Wrinkled skin, faded flush in our cheeks, grey hair, loss of hair, less tone in all of those desirable places–this is the harsh reality of growing up and aging. No matter how far off it is from us at this moment, the natural growth of a human from infancy to adolescence, and adolescence to adulthood, is inescapable. It is no secret that being forever young has always been a desire of men and women alike, but it seems as though for recent generations, looking young and beautiful has succeeded being a want and has become a “need.”
Years go by and it is as if our society dives deeper and deeper into shallow water, constantly giving into these pressures of creating a perfect self by sculpting our bodies to a T, giving in to each and every diet, and allowing the phrase “don’t like it? Fix it” to influence how we feel about the noses, lips, eyes and anything else we have been given that can be rearranged with surgery. We live in an age in which external beauty just might trump the inner and this, friends, will ultimately lead to a mental breakdown in years to come.
We’ve fallen into a sort of Peter Pan complex, if you will–we are opposed to growing older. This is no longer due to a reluctantness toward responsibility (i.e. all of that student loan debt that needs to be paid back), but a reluctantness to age. Let’s face it: our world cherishes the beautiful ones and puts them on a pedestal for all the world to see, love, and, above all, idolize. Perfection is a disease, and a majority of us have caught the bug.
As we emerge and live out our 20s into our early-to-mid 30s, our bodies will shape as we continue sculpting, skin will take easily to the makeup young women paint on their faces, and our hair will stay healthy and sustain color. However, eventually, our bodies will change, weight will be harder to lose, our skin will wrinkle, and in much later years, it will begin to sag and grow frail. After all of our straightening and coloring, our hair will be fried and tired. Youth is not meant to last forever, and I am afraid for our generation’s reactions when time takes its course.
The issue, I have come to realize, is not that being young is short-lived; it is that we have created a definition of beauty that is. According to dictionary.com, the definition of beauty is “the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind.” I see no restrictions in that definition, but if you pay attention to the media that influences us on a daily basis, beauty, in terms of a woman, is one who is tall, lean, not a fraction of an inch of cellulite to be found on her body, with perfectly whitened teeth and blemish-free skin. Now, wouldn’t that be nice? As for the men, society would like you tall, tan, muscular and athletic. Peyton Manning meets Channing Tatum–got that, boys?
Not only has society become so fixated on perfecting how we look, but we have also become obsessed with constantly looking at ourselves! Is it really a surprise to anyone that the term “selfie” is now a defined, printed word in dictionaries? The song entitled “#Selfie” by The Chainsmokers can be heard at any given hour on the radio. This techno-pop single is not only catchy and funny, but somewhat pathetic because, in all honesty, we relate to it.
First there was the “Facebook profile pic,” the all-too-familiar pose where you place your camera or smartphone upward facing you or you and your friends. Then there was the Instagram selfie, a picture taken by you of yourself decorated with special effects or filters. If you don’t fit the beauty definition we’ve all come to know and loathe, then you will with Valencia or Rise. Finally, there is Snapchat. Vanity has escalated to not even being able to have a conversation via mobile device without looking at yourself.
We love looking at ourselves, obsessing over what needs to be fixed, perfecting a selfie with editing tools all to gain “likes” and “comments” on pictures to earn approval from those we surround ourselves with. At some point, the editing needs to stop, both literally and digitally. All you need is love, folks–love for yourself and who you are, wrinkled or not. This could happen simply by appreciating ourselves, accepting that what we look like now is not what we will look like in 20 years–and thats okay, and redefining what beauty means to us; not as a society, but as individuals.