Beauty Standards In The Digital Universe: How Does It Affect Your Mental Health? (2023)

Article written by Brianna Gray

Beauty Standards In The Digital Universe: How Does It Affect Your Mental Health? (1)

For years, women have looked to the media for how they should present themselves. American society is self-conscious. In the age of social media, it is easier than ever to get pressured into wanting to fit in a certain standard of beauty.

Iconic celebrities from every generation have followed popular beauty trends. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian represent a beauty standard that is impossible for most women to achieve naturally. Even though celebrities’ photos posted online are oftentimes edited and photoshopped, there are not a lot of ways for the average person to tell.

Fans and casual viewers alike are even rearranging their faces in an attempt to get closer to a certain type of beauty. The article called the man who spent 110,000 on plastic surgery to look like Kim Kardashian, by Catriona Harvey Jenner goes into detail about a boy named Jordan James Parke who has received a plethora of aesthetic procedures such as botox injections, nose jobs, and lip fillers just so he can emulate the look of Kim Kardashian.

” ‘I’ve had my chin done and I’m getting laser tattoo removal on my eyebrows as well, just to get more Kim Kardashian brows,’ said Jordan. ‘I’m always changing, I think it’s boring to stay the same.

But as much as he takes inspiration from Kim’s appearance, he tells us ‘I don’t want to look exactly like her. I just love her features.’ “

Research has shown us that certain features are deemed more beautiful than others, and this can be disastrous to a person’s mental health and perception of themselves.

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White European beauty standards have influenced the way we view people: as a result, Black women in particular, have been scrutinized and often labeled as “ugly”. The Kardashian family have been attributed as just a few of the many celebrities who have made stereotypically “Black” features like curvy bodies and darker skin more desirable, and as a result, those same features are now celebrated.

But here’s the catch: while these “ethnic” features are celebrated, they are still not seen as desirable on women of color. In this case, Black women are still mocked and demonized for possessing features and styles that their white counterparts are celebrated for emulating.

Beauty Standards In The Digital Universe: How Does It Affect Your Mental Health? (2)

The article called Beauty and Body Image concerns among African American College women by Germine H. Awad discusses the complex relationship between eurocentric beauty standards and their effects on Black women’s mental health:

“Black women’s bodies and beauty have largely been devalued and rejected by mainstream culture, which overvalues the European aesthetic and undervalues the esthetic of other racial/ethnic groups except exoticizing them (Banks, 2000). The U.S. puts a premium on “fair” white skin, blue eyes, and straight, long, blond hair and considers these features the epitome of beauty. Features more akin to the African aesthetic are deemed ugly, undesirable, and less feminine.”

Women of color have traditionally been absent when it comes to media representation. The article called, Survey finds that 78% of models in fashion adverts are white by Priya Elan, reported that “78.2% of all the models featured in spring 2016’s fashion adverts were white. In a breakdown of the statistics, 8.3% of models featured in ads were black, 4% were Asian and 3.8% were Hispanic.”

While marketing and advertisements have historically been very exclusive about defining beauty, social media has helped bring in diversity especially when it comes to different body types and skin tones. Nowadays, people are more accepting of all shapes because brands see the value in catering to all types of people.

But although more representation and inclusion is shown on social media, it does not mean there are no toxic images out there. When it comes to the popular Instagram models, some of them uphold an image that can be harmful to a person’s mental wellbeing.

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It’s important to acknowledge the power of social media and the ways it can influence individuals to act bizarrely. In the study called Effects of quitting social media by Marzia Andleeb, 80% of the group says that social media influences them in any way while 20% said otherwise.

In the article Social media in 2021 by Brooke Auxier and Monica Anderson shows that people surveyed who were aged 18 to 29 were deemed to be most likely to use social media out of all groups, ranking at 84%.

People are willing to spend thousands of dollars on plastic surgeries. In the 2021 AAFPRS survey, 79 percent of facial plastic surgeons saw an increase in procedures such as botox injections, nose jobs, and lip fillers just to improve a client’s appearance on-screen.

“The use of video for business, social media, and self-promotion are now so ingrained in society that it provides an easy and ever-present lens for self-scrutiny,” said Dr. Maas. “We’ve slowly moved from static image filters to ‘ZOOM dysmorphia’ being the major patient motivator as the pressures of a virtual lifestyle continue to impact the way we view ourselves and the way we present to peers.”

Social media has contributed to creating a place where changing yourself is easy to do. An article called Body Image: What it is & How it Affects Mental Health by Kerry Health describes the danger of being obsessed with a person’s appearance.

“When a person does not have an accurate view of themselves, they are said to have a distorted body image,” said Heath. “There are varying degrees of distortion based upon the discrepancy between reality and perception. The most severe of these cases is a condition called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).”

