The search for perfection degrades youth

I turned 20 in April, and since then my life has completely changed. It has been said that 20 marks the official start of adulthood, and for the last couple of months I have felt the effect. Time seems to fly by faster than it did last year or the year before. I feel there is so much that must be accomplished before I become what society deems old.
Although I will graduate at the unsophisticated age of 21, societal forces are pushing me to find a career and pursue it immediately after graduation. Our society places so much attention on one’s youth that it seems like the earlier one starts on a career path, the faster that individual will become successful. These thoughts are caused by our society’s obsession with youth, its fear of ageism and its search for perfection. In America, a woman’s youth appears to be the essential element to achieve her goals, whether they relate to building a career or a future family. Society expects women to reflect near perfection, which often pressures them to have misguided beliefs.
For example, I went to a department store’s cosmetics counter a couple of days ago to look for some new makeup items — which, in my view, are also a result of the never-ending search for perfection. A friendly saleswoman recommended I start using an eye cream. When I informed her of my youth, she said “it is never too early” to start using cosmetics. While I looked at the enormous, magnified mirror, I suddenly noticed all the imperfections not formerly visible.
I wanted to buy every single makeup product available to cover up my face, even though I clearly do not have any signs of wrinkles. Later that day, I rode a bus where I observed women in their late 70s, wearing lilac-gray wigs, and I started imagining myself at their age. The immediate idea of me being in a dress that resembled an old-fashioned curtain and smiling with a toothless grin gave me chills, so I decided to eliminate those ridiculous thoughts.
One might think my mental musings are a product of having a low self-esteem and a susceptibility to persuasion. Actually, I think I am overly self-confident in most situations, and it takes much more than a simple suggestion to influence me. My rationale for my feelings is that lately I have been fed with negative information appearing in all forms of media.
I am a journalist. However, I feel media has an overwhelming power to influence people, especially young women, to question one’s beliefs about their own sense of values. One example is MTV, a channel I watch often for its many enjoyable shows. Nevertheless, the videos shown on the channel misinform audiences. Lately, MTV has been packed with teenagers, averaging the age of 16 to 17. This would be absolutely fine if it were not for the way the performers — especially the young women — were portrayed.
The images that were on the screen reveal our modern idea of beauty, with an added emphasis on age. Now, for a female performer, talent and good looks are not always enough; she must also be young. Society exploits young and talented — or not-so-talented — women who are trying to become famous.
A blond with prominent cleavage is the look many strive to achieve, since it is considered to be favored by men. What scares me personally is that the people achieving this ideal are not just adult women, but also particularly young teenage girls. Junior high schools are packed with girls wearing push-up bras and so much makeup that their faces look like pavement. Also, the number of young girls who are dieting is terrifying.
It seems they all want to look perfect, like their favorite supermodel, so they can snatch an equally attractive guy, who will worship them for their flawlessness. At that age, girls look up to their idols, who are usually celebrities like Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera.
Obviously, most teenage girls do not have a stylist and the best makeup artists and hairdressers at their side. Many of them do not understand that with that kind of help, anyone can look like a teen pop queen. Since they do not realize how much work is put into these images, they want to achieve perfection on their own. This motivates dieting, excessive makeup and even plastic surgery. The number of young women getting breast implants and nose jobs has increased substantially in the past couple of years.
We have to change this aspect in our society. We need to show young women that perfection is not realistic and should not be one’s life goal. Young girls should look up to people who encourage them to be themselves and enjoy the great gift of life. We all should try to appreciate our own beauty and not worry about not being perfect; nobody is. Imperfections make us unique and we should embrace them. If we do not, who will?

Ada Simanduyeva welcomes comments at [email protected]