The World’s Obsession With Beauty

We all have grown up watching Disney Movies, which are often fantasy-filled representations of our otherwise monotonous existence. They compel us to dream of the surreal world they create — even if it is through visual effects — and give wings to our innermost desires.

However, the most striking quality of their whole cinematic experience are their characters. The protagonists of these movies are blessed with the noblest qualities but also with preposterous body proportions. Disney princesses are often tooth-pick thin, with unbelievably tiny feet and pinched waists, have either radiantly pink or flawlessly dusky skin, with doe eyes large enough to pierce your heart, and a perfectly angular jaw line. These seemingly perfect beauties are absolutely mesmerizing, and are able to easily etch themselves in our hearts along with an ideal that is impossible to match.

Women have always been associated with makeup since the ancient Egyptian civilization, when they used to apply galena mesdemet (made of copper and lead ore) and malachite (bright green paste of copper minerals) to their faces for color and definition. The global beauty market is growing and is estimated to be worth more than 800 billion USD  in the next five years, propelled by the consumers’ appetite for innovative skincare and fun, new products. There is no denying that these cosmetic products enhance the overall appearance of a person, but they often leave a lingering insecurity in the hearts of impressionable buyers who mostly fall in the age bracket of 18-24 years, to the extent that many young adults feel conscious about stepping out of their houses without any make-up to cover their faces.

The ideals of beauty differ from place to place. They can range from having stretched earlobes and shaved heads in Kenya, fuller figures in Mauritania, long necks in Myanmar, body scarification in Africa, to lighter skin color in India.

In the Asian subcontinent, having a tan skin is a sign of poor social status, especially in North India; the darker a person’s skin, the lower the social class. It signifies that the person does a lot of outdoor, manual labor. By contrast, the lighter an Asian person’s skin is, the higher their social class and the greater their beauty. Women, hence, go outside with parasols to keep their skin light, going so far as to consider skin bleaching.

Many of us would have seen the repercussion of this flawed mentality in our own families as well. I have known people who would obsessively compare the colour of their wrists to that of their face and gotten worked up by the slightest discrepancy between the shades. This fixation with ones appearance can also lead to insecurity about one’s weight and height which has a high risk of developing into a food disorder, where one may feel guilty about simply having an extra scoop of ice-cream. These individuals then need to undergo extensive therapy and counselling, and even have to be hospitalised in extreme cases.
These cases occur because of the unreal expectations that the world has set for itself. Unfortunately, we perceive the glossy magazine covers, the abs, the toned bodies, the flawless skin, to be the reality, instead of the doctored Photoshop it all is. This has created for us superlative forms of unreal human existence which have come at the greatest price of all: the loss of one’s own self.

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