Beauty standards take toll on women


Public Domain

Women face unrealistic expectations to have the “perfect” body with today’s standards promoting smaller waists and bigger butts.

Kendall Freese, Contributing Writer

We are hit by stereotypes, standards, and expectations from the moment we are born, yet we are often oblivious of their presence and harmful effects. Throughout my years of playing soccer, working hard in school and eavesdropping on my parents discussing the latest news, I have learned about the many stereotypes towards women. When I heard “you’re smart for a girl” or “you’re fast for a girl,” I took it as a compliment and thought nothing of it.

But then things started to change in 6th grade. I was at the annual middle school track and field meet and had just finished my 100-meter sprint when my friend walked up to me and told me that a boy in my grade said that I had a “big butt” as if it was a compliment. I was mortified, and I instantly pulled my sweatshirt over my legs as far down as it could go to cover anything that people would see as a “big butt.” I responded with an awkward laugh and walked away.

When I got home from school, I instantly ran up to my parents’ bedroom and looked at myself in the full-length mirror. I stared at what used to be a skinny childish figure and saw fat. I did not want to be thought of as anything “big,” I did not want to have a “big butt,” and especially did not want people to think of me in that way.

Over the next two years, the older I got, the more “compliments” I received like the first. I became more exposed to the famous figures like the Kardashians who embody many of these beauty standards. Soon my embarrassment and fear of my body changed to love and pride. One would think that this feeling was good, but it was actually far from that. The only reason I felt “love” and “pride” was because I resembled these beauty standards. I didn’t love my body because it was my body, I loved my body because it was what others wanted.

As 8th grade rolled around, I became obsessed with having the “perfect” body. I looked up measurements of famous models and set goals to meet these expectations. I downloaded workout plans to get a “bigger butt” and “smaller waist.” It started with intense exercise, but quickly it went downhill from there. I started to weigh myself, first once a week, then every day. Each day I prayed for the number to go down, to get smaller and smaller. And when it didn’t, I decided to diet. I researched how many calories I should eat to lose weight, what foods to avoid, and how to get a “summer body.”

I memorized the calories of almost every food that exists, made my own breakfast, brought my own lunch, ate my own snack, and made my own dinner, refusing to eat what the rest of my family ate. I fell into a rabbit hole of calories, exercises and weighing myself. No matter how much smaller the number on the scale got, I always wanted less. I wanted my weight to be low, my butt to be big, my waist to be small, and I did everything I could do to achieve my goals.

My undereating and desire for the “ideal” body went on until the end of summer. One Sunday morning in August I was binge-watching “What I Eat in a Day” videos when one caught my interest. I clicked and who knew that that one press of a button would change my life.

In the video, a young woman explained the consequences of calorie counting, especially for young girls. She stressed that undereating and dieting at my age had severe consequences, such as losing your period and potentially having fertility issues. I hadn’t gotten my period for six months, the exact amount of time I was undereating, and I realized that I had to stop immediately.

No matter what “ideal” or “perfect” body I desired to have, I was not going to risk the chance of producing life. For those six months, I was blinded from the severe harm I was doing to my body. I told my mom and my best friend about my calorie counting that day and haven’t counted since. Best. Decision. Ever.

I still have all the numbers, weights, and measurements implanted in my brain. Like my worst fears they creep up and try to take over my head and body, but I don’t let them. In the end, I realized that whatever goal I had would never be met, and I that should take care of and love myself for being me and only me; no measurements, no weight, no calories, just me.

The Instagram posts, inappropriate comments, and pressure the world puts on young women have the ability to destroy their confidence, mental health, and bodies. Next time you want to make a comment, think about the right way to say it because, in the end, those droplets of words can build up to a tsunami of hate, harm and hurt. As women, we need to stop comparing ourselves to our friends, strangers in the street and famous stars of the internet. Our bodies are unique and built for us; therefore, we should give them what they need, like food, and love instead of deprivation and hate.