Written in 2018 for the Pretty Foundation
‘Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all?
This trademark quote from Snow White, a movie and a book that we all have grown up watching and reading has helped instil an extremely wrong idea in minds of girls from a young age for generations. It has taught us to look in the mirror and criticize our features and our bodies, rather than asking ourselves whether we look confident, strong, or ready to conquer the world. Even though the tale of Snow White was written over two hundred years ago, this ‘mirror’ is now a relevant metaphor for today’s society. Now everyone has a mirror of their own to ask things like ‘who is the fairest of them all?’ to. Except it is not on the wall and is more commonly known as social media. And instead of having a mysterious voice answering such questions, we use the number of likes and followers we get as a validation of our beauty and this so-called idea of ‘perfection’.
As social media has evolved, we have become more and more narcissistic, become cocooned in our own lives and wrapped up in this idea of achieving ultimate perfection: more significantly on the outside. Social media has led us to believe that we live in a utopia where everyone is happy, and no-one has problems. We are now so mentally occupied with viewing everyone’s ‘pretty physical appearances’, ‘pretty lifestyles’ and ‘pretty families’ it seems as if no one really cares anymore about whether someone is ‘pretty inspirational’, ‘pretty talented’, or ‘pretty brave’. Girls as young as kindergarteners are consumed with the need to act, look and feel like what society has deemed as the ‘perfect woman’ or the ‘perfect girl’.
However, how can someone decide what ‘perfect’ really means when it is just an illusion?
In reality, all we are doing is fooling and lying to ourselves when we strive that little bit harder to be like the celebrities on the covers of popular lifestyle magazines. So why can’t we just accept that everyone comes in different shapes and sizes and help one another to understand that inner beauty is what counts? So instead of using that little extra time to work on being more ‘pretty’, why don’t we spend it by doing things like stepping outside our comfort zones in order to grow as people? Serena Williams is one of the very few women who society associates with the symbol of ‘power’ and aren’t criticized on their bodies and what they wear. When we think of Serena Williams, we do not think about her appearance or what she wears while she is playing tennis. We think of her amazing skills and the massive inspiration she is to girls and women around the world.
After all, who decides what ‘pretty’ is? This idea varies from culture to culture, and is largely influenced by the media. An example of how the media influences the idea that a woman’s physical appearance is more important than her deeds, is past Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard. During her time as the first female prime minister of the nation, the media constantly criticised her physical appearance, and it wasn’t unusual to see a headline discussing the outfit she wore to parliament and the way she styled her hair rather than her policies on a daily basis. This was an absolute injustice and act of disrespect to someone who struggled tirelessly in order to pave the pathway for many generations of women to come and contribute in the field of politics. However, Gillard remained strong and confident, which is what all women should be doing around the world.
As women, when we stand in front of a mirror, whether it be the one hanging from the wall, or the one on the web, we shouldn’t criticise our physical appearance. Think about whether we look confident. We shouldn’t look in the metaphorical mirror for validation either- if we are not confident in our physical appearance, no amount of likes and comments will help us feel more confident and strong. And we should always believe in ourselves. We should always strive to be pretty confident, pretty strong, pretty inspiring and pretty talented.