There's a lot of pressure in our society nowadays to be absolutely, completely flawless.
You see it in the discussion of physical appearance most predominately. It's pretty much common knowledge nowadays that the women who appear on the covers of our magazines, our models and our celebrities, even our athletes, are photoshopped to the point that they no longer really look like themselves. With the use of a computer program, we slim and tuck and pull and peel, until women are made thinner than is physically possible, taller and paler and longer-legged than they actually are. And that's only what photoshop is capable of - let alone hours of make-up and lighting and a knowledge of what camera angles are the most flattering.
In our movies, too, people are represented as looking almost unrealistically beautiful - most predominately in our movies targeting teenagers, it seems. We fill fictional high schools with clear skin and buff bods, with girls who know exactly what to do with make-up and boys who have clearly dedicated countless hours in the gym despite having school work and friends and family and other teenage-related problems to deal with. We take arguably the group of people in our society who are most image-conscious, who are most concerned with looking flawless and attractive, and we ask them, point-blank, "why don't you look like this?"
And the funny thing about this is, we make our models and actresses and singers look so perfect that, to some extent, we almost make them look boring. They all fall into a fairly standard, fairly limited definition of what beautiful is. All thin and symmetrical and clear-skinned and predominately white. And don't get me wrong, if you fall into that definition, I'm not trying to say anything against you - you are beautiful, and you deserve to feel beautiful. But when that's all that we ever see in our society, day in and day out, it tends to get a little bit old.
Where are the beautiful people with pimples?
The boys and girls with body fat?
The towering, Amazonian women, and the men who are totally socially acceptable in all their shortness?
Where are the stretch marks, the belly rolls, the moles and freckles and scars? I don't see them - not even on the secondary characters, or the characters who actually need them. Remember the 2013 adaption of Carrie? The one that cast Chloe Grace Moretz in a role that is often represented as being outside of the traditional definition of beauty, and yet nobody, not the director or make-up artists or costume designers, made any attempt to make her any less than physically flawless.
The only time that we ever see anyone being represented as less than flawless in our society is if someone is making a statement on it. Acne exists only in advertising for products to remove it. Body fat is present when a character is meant to be unattractive, or otherwise unappealing. And men can only be short and skinny if they themselves are somehow stunted in their masculinity.
This isn't the only way that our society emphasizes perfection, however. People are often expected to present themselves as emotionally flawless, as well.
People can't be weak. They can't look at their problems and be struck by fear at the thought of them, because that's cowardice or stupidity or some other similar lie. People need to put up a sort of front, appear like they can do anything and everything without once being bothered by it. And the strange thing about that is that it isn't true. Most people, especially when they're just starting out in life or in an adventure, are terrified. They just learn to work through the fear. The fear is not the problem - our refusal to accept that that fear is present is the problem. We don't talk about it, because we don't want to admit that we have it. We don't want to appear less than perfect.
We refuse to wear certain clothes or do certain activities because we're afraid that we'll look 'silly' or 'stupid'. We refuse to practice certain talents because we afraid that we 'aren't very good at it'. But the only way to get good at something is to practice it often, to work through that initial stage of imperfection, and at the end of the day, what does it matter if you look silly? Embrace it! Be flawed! And, who knows, maybe by allowing yourself to be more open and less afraid, you'll learn something new about yourself. You'll grow as a person when you are no longer so concerned about fitting into the narrow definition of 'perfection'.
Perfection is boring. Perfection is a narrow definition of what you should be, set forth by someone who isn't you, who has never met you, and who doesn't understand the brilliant and wonderful person that they are stifling in the process. So what does it matter if you look silly, or if you don't see aspects of yourself represented in the media? Be you, assert your flaws, and force the world around you to accept you for all that you are.
Published by Ciara Hall