“Perfection is the Disease of a Nation”
Yes, I just quoted Beyoncé to open this article. The vast majority of us have probably heard this song played on repeat on a local radio station, while mindlessly singing along as the Queen of Pop tells us that ‘pretty hurts’, and that ‘it’s the soul that needs the surgery’. Through repetition and adoration, her song lyrics are now famous, yet many of us are still unable to comprehend the message behind the voice.
In the 21st century, there is an obsession with ‘perfection’. Technology has given us the means to eradicate Smallpox, alongside the ability to manipulate our physical appearances in order to fit into a subjective—and sometimes unhealthy—standard of beauty. Many of us strive to be perfect–mentally, physically, and emotionally, and I myself am guilty of the same crime that I am writing about in this article. We are constantly being bombarded with pictures of beautiful people with seemingly perfect lives. Photo manipulation and social media have provided us with the perfect platform to construct flawless existences, and many of us have fallen into the trap of comparing our day-to-day lives with the highlight reels of celebrities and Facebook friends.
There is nothing wrong with appreciating another person’s experiences, and wanting to be like our role models; however, this behavior sometimes displays itself in unhealthy and disturbing ways. In one study, 3 out of 4 women stated that they were overweight although only 1 out of 4 actually was. Another study found that adolescent girls were more fearful of gaining weight than getting cancer, nuclear war or losing their parents. 69% of girls in the 5th – 12th grades reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape. Girls pine for a body that only 5% of American females naturally possess, and compare themselves to digitally enhanced photos of models that embody the unachievable heights of perfection that we seem to be obsessed with.
Women are not the only people that suffer. Boys idealise public figures like Dan Bilzerian—rich, famous, buff, and constantly surrounded by beautiful girls. From a young age, they are told that their sexual prowess depends on the size of their penises, and four in five men say that they are dissatisfied with their bodies. Society tends to expect men to be stoic and to take things ‘like a man’. There is a high likelihood that this is a sweeping generalisation but men are terrified of emasculation, and of being seen as ‘weak’ and ‘feminine’. Without the same support systems, and the same acceptance for women who suffer from self-esteem issues, men risk being the forgotten sector, suffering silently in fear of appearing weak.
There is a fitting sum up to the problem with perfection, and it takes us back to Beyoncé once again. Mid-February this year, pre-photoshop photos of Beyoncé were leaked from her L’Oreal campaign. Many of her fans weren’t pleased with the leak, calling the move ‘unfair’, and ‘petty’, but these photos remind us of a common fact that we seem to forget at times. Nobody is perfect, not even a pop star like Beyoncé. Every single day, we compare ourselves to a version of Beyoncé that she herself cannot compete with, and every single day, we inevitably draw up the short straw in this comparison game.
Perfection is the disease of this nation, and it is a global epidemic. There is no artificial resolution to this problem; the only cure lies within our own minds. It is okay to not fit into society’s definition of perfect. It is okay to be vulnerable and to rebel against the standards that others have instilled upon us. Pretty can hurt, but only if we give it the power to do so.
Written by Wendy Lee, edited by Saffron Huang