The curse of the beauty industry

And How to Overcome the Pursuit of Perfection

Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash

Tomorrow morning, walk into the bathroom without makeup or your hair done, look at yourself with morning bed head and your sleepiness, and say to yourself, “you are beautiful, and I love you just as you are!” Make sure that you say it really positively and powerfully. How does it feel? If it felt odd or uncomfortable, then you would not be alone. In 2015 before the launch of their campaign, Choose Beautiful, Dove surveyed 6,400 women around the world and found that eighty percent of women know that there is something beautiful about themselves, yet a staggering ninety-six percent of women would not describe themselves as beautiful. They also found that seventy-eight percent of women are not confident about their appearance1. While the numbers are shocking, they are not hard to believe. Society praises outward beauty and rarely celebrates internal beauty and character.

The foundation of seeing yourself as beautiful, regardless of weight and appearance, is true self-love and appreciation. Yet, society does little to help start women on a strong and healthy foundation. From the age of four, little girls are beginning to understand that they do not look like the women in the media. As they grow older, these little girls are constantly given the information that they are not beautiful and should not be celebrated because they do not look like famous social media influencers and celebrities. In fact, most of the world is not five foot nine, one hundred and twenty pounds, white woman with long perfect hair, and blue eyes. The international average of a woman’s height is five foot three inches. The average international weight of women is one hundred and fifty pounds. This weight, as classified by the body mass index scale, is 26.6 and is overweight. While it may only be slightly with the healthy range between 18.5 and 24.9. It is not what women have been shown throughout the past five decades and is causing a worldwide problem on mental health for those billions affected2.

The constant bombardment of ideal perfection given in the media has done a number to the human psyche that is difficult to change. Thanks to social media, reality television, and increased consumption of plastic surgery, the problem has worsened. In 2021 the University of London compiled a study and found the ninety percent of women use a filter when taking a picture and posting it to social media. That is one in ten women3

With the increased availability and ease of filters or photo editor apps, women can look perfect on the internet, or at least, the prettier version of themselves. The only problem is that photo editors and filters do not translate to real life. We have makeup, hair products, skin products, creams, treatments, nail products, and the list goes on and on to correct this so-called problem. In 2020 the total global sales of the beauty industry were $483 billion and is expected to exceed an annual total revenue of $716 billion by 2025. In December 2021, the global beauty industry was worth $511 billion. By 2024, the nail industry is estimated to be worth $15.55 billion4. That is right, all with a B. 

Even with all the makeup, hair products, and manicures in the world, one can still feel like they do not come close to perfection and resort to plastic surgery to correct the issue. In January 2021, Naill McCarthy wrote an article for Forbes called The World’s Love Affair with Plastic Surgery, he found that in 2019, worldwide there were approximately 11.36 million plastic surgery procedures and 13.6 million non-surgical procedures that year. While there is disparity among countries with Brazil and the United States leading the charge for surgical procedures, the number is still alarming. Oddly enough, the problem of ideal beauty standards persists5

Even if you are one of the brave women who forego plastic surgery and excessive makeup, hair products and manicures biweekly, there is still the pressure to look a certain way. It is engrained into the very culture of social media and advertising. The narrative of perfection can often lead beautiful women to hyper focus on their appearance and develop symptoms of body dysmorphia. states that common symptoms of body dysmorphia include constant checking yourself in the mirror, comparing yourself to others, always asking others if you look okay and then not believing them. More damaging symptoms include avoiding social activities possibly leading to social anxiety, generalized anxiety, depression, eating disorders, surgical interventions, obsessive compulsive disorder, substance abuse, alcohol abuse, and suicidal thoughts or behaviors. The most common areas associated with body dysmorphia are the face, skin, hair, stomach, and chest. states that two out of five women suffer from some type of body dysmorphia6

While social media does not cause body dysmorphia disorder, it certainly enhances what the user already does not like about themselves. Filters and editors give the user a chance wipe away those dark circles, have blemish free skin, or change the way their body looks. Whether it is enhancing or removing a specific feature, the user is left to deal with that feature in real life. Instead of beginning with the outward appearance and judging ourselves by the way we look, what if we flipped our common way of thinking and let ourselves shine from the inside out? 

In 2013, Caroline McHugh spoke at a TEDx conference. Her speech was titled “The Art of Being Yourself.” She began by speaking about a true mirror. It is a mirror that is structured in a way that shows the person who is looking in it, how they look to the world. She stated that when one investigates this mirror, they are not looking at themselves, but for themselves.

In 2021 on TikTok there was an inversion filter that gained a lot of hype because it had this type of true mirror effect. The filter was controversial because it would show videos of women sobbing because they hated how they looked. The argument could be made, in this instance, that it was not so much that those beautiful women hated the way that they looked to the world, but that they could not find themselves in their reflection. They could not find the things that made them truly unique. Those women were looking for outside confirmation of their beauty, but in the moment that they could themselves see exactly how the world saw them, it was as though there were looking at a stranger and did not recognize themselves.

The only problem with seeing ourselves as the way we truly are, is that most of the people around the world do not know who they truly are. Instead of taking the time to discover the unique and innate traits and abilities each one of us have, we decide to forego our uniqueness and attempt to fit into the common narrative that we are fed in society. Little by little we change ourselves to fit into this societal mold. We trade passion for comfort, deep connection for surface level ideals, wisdom and intelligence for knowledge, and love for ability to exist alongside another for an extended period, also known as settling for comfort instead of love. To see yourself as beautiful, you must fall in love with who you are at the core level, without all the things given to you by society.            

