Cross Currents: Do young adults face unrealistic beauty standards?

The Channels Opinion Pages | CROSS CURRENTS


Alloy Zarate

Illustration by Alloy Zarate, 2020

Is beauty in the eye of the beholder or is there one set standard of beauty?

In today’s culture young adults either feel more pressured than ever to keep up with the latest trends or encouraged to bend the rules and create their own definitions of beauty. The idea of beauty is always shifting. Are young adults under too much pressure to conform to unrealistic beauty or is there more freedom now than ever to be proud of your own body?


Alloy Zarate, Associate Editor

When I was in elementary school, teachers told me I could be a model when I grew up.

It’s not the worst thing to say, but no one ever told me I was brilliant at math or art.

Instead, they focused on my body.

A fixation on women’s bodies and appearance is rampant in society.

In a Vanity Fair interview, pop star Billie Eilish said she started wearing baggy clothes to hide her body and avoid giving anyone a trait to judge.

Her concerns were warranted.

She received a wave of vile comments about her body online when she was photographed by paparazzi while wearing a tank top. One viral tweet said Eilish “developed a mid-30’s wine mom body.”

Eilish is just one of many women in the public eye who get ridiculed for their bodies, but this isn’t limited to celebrities.

According to the Park Nicollet Melrose Center, a treatment facility for eating disorders, negative body image starts at a young age.

“53% of 13-year-old American girls are unhappy with their bodies. This number grows to 78% by the time girls reach 17,” the center reported in 2014.

Naomi Wolf, author of “The Beauty Myth” attributes the obsession with women’s appearance to society’s desire to control women.

There will always be beauty standards and pressure to conform to them. Like all types of oppression, this happens through systems ingrained in society.

The most obvious examples are the often unrealistic images posted on social media and depicted on television. I am absolutely terrified to buy clothes online because it never fits on my body the way it fits on the model.

Sometimes I fall into spirals of scrolling through social media and comparing myself to the beautiful people on there.

I’ve stayed up late at night obsessively analyzing specific people’s profiles, making checklists of every way they are better than me.

The pressure is absolutely real, painful and exhausting.


Alex Ruther, Staff Writer

In today’s society, young adults have more freedom than ever to express themselves however they desire without judgment.

While walking down a street in Isla Vista you’re likely to see a group of skater boys doing board tricks in the street waving to the surfers who bike by wearing their wetsuits. When passing by a park you can see a group of frat boys playing spike ball next to a group of nicely dressed girls sitting on a blanket taking pictures, and that’s only a few different styles that you will find here.

Young adults today do not face societal pressures to meet a certain beauty standard. In fact, the beauty standard has been shredded and thrown in the trash. Society has begun to welcome individuals for being who they are.

We are living in a time where mental health and happiness are more important than ever. Self-individuality has helped so many young adults sustain a healthy lifestyle.

“Self-expression is a vital piece of the puzzle that is the fulfillment of life; it allows us to be our best selves, reach our full potential, and make valuable contributions to the world we live in,” self-development author Christian De La Huerta said in a article.

Thanks to growing movements on social media that have amplified embracing who you are, many do not feel a need to conform to any one look anymore. Society’s standards have evolved and one look no longer fits all.

Fashion has progressed and young adults no longer face the pressures of society’s strict standards. In the 1950s all women had specific standards in their appearance such as dresses and skirts that always needed to be below the knee. Now young women wear daisy dukes and mini shorts.

Women going out in public without bras was once one of the largest taboos in society. Now, it’s one of the most embraced movements by young adults today. The “Free the Nip” movement demonstrates how society has embraced something that was heavily frowned upon, and now women can feel comfortable in public bra-free.

Body-positive activists and celebrities such as Ashley Graham, Rihanna and Demi Lovato have used social media to spread self-appreciation. These campaigns have changed society’s perception of beauty where models are no longer one size; there are curvy, plus, petite, athletic, and everything in between.

The pressure on young adults to look a specific way in society is continuously evolving. The phrase “you’re not going to get a good job with all of those tattoos or piercings” is losing its validity. We now live in a generation where there is no shame wearing sweatpants in public or walking out of the house without makeup. Society’s views have definitely changed for the better.