If you’ve ever dreaded looking in the mirror because you know you won’t like what you see, then you may relate to this. You are self-conscious and highly aware of people judging your looks constantly. You may even have become paranoid about your looks and decided that you’re just not up to current societal standards. If you’re a woman, you notice other women’s glossy, flowing hair, perfectly styled every day to match their look. You notice that their outfits are well-coordinated and fitted to a T. They have perfect skin. They have the time, energy, money and skill to put on makeup and not look like they’re getting ready for Halloween. They’re tall and slim and have well-endowed “assets.”
Let’s not even go there. You get mistaken for a hobo when you sleep in the library at 4 a.m., pulling an all-nighter. (This happened to me, but in my defense, I was wearing my boyfriend’s oversized hoodie and joggers. What can I say? They’re comfortable!) You see how people look at the “hot” people — and how they look at you — and you just know what they’re thinking unconsciously. It makes you cringe, an ugly feeling starting to gnaw at you. A pit of fire and anxiety ignited by self-hatred starts inside of you, and you burn all the way through until you end up in tears. As you look at yourself, you think, “I know I don’t look bad, but I can’t help feeling ugly.” Your rational mind has given up; you no longer have any control over yourself. You just wish you looked like her.
And it only gets worse from there. The constant barrage of media messages telling you what to look like has transformed you into a self-hating person from the overly self-confident girl that you were before. You now cry in bathroom stalls and seek counselling and constantly reassure yourself that you’re just fine the way you are. But being fine isn’t enough. You want to look flawless. You want to be the “hot girl” apart from the “smart girl” and the “funny girl” and the “nice girl” and the “other commonly used adjectives” girl. Don’t get me wrong — you love those other adjectives and being complimented on your other (actual) assets is great! But somehow, society has made you believe those other qualities don’t matter as much.
Then again, there’s the paradox: It’s not enough for you to be “hot,” either. You must be smart (STEM majors get a bonus point), participate in challenging camps and competitions, and belong to some sort of elite academic society or community. You must stay well-informed of current events. You must be funny and humble. You must work out and drink smoothies and do yoga and look happy all the time. Go ahead and wake up at 4 a.m. every day and go for a run. Read a book every week. Perform your best at work. Meditate. Date. Marry. Put on makeup and do your hair and nails. Have a great group of friends and an active social life. Go out and party on weekends and still somehow look well-rested and classy the next morning. Yeah, you must do and be all that because that is the new black. Good luck, ladies and gentleman, because it might nearly kill you.
We can’t control the media and marketing thrown at us every day, but we can control our reactions to these stimuli. It’s extremely important to take control and remind ourselves to be grateful and happy before we become a self-loathing nobody. I cannot stress this enough: if you think you might be going down this path — take control now and get help! Don’t wait until your emotional reactions overpower your rational mind.
If you’ve already made peace with looking like this your entire life, having unhappily accepted it, you may just be hiding your insecurity beneath false self-confidence. You don’t want to think about your looks much because after all, what can you even do? You were born this way. No sir, that is your insecurity talking. If you really were secure, you would have said, “I was born this way and I’m pretty happy with it. I don’t want to change anything. There really is no need to change.”
Lastly, while we may think we are merely victims of this global issue, we must take extreme precautions to never become perpetrators of the crime ourselves. Let’s try to ask, “Are they a nice person?” or “How is their personality? What are they like?” Instead of “Are they hot?” next time our friends point out potential partners/crushes.