To many extents I feel we are governed as a society by standards which are unequivocally decided for us by the media. I sometimes feel like I’m a mere pawn in society’s giant board game of social expectation. Those with money and a place of privilege dictate how I and those around me present ourselves. Girls are pumping their lips with fillers, naturally pretty girls becoming more Kardashian wannabe than their actual self. Photo filters are now commonplace, filters that alter the colour to make us look less pale or more desirable to others. There are people judging their self-worth off of the amount of likes they can gain on social media. We sit by, whilst our heavily edited image collects the approval of our peers and family for conforming to this standard set by norms we have learned from the media. Everywhere you look someone is changing themselves in a bid to find acceptance within the confines of this social expectancy cycle.
A few months ago I shaved my head. I’d like to say that I shaved my head to challenge these conformity rituals. That the whole decision was a carefully thought out device but that would be a lie. You see when I shaved my head I was incredibly disconnected from my physical appearance and was on something of a downwards spiral. In layman’s terms, I was unhappy and in turn I was unhappy with my physical appearance. I had reached a point where I wanted to alter myself in some drastic way for no other reason than simply because I could.
I think this disconnection from our outer self and the look we portray is all too common. Theoretically I could have the most beautifully attractive woman stood before me yet what I see could be a complete juxtaposition from what she sees. In effect, what one person finds attractive may be the polar opposite for another. It’s a complex approach and it’s dependent on the person and their attraction preference. Surprisingly someone like pop singer Katy Perry you would think would be universally recognised as beautiful… yet there are people who find her to be unattractive and not appealing to look at. There is no one person that is perfect to absolutely everyone.
There is such an emphasis on so many different aspects of our physical appearance. There are men that don’t meet the predetermined height requirement for a man. The way the ideal man is portrayed is never as a short guy, just in the same way we rarely see incredibly tall women. In a generation where we often hear about being too fat or too skinny there are also those battling insecurities about being too short or too tall. Figures of perfection are portrayed to us and ultimately, we long to match those kind of looks. If I was to compare myself to someone on the male spectrum of good looks such as Channing Tatum I would fall drastically short. I couldn’t match such natural good looks or even hope to have such an incredible body. Someone such as Tatum who is so desirable to females is in effect a cause of such low self-esteem in guys as someone like Bella Habib is to females.
This brings me back on to myself and a topic close to my own heart, body disfiguration. Whether we mean to or not, as humans we are incredibly biased and judgmental to others. In a sense, I’m lucky because I don’t have to live with a facial disfiguration. The implications of having a facial disfiguration are highly documented by those who are subject to a society that stares and makes comments.
When we as humans have such a narrow-minded means of judging other humans it’s not surprising so many insecurities and unrealistic expectations exits. What saddens me is the generations of younger females or even males for that matter who will never be “pretty” or “handsome” enough to be acknowledged for it. There are girls that will spend their whole life chasing a vision of what beautiful looks like only to realise they can’t Photoshop magic away the imperfections in their own body. They will never be beautiful enough to achieve those impossible standards.
I feel by shaving my hair I broke away from a social expectation. Initially I was blown away by the response to my action and not in a good way. What troubled me was the amount of negative comments I received considering I had not specified what my reasoning was for shaving my head. With little to no explanation given I could have simply been trying out a new style and had that been the case, a few chosen comments would have completely shattered my self-esteem. Concerned messages like “What have you done to yourself” began to roll in on my phone and jokes were hurled almost instantaneously.
It’s been far from a smooth ride, excuse the pun, but in many ways, I’ve enjoyed the freedom that shaving my head offered me. I don’t like the idea of being some sort of object that others can gaze upon and judge as either attractive or unattractive. Hell, by shaving my head I felt like I’d removed myself from being viewed as “attractive”. However, I rather enjoyed that aspect of the whole process. I think for the longest time imaginable I placed too much emphasis on what other people thought about me and my appearance whereas in reality it’s all subjective. You will never please everyone and to govern your own appearance on the approval of others is a recipe for disaster when we live in an ever-changing world with such varied perceptions of what beautiful is.