Cultural Norms of Beauty

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Updated: Aug 18, 2023
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“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” You have most probably heard of this very familiar statement. It simply states that beauty cannot exist on its own but rather is created by the perception of the observer. As kids, fairy tales led us to believe that a pretty face is synonymous with kindness, and those that lack physical beauty are often evil and unkind. When faced with a new individual, we often judge them on the basis of their appearances.

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We recognize people through their visages and subconsciously create different impressions about them.

Our perceptions stem from the social norms, culture, and social relations in our community, consequently, creating different standards of beauty. Capitalism has created unhealthy misconceptions that push us to buy items labeled as necessities for profit, making us believe in them as norms. Products that persuade us to whiten our teeth, color our hair differently, or alter our skin tint have been booming in the market. The media also exerts a huge influence on our perceptions of beauty through publications and advertisements of what a desirable body should look like, rapid weight loss methods, portrayals of attractiveness, and much more, all having a toxic effect on our society.

As a result, socially constructed beauty standards have created a world that places significant importance on physical appearance. Individuals who don’t conform to the ideal often have low self-esteem and attempt to fit in by altering their appearances or dressing in a style they aren’t comfortable with. In some cases, they even go to extremes to fit in. According to researchers, numerous people have been resorting to cosmetic surgery with the hope that it will enhance their features and improve their physical attractiveness. Such practices have created distorted perceptions of beauty.

In Korea, double eyelid surgeries are common as people strive for a more ‘Caucasian’ appearance. In America, procedures such as butt lifting and lip fillers have been popularized by famous celebrities, pushing people to seek professional help to achieve the same looks. Several disturbing diets have been formulated to maintain a slim figure, even at the cost of potential health risks. There are people who go to the extreme, like the Russian model, Valeria Lukyanova, famously known as the ‘Human Barbie.’ She underwent several surgeries and even tried the dangerous ‘water diet,’ which involves consuming only water to maintain a slim waist. In extreme cases, these actions can lead to serious health issues and mental health problems.

The idea of beauty is constantly changing, what may be deemed beautiful today might be considered unattractive in the future. Thus, many of our beliefs inevitably transform and are replaced by a different set of ideas. One should not conform to society’s perception, but rather accept themselves as they are. Beauty is always changing with me, with you, and with everyone else. Break the norms, stop comparing yourself with others, and love yourself for who you are.

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Cultural Norms of Beauty. (2022, Aug 27). Retrieved from