Image and appearance vs skills and talents

Written for the Pretty Foundation in 2018.

I was born into an era where technology and social media is an incredibly significant part of our lives- whether we want it or not. This means that pop culture- the ideas, perspectives, stories, attitudes and other phenomena that used to take months to gain attention, now takes a millisecond to start trending. Since then, the topics and ideas that are trending have begun to influence us more and more- sometimes in positive ways, but more often, not so positively. I believe that we, as young women, are affected in every single way- but most importantly, we are becoming consumed in our appearance and the need to maintain a perfect image.

Most of us carry a device in our pockets which allows us to have the world at our fingertips. Don’t get me wrong- this is a very good thing. However, when we are constantly surrounded by celebrities whose bodies and facial features have been digitally altered in many cases, it is incredibly hard to feel confident with your body, no matter how many stereotypical and cliched things we are taught about fighting against ‘fat-talk’ and talking about our bodies. We struggle to remember that these celebrities have entire teams of people working on their outfits, hair and makeup before they even step foot outside in the morning and many of their photos are photoshopped before it gets published by the paparazzi and popular magazines. From a young age, we see the strong female role models in our lives reading and engaging with these magazines which makes us stop and wonder: is this what we have to look like to be considered as ‘perfect’?

Now that we have this device which acts as both a camera and a way to contact those who are millions of miles away from us, anyone can be a celebrity. People such as YouTubers or Instagram models can just gain a million followers and be considered famous. However, these people are often few day wonders- they create something that makes it onto the internet’s ‘what’s trending?’ list and then they are never heard of again. Anyone can have their ten seconds of fame in this society just by building an image through their appearance and the ideas and images that they share on social media platforms. That puts an enormous pressure on everyone, particularly girls as young as three or four years old. They can see that so many people have managed to become Instagram famous with thousands or millions of followers and they become consumed in the idea of achieving a type of perfection that will allow them to reach this level of fame.

Now that we have become so incredibly consumed in our body image and our appearance, I think that we have started to focus more and more on building our image rather than our skills, traits and talents. We are obsessed with creating an image and fitting into certain stereotypes and we are focussing on these small, insignificant details that we have begun to feel are more important than investing in ourselves through our talents, skills and hobbies. The moment we listen to a new song by a female singer, we discuss their appearance, their hair, or their nails or when a world-renowned female tennis player is on the court, we tend to discuss their appearance and their outfits. But why do we do this? Is it so ingrained in our minds that our image and our appearance is more important than our skills and talents- particularly when it comes to women? In my experience and from what I have seen, that is true. We see people going to extreme lengths to keep up with their self-imposed image- whether it be through getting bitten by a shark while posing for an Instagram photo or obsessively following every trend. Why can’t we just be ourselves?

Why can’t we just be ourselves? Why do we have to keep up with this image?

We need to remember that this ‘image’ that we have become obsessed with, is just an image which is more to do with our physical qualities. It is not important to who we are as people: it doesn’t make us seem ‘better’ or ‘prettier’, neither does it help us improve and further our skills and talents. This image may bring us our ten minutes of glory, but in reality, it doesn’t make any lasting impact. From now on, let’s focus on things that will have a lasting impact. Why create a fake or altered image when you can create one that will impact everyone around you for the better?

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