Years ago, I hated how I looked. I have always struggled with skin issues and breakouts. I started coloring my hair at sixteen and at one point in time, went red. I gauged my ears, got multiple tattoos in my early twenties, had multiple types of ear piercings, pierced my nose on four different occasions, had a septum ring (the one in the middle of the nose), and my ears never grew back to normal. I tried every diet trend to lose weight and was always unsuccessful. I spent years attempting to change the way that I look so I could fit in and be pretty enough. I would lay in bed awake in tears, praying that I could be pretty enough for someone else to like me, maybe even love me. I would even listen to sappy songs alongside crying just hoping wishing that one day someone would see me as beautiful as I wanted to be. 

I struggled with depression, anxiety, and thoughts of not wanting to be alive. I hated being in public because I felt as though everyone was judging me because I was not enough or did not look a certain way. I did not even try to date because no matter how I looked, it was never good enough. I stayed away from the camera for over a decade because I hated all pictures of me, be it too fat or too ugly. I would even refuse to take pictures with my own daughter for hatred of how I looked. 

It was not until I began to cultivate a deep appreciation for who I was already was, that I began to see myself as beautiful. I spent about eighteen months without seeing a lot of the old friends that I had. The pandemic caused most of that. There was an unexpected outcome of all the months of personal work I had done. Nothing had truly changed about my appearance. While I had lost weight, I still looked the same. Yet when I saw all my old friends for the first time in eighteen months, everyone was shocked at how different I looked. I spoke with my best friend, and they said that while I looked the same, it was all the other variables about me that had changed. The way I stood, the way I held my shoulders back, held myself, the underlying confidence that I had grown over that time. 

I had transformed from this woman who lost her entire world, to the woman who had deeply fallen in love with herself even with all pitfalls and ugly things about her. I had no need to fear judgment from others, because I had accepted all parts of me, good and bad. 

Instead of spending your precious time mildly obsessing over how you do not look like others around you or comparing yourself to your own filtered picture, spend your time focusing on the qualities that make you unique. Beautiful traits that often get overlooked are traits such as gratitude, kindness, generosity, sense of humor, compassion, empathy, resiliency, caring, and outlook. My guess is that when you begin to look at these traits within yourself, you will begin to form a deep sense of resonance and compassion for yourself. 

There will always be something that you do not like about yourself. This does not have to be a negative thing. In fact, it can be a very positive thing. It is a subtle switch in the mind that can show you there is something to work on and towards, because you will always be working on yourself in one way or another. 

When I start to become overly negative towards myself, I turn to the G.R.O.W. method. 

            G- Gratitude               R- Redirect                  O- Own                       W- Work  

Gratitude: Gratitude is more than being thankful. Gratitude is a posture of the heart that is both thankfulness and appreciation. The easiest way to find happiness and love is to develop gratitude for the things in your life. If you are reading this then you have made it through the hardest parts of your life thus far and there are so many different things to be grateful for. The more you look for gratitude, the more gratitude you will have. 

Redirect: If there are some things that you are not happy about in your life, begin to find new ways to redirect your thinking about them. Happiness is a state of mind not a set of circumstances. Look for ways to be happy regardless of the circumstances and when you find yourself being upset at the things you are unable to change, then choose to be happy that those are the things that make you truly unique. 

Own: The only way to get past the bad parts of ourselves is to completely own it. If there is something that you have done wrong in the past, own up to it. If you hurt someone intentionally or unintentionally, own up to it. You cannot change your actions, if you do not first own up to your actions, both good and bad then you are unable to take full responsibility for yourself. This section will be discussed more in depth in Chapter 11. 

Work: Work towards the person you want to become. Fall in love with that version of yourself.  Work towards starting new habits, reading new books. Changing the perception of yourself does not come overnight and change takes time. Give yourself time to grow and continually work towards love. 

There is an amazing quote that I stumbled across a few years ago that helped me realize my own uniqueness, “tired of trying to cram her sparkly star-shaped self into society’s beige square holes, she chose to embrace her ridiculous awesomeness and shine like the freaking supernova she was meant to be,” author unknown. I wrote this quote down in lots of colorful markers and put it all over my house. It served as a reminder that maybe I’m not supposed to fit in. Supernovas are full of color, beauty, and majestic amounts of power. Boring beige squares are, well boring. 

Maybe, just maybe, you’re a supernova as well, waiting to shine in all your majestic goodness.

  1. Vagianos, A. (2017, December 7). Dove reminds women to #choosebeautiful. HuffPost. Retrieved May 13, 2022, from 
  2. Iannelli MD, V. (2021, April 16). What is the average weight for women? Verywell Fit. Retrieved May 13, 2022, from 
  3. Fielding, S. (2021, March 15). 90% of women report using a filter on their photos. Verywell Mind. Retrieved May 13, 2022, from 
  4. Djurovic, A. (2022, February 15). 31 Beauty Industry Statistics [2022] – all you should know. Deals On Health. Retrieved May 13, 2022, from 
  5. McCarthy, N. (2022, April 14). The World’s love affair with plastic surgery [infographic]. Forbes. Retrieved May 13, 2022, from 
  6. Body dysmorphic disorder. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved May 13, 2022, from 

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