Beauty. A cage created by your own misconceptions, fostered by society. A monster that feeds on your pain as you turn to others to find false validation. A broken mirror that reflects the young child who once loved who they were, the young child who’s slowly transforming into a tormented adult. Why, why do we so blindly accept society’s unrealistic standards of beauty? They’re constantly changing with trends and convincing people all at different periods of time that slim legs are better than curvy ones or small waists are better than wide ones. We live in a world where no one can choose what they look like, yet we encourage everyone to pursue the same image. Instead, shouldn’t beauty be what’s on the inside? Shouldn’t it be based on the aspects that we can actually control?
Views of beauty differ all over the world⎼some cultures prefer small feet over large ones, while others prefer shaved heads over hairy ones. Regardless, people often dismiss beauty standards that contradict with the ones they’ve grown up with; their piece of society has deeply ingrained its ideals into their minds, and these ideals can’t be uprooted without great effort. This goes to show that beauty is nothing but a manifestation of society. When we were young and innocent, we didn’t analyze every single person based solely on their appearance and jump to obstructive, unjust conclusions. Instead, we judged people based on their actions alone.
R.J. Palacio’s novel Wonder brilliantly demonstrates the cruelty and corruption of society. As someone born with facial deformities, the main character, August Pullman, does not match with society’s perception of attractiveness. He states, “What’s cool about really little kids is that they don’t say stuff to try to hurt your feelings, even though sometimes they do say stuff that hurts your feelings. But they don’t actually know what they’re saying. Big kids, though: they know what they’re saying. And that is definitely not fun for me.” Our view of the world clearly changes as we grow older, but we often don’t notice the process where society’s ideologies form and take root to influence our judgment. Can you remember the last time you looked at someone’s face and characterized them not by their actions, but by the amount of acne on their face or by the type of clothes they were wearing? There’s no denying it⎼our minds are constantly working like this, taking in the world around us, attempting to organize its disarray, and creating more chaos and unfairness in the end.
Every one of us is special, so why aren’t our differences celebrated? Well, our minds simply cannot process the individual uniqueness of every person we meet. Instead, we categorize our peers based on appearance and beauty; our society objectifies young girls based on their looks, which subsequently forces them to internalize the objectification and form toxic mindsets like internal misogyny. So, how do we solve this grave issue? How do we ensure that no one else is unfairly judged based on features they have no control of? Well, we, Gen Z, have the power to do it. The next time you look at a person, keep a blank slate, and make a conscious effort to break your mind’s vicious cycle of degrading and objectifying. Accept everyone for who they are, and only then can we learn to cherish our differences just like when we were younger.
“Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.” - R.J Palacio