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is when an individual sees perceived flaws in their physical appearance that seem insignificant to others. It is very important to watch closely when anybody starts to develop these symptoms.

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“When a person’s realistic body and their ideal body images do not match, this can often lead to mental health issues such as eating disorders, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders,” said Heath. “Several serious eating disorders are centered around body image concerns. Those struggling with anorexia and bulimia engage in dangerous behaviors such as self-starvation, self-induced vomiting, over-exercising, and laxative abuse as a way to be in control. Oftentimes, their image and weight are the only things they have control over since they are continuously repressed from underlying depression or anxiety.”

Beauty Standards In The Digital Universe: How Does It Affect Your Mental Health? (3)

It’s not uncommon for people to seek online approval, but it becomes dangerous when people will do anything for it. Some people can become obsessed with workout culture because they believe it is going to help them completely change the way they look and feel. An article called I was addicted to exercise by Nicola Kelly talks about a woman named Valerie Stephan who becomes obsessed with working out.

“Ten years ago, Valerie began jogging to improve her fitness. She signed up for a 5km (three-mile) run, followed by 10km races, then a marathon. But soon she was getting up early each morning to train – and prioritizing sport above all else.

‘I started to realize that exercise controlled me, rather than me controlling exercise. That control quickly became an obsession,’ she says. “It’s had a big impact on my work, my family – every aspect of my life. Over time, exercise became unhealthy.’ “

This behavior not only affects adults but also kids in their early adolescent years. The article called The Effects of Social Media on Body image and Mental Health by Javier shows that social media’s beauty standards are very damaging to young girls. The study found that over 40% of 9 and 10-year-old girls were trying to lose weight. Media has played a huge part in showcasing content that influences girls to be this way. You see what body types get favored and the ones that do not. This could also explain the increased number of hospital admissions for eating disorders as a result of using social media.

“NHS Digital released data in 2018 that showed the number of hospital admissions due to eating disorders had doubled in six years, with 16,000 people admitted for some type of eating disorder in the United Kingdom over that period,” Javier said. “Additionally, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, hospital stays due to eating disorders in the United States increased 18% from 2000-2006, with 28,155 patients being treated. This increase coincides with the initial emergence of social media in the early 2000s.”

Girls are not the only ones that have to deal with the pressures of beauty standards in the media. Boys are also subjected to beauty ideals and society’s notion of what makes a “man”. Men have historically been depicted as “protectors”. The article called 5 Reasons why muscles matter, to women and men by Rob Henderson talks about the study they did with a group of individuals to define relationships based on looks.

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“Muscular men, regardless of their self-esteem, had more sexual partners. Finally, researchers asked a different group of men, “How many times have you had sex with a woman who had a boyfriend or husband at the time you had sex with her?” Muscular men reported more affairs with women who were in committed relationships.”

There are men out there that naturally do not have a muscular figure. This starts to build up their insecurity and leads them to have an eating disorder because they do not know how to handle the situation. The article called I worry for my teenage boys by Emma Beddington claimed that men getting treatment for eating disorders had gone up to 70% between 2010 to 2016.

Using social media in excess can be more harmful than the beauty standards in the media. Setting time spent away from social media or finding outlets that do speak on body positivity, self-love and care can be the start to being on a good path to maintaining a healthy relationship with your body and body image.

Beauty Standards In The Digital Universe: How Does It Affect Your Mental Health? (4)

People nowadays can get invested in this lifestyle to the point that social media has major control over their lives. The article Effects of quitting social media by Mariza Andleep Raunak describes an experiment where a group of students took a break from social media. After the students are done with their hiatus, they find out that 60% said that they realized social media had huge control over their lives. Even though giving up social media seems to be hard for most, it can be beneficial if you look at it in a different light.

Taking some time off can help with one’s mental state. Whenever individuals observe images online, they tend to feel more depressed about themselves. But having the courage to be offline can lead the person to understand their emotions. An article called Thinking about Taking a Social Media Break? Here are 10 things that happen when you quit social media by Kimberly Zapata, celebrity doctor, Dr. Oz said, “Social media use has been linked with increased levels of anxiety and depression, especially in the teenage population. A 2019 study of more than 6,500 12- to 15-year-olds in the U.S. found that those who spent more than three hours a day using social media might be at heightened risk for mental health problems.”

In that same article, licensed psychologist Erika Martines explains that “by leaving social media, one is less likely to compare oneself to others or want the next latest trendy product. One is less likely to get FOMO anxiety, too, and leaving social media will allow you to cultivate better relationships with the people around you. It can also let you enjoy the things you have and instead of focusing on what you don’t boost your confidence and your overall sense of wellbeing,'”

People from past generations have looked to forms of media for guidance on how to present themselves. It has built a foundation for women and men to judge themselves based on their insecurities. Even though social media has some proven benefits, it’s undeniable that exposure to social media also encourages others to feed into Eurocentric beauty standards.

