We live in an increasingly aesthetic age in which ¡®beauty¡¯ is given exalted value. We have been indoctrinated to believe that youth and good looks are the most precious commodities we can possess. A leisurely perusal through a glossy, fashion magazine can induce feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. Coveting those long legs, full lips and that lustrous hair, we are some how convinced that they would make our lives more fulfilling. A well-toned body has become a pre-requisite for good sex and natural fat deposits have become cellulite. Yet, the images depicted in the media are not those of ¡®real¡¯ people, they are those of airbrushed and trimmed bodies that have been smothered in make-up to obscure any ¡®imperfections¡¯.

The message being conveyed is patent: there is always room for improvement. Beauty has become a fallacious ideal that can never be actualised. Advertisements bombard us with over-priced, over-packaged products whose ingredients are listed in ¡®E¡¯s and ¡®B¡¯s. These bestow hope that we may rejuvenate our complexion or banish those fine lines providing we commit to continued use and expenditure.

Whilst these concerns are particularly pertinent for women, they are becoming increasingly relevant for men. Instances of male anorexia are rising and beauty products targeted specifically at men are now a permanent feature of many high street stores. Comparably, multi-national cosmetics companies are beginning to penetrate markets in the developing world. Thereby providing themselves with an ocean of previously unexplored consumers, who have thus far, remained blissfully unaware of these ¡®magical¡¯ products. It seems that no one is immune from the ¡®Barbie and Ken¡¯ mandate.

Therefore it is essential that we, as individuals, actively endeavour to reject these powerful ideologies. We are not more beautiful when we wear make-up or when we lose those extra few pounds. Beauty is some thing far grander than coloured moisturisers or clothes sizes. It cannot be commodified and it cannot be purchased. Granted it can be cultivated, but through love and enjoyment of life not through the application of potions or lotions.

In order to thwart the perpetuation of aesthetic ideals it is necessary for us to revel in our own beauty and that of others. We must stop comparison-shopping. Too much time has been wasted on grieving our perceived shortcomings rather than celebrating our unique capacities. People should be regarded as individuals as opposed to benchmarks and competitors. We all possess exceptional qualities that induce feelings of joy and happiness in those we love. Yet we often neglect to listen when these special people pay us compliments, remaining firmly convinced that we do not make the grade. The ¡®voices¡¯ of advertisers in the media have drowned out those of our friends and family. If real beauty were allowed to prevail, the oppressive ideals that we have all been subjected to would be exposed as myths. Thereby, liberating us from the pressure of emulating mannequins, and facilitating love and acceptance.

Author's Bio: 

I am studying Msc Sociology at Bristol University. My email
address is: gobbolino@breathe.com