People don’t really like being stereotyped because, truthfully, you can’t say something is true for every human being. This overlooks the individuality, uniqueness and self-esteem of that person. It perpetuates a divide.
I often audition for events, and I have been let down more times than I can count. People would pick someone who has fair skin, or is thinner and taller – the things at that moment I thought I were defects on my part. Others were chosen over me because I am morena, I have an athletic build, I have big legs, etc.
Some suggested that I use bleach and whitening lotion, inject glutathione, drink dietary supplements, and tone down.
The comments made me feel insecure. The negativity around me made me feel unpleasant, and it affected me much for a very long time. The pressure was too much, and for a time I did follow their suggestions to make me feel like I belonged. I tried taking laxatives and dietary supplements, hoping I could someday be like the other girls the society dictates are the benchmarks of beauty.
But the products didn’t really do much, and I asked myself why it wasn’t working.
Eventually, I grew tired of it all and, slowly, I found the courage to love myself for who I am and to become my own strength and my advocacy.
It’s a tired statement, but maybe we need to be constantly reminded that loving yourself is the key to being truly beautiful. It is seen when you are proud of your height, weight, color, form, etc. It radiates when you embrace your individuality. After all, we’re all different, and that’s what makes each of us unique and special.
Be who you are and do not let anyone get in the way of you feeling beautiful and confident. Always be your own definition of beautiful.
– Belle Belsa, School of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
Belle is Miss School of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences 2016. An athlete, she is a member of the UB Cardinals Women’s Volleyball Team.
Photos by Rene Pascua/UB Media Affairs and Publications Office
Editor’s Note: For purposes of context, the following articles are included in this post.
The Science of Pretty
The psychologist Nancy Etcoff argues in “Survival of the Prettiest” that much of what we consider attractive takes its cue from evolution.
Proportion has been deemed vital since pre-Socratic times, and there is evidence that it may reflect fertility, genetic fitness and superior brain function. Feminine features imply an abundance of estrogen, the hormone responsible for the development and regulation of the female reproductive system. Specifically, glowing skin suggests reproductive potency.
These attributes used to be a matter of chance. However, the expectation that all must possess them has become so heavy that today’s young women appear trapped in a prettiness bind: if you are not pretty, you don’t count.
Personally, I will always love powder and paint – the more playful aspects of constructed femininity – but only where they remain playful rather than culturally enforced.
– Hannah Betts, The Telegraph
The Pressure for Perfection
Today’s girls face not only a double but actually a “triple bind” – a set of impossible, contradictory expectations. Girls respond by sacrificing key portions of their identities, developing feelings of self-hatred, and becoming overwhelmed with a general sense of pressured confusion.
Each portion of the triple bind is challenging enough. But it’s the combination of all three aspects that makes it deadly: (1) be good at all of the traditional girl stuff; (2) be good at most of the traditional guy stuff; and (3) conform to a narrow, unrealistic set of standards that allows for no alternative.
Closing in on the third component of the triple bind, the way that alternatives of all types — different ways of becoming a woman, relating to society, or constructing an authentic self — have been virtually erased by the culture. For a girl to fit the acceptable look now requires an almost superhuman commitment to dieting, waxing, applying makeup, and shopping; for some girls, plastic surgery has come to seem a minimum requirement. These trends begin at frighteningly young ages.
On the surface, there’s the apparent wealth of choices for girls. Look a little deeper, though, and you can see the constraining need for girls to objectify themselves in order to fit the feminine mold.
Dr. Hinshaw's Tips: How Girls Can Overcome the Triple Bind
Find out what you're really interested in. Sometimes this is difficult, with the pressures from parents, teachers, and your own "internalized voices" (i.e., you're not succeeding if you don't do X, Y, and Z). Self-discovery takes time, and it also means that you have to leave some room for mistakes.
Connect with a wider world. Animal shelters? Tutoring? Neighborhood clean-up? Political causes? These are just some examples of activities that can stop the relentless self-focus of the triple bind and that can connect you with like-minded peers and friends.
Think critically. As you read, as you watch the media, as you connect on social networking sites, think hard — do all girls really look like the computer-enhanced images on magazine covers? Is a diet the solution to everything? Do I have to follow the latest trends to be popular? Don’t accept everything you encounter at face value.
— Excerpted from “The Triple Bind” by Stephen Hinshaw, as lifted from today.com
Stephen Hinshaw, a Harvard graduate, is an internationally recognized psychologist.
Jennifer Lawrence on the Power of Television in Defining Self-Image among Women and Girls
Jennifer Lawrence is known for refusing to lose weight prior to shooting the first film in The Hunger Games series.
“In the first movie, when it was obviously being talked about, like, ‘It’s the Hunger Games, you have to lose 10 lbs.’ I was like, ‘We have control over this image, we have control over this role model. Why would we make her something unobtainable and thin?'”
“This is a person that young girls – well, all women, but mainly young girls – will be looking up to and are going to want to look like her, and we have control over it, so why not make her strong?..."
“I think that our industry doesn’t take enough responsibility for what it does to our society, about having these unrealistic expectations, and I don’t want to be part of that.”