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It is hard for the average person to run away from toxic images in general, but taking a step back can allow an individual to appreciate themselves more, and embrace the beauty of others.


How can beauty standards affect mental health? ›

When a person's realistic body and their ideal body images do not match, this can often lead to mental health issues such as eating disorders, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders,” said Heath. “Several serious eating disorders are centered around body image concerns.

How beauty standards on social media affect mental health? ›

Body image influences self-esteem, self-acceptance, and someone's general outlook on life, which are three important mental health indicators. With social media full of unrealistic body image standards, a negative body image is enforced and can be harmful to your health.

How does digital media affect mental health? ›

Research studies note the connection between use of social media and its undesirable outcomes that increase incidence of anxiety, stress, depression, body image concerns, and loneliness in teens and young adults (APA, 2022).

How does beauty standards lead to depression? ›

When one cannot achieve what they feel is the perfect body image, they may experience a lack of self-worth so strong that they avoid social interactions. Other results of being unable to achieve perceived perfection are issues with anxiety and depression.

How do beauty standards affect daily life? ›

The weight of wanting to fit into what society deems beautiful can be absolutely soul-crushing. It can cause mental health issues like anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia and eating disorders. It can also push people, especially young women, to seek out other ways of achieving this “perfect” image through surgery.

How beauty standards affect self-esteem? ›

A person's level of physical attractiveness contributes to the level of attraction they receive from other members of the opposite sex, as well as their self-esteem. In general, those who are less physically attractive tend to have lower self-esteem and confidence than those who are more physically attractive.

What are the negatives of beauty standards? ›

Studies prove that beauty standards directly contribute to anxiety and depression. They can trigger body dysmorphia and disordered eating. They can fuel low self-esteem, self-harm, and even suicide. All of these conditions have risen in recent years, and all of them are unequivocally connected to beauty standards.

Why are beauty standards a social issue? ›

The problem with beauty standards is that they are an unrealistic image that society has set for women to live up to. They frequently change throughout the years and women are expected to change themselves to fit the image if they want to be perceived as “pretty” or “beautiful.”

How is social media affecting mental health and body image? ›

Using more social media has also been linked to 'children and young people feeling less satisfied with their bodies'. The Mental Health Foundations survey found that 40% of young people 'said that images on social media have caused them to worry in relation to their body image.

How does digital media affect your brain? ›

Researchers believe that since social media competes for your attention with the promise of continuous new content, heavy social media users become less able to ignore distraction in general, which leads to poorer cognitive performance and shrinks parts of the brain associated with maintaining concentration.

What are 5 negative effects of social media? ›

Social media harms

However, social media use can also negatively affect teens, distracting them, disrupting their sleep, and exposing them to bullying, rumor spreading, unrealistic views of other people's lives and peer pressure. The risks might be related to how much social media teens use.

How does digital addiction affect the brain? ›

Internet addiction alters the volume of the brain. The brain changes are similar to those produced by alcohol and cocaine addiction. IAD shrinks the brain's gray and white matter fibers which results in changes to emotional processing and brain functioning.

What is the psychology behind beauty standards? ›

People feel better about themselves when they think they are attractive to others. We devote portions of our brains to evaluating characteristics of attractiveness that are remarkably similar among cultures. Our bodies are shaped not only for function but also to match the image of attractiveness to others.

How does makeup affect mental health negatively? ›

“If it's worn to fit into a specific aesthetic norm or beauty ideal, it can be harmful to one's self esteem—a regular reminder of imperfections and flaws. If, on the other hand, it's worn as a form of self-expression and adornment, it can support a healthy sense of self and well-being.

How does appearance affect psychological well-being? ›

Being preoccupied with your appearance can negatively affect your emotional wellbeing. If you are very dissatisfied with the way that you look, you may feel depressed, anxious, embarrassed or even ashamed.

How are people affected by beauty standards? ›

Negative body image can lead to a number of mental health problems, such as eating disorders, depression and anxiety. It can also lead to social isolation and low self-esteem. Positive body image, on the other hand, has been linked with better mental health, higher self-esteem and healthier relationships.

How does beauty standards affect people and society? ›

Unrealistic standards for beauty created by the media is detrimental to girls' self-esteem because it makes women feel constant external pressure to achieve the “ideal look”, which indicates that their natural appearance is inadequate.

What are the negative effects of beauty industry? ›

Mental health problems like body dysmorphia, social anxiety, low self-esteem, psychological stress, eating disorders, and more have been linked to prolonged exposure to excessive beauty standards.

How do beauty standards cause body dysmorphia? ›

A person with low self-esteem who has impossible standards of perfection judges some part of their body as ugly. Over time, this behaviour becomes more