warped image of perfection

by melody seraydarian - 2018 decathlon speech

Identical mannequins stood perfectly aligned behind the crystal-clear glass of the small dress shop, all sporting various lavish attire. In front of the most lavish mannequin of them all (or so it seemed), stood a little girl staring intently. I watched from the inside of the store as the mannequin stared back at her, milky white and an elusive thin. It was an obvious size zero and it had the quote-unquote “perfect” facial features that were socially accepted; a small, upturned nose, pouty lips, and high cheekbones, all painted white. The little girl looked down at her own body, then eyed the mannequin again. I immediately knew what she was thinking. If she looked like this, her friends would be envious, the boys would run after her, and she would never complain about anything ever again, or so she thought. I immediately knew because I saw myself in that little girl. Any average person would.

On the television screen, a clip of models walking down the runway in an orderly fashion played. They were what I was supposed to be, that's what the word itself meant, right? A model is a person or thing regarded as an excellent example of a specified quality, right? Something that we know works and is accepted, a route to follow and imitate. My eyes fell on their bones, images that would haunt my everyday thoughts, always telling me not to eat too much, not to be who I ached to be, but instead be a void likeness of narcissism and vanity.

The media viciously attacking women, though still vital, has been talked about for years upon years. The objectification of men has slowly but surely become just as prominent as the objectification of women. The bitter irony is that men are now feeling the same pressures that women have been feeling for generations: to meet a certain standard of beauty, “be a man”, echoing in their heads ever since they were young when they even show a hint of weakness. As seen in the media, the exemplary man is yet another product of gender roles and hypermasculinity, with the emphasis on physical strength, continuous confidence, and sexuality.

In our society, body image problems are usually seen as a concept reserved for women. Anything from mild to serious, people seem to take men as a joke when they say they feel ugly or fat because of this idea engraved in our brains that real men are confident. Real men are tall. Short men aren’t manly enough. You have to be slim yet muscular because muscles equate strength and real men are strong. Real men are fighters. Real men are protectors. These are things the ordinary man is unconsciously told from media outlets, especially films. Countless movies involve an emotionless alpha male that young boys idolize. To quote one of those idols, Tyler Durden from the film Fight Club said, “Is that what a real man is supposed to look like?” What does that mean? What does a real man look like exactly? Who are we to dictate who’s manly enough and who isn’t?

We all have these warped images of how we wish we could be seen to the world and have been conditioned as a society to deem certain things as attractive and unattractive. There is no such thing as beauty, only perspective, and we all have a choice to make: to either fall for this corrupt cycle of insecurity, or decide to be the dictators of our better identity.

Is anything truly perfect in this world? Is there such a thing as the perfect body? The perfect face? Why do we humans pursue a superficial image that is ultimately unattainable? Why do we evidently conform to a society with distorted standards? Why do we choose to give in and believe that we are simply mediocre and never going to be good enough? The image of physical perfection that we are presented with is nothing but a masquerade. We are not just our faces and bodies; we are so much more than that. We are an overload of thoughts and emotions and opinions and ideas enclosed into a single breathing vessel. All our bodies do is carry the person we are inside.

As humans, we are always trying to work and strive towards perfection. The irony is that perfection does not exist in the world. We are flawed, and there will never be anything wrong with that, no matter how hard distorted views of beauty try to tell you differently. Anything that is beautiful, people want to shatter, leaving them as broken as the standards of beauty held for all of us.

Be your own beauty standard.