the show’s host told the contestant being kicked off that “she would have a nice wedding, but not a perfect one” because she wasn’t going to have a change to get surgery. This message alarms me and makes me wonder if society has gone too far in its reach for perfection.

Then there are eating disorders, which are more common then you may think. According to South Carolina’s Department of Mental Health, around 8 million Americans have an eating disorder and almost half of all Americans personally know someone who has an eating disorder. Whether it is anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating disorder, these disorders have been attributed with the highest level of mortality when compared to all other mental illnesses. The treatment is costly and not very effective; many people don’t even try to get help.

Why is it that 50% of girls between 11 and 13 see themselves overweight? What has allowed us to have anorexia as the third most common chronic illness among adolescents? Is it all the celebrities who have had eating disorders, the media’s pressure to be thin, or because of a pervasive mindset that has found its way into our culture?

And then there is body dysmporhic disorder, also called imagined ugliness, where people are excessively dissatisfied with a part of their appearance, imagined or minor imperfections, which constantly occupy their thoughts and make them feel horrible. These individuals obsess about the imperfection and use compulsions to try and relieve tensions. Because they are ashamed or upset by their appearance, people with body dysmorphic disorder tend to avoid others by staying home or covering up their perceived imperfection.

When I researched the disorder I came to a very helpful website called, which has information for parents, kids, and teens. On their website they stated that the disorder tends to start in the teen years and may be caused by a combination of an imbalance in serotonin levels and cultures messages about body image. If the problem isn’t treated early on it can continue into adulthood and affect the person’s life in many ways, including unpleasant thoughts about their body, long and repeated grooming processes, and eventually isolation that results in dropping out of school or losing a job in order to avoid people who will see their imperfections.

All of the above processes show how people try to deal with society’s pressure to be perfect and its affect on men and women. Each is a severe issue that needs to be looked at in order to help those people develop a healthy lifestyle and outlook on their body.

So let’s take a stand against modern society’s perception of beauty. Let’s all embrace who we are, flaws and all, and accept that what we have is beautiful.

If you need help with an eating disorder please contact the National Eating Disorders Association at 1-800-913-2237 or at their website

Do we want to be a cookie cutter society where everyone looks the same; women are tan, blonde and skinny where men are rippling with muscles, athletic, and tall? Personally I don’t want that future. If you don’t either then take a stand and tell someone they are beautiful for exactly who they are. Look into your mirror and believe the person staring back is perfect. Learn to love yourself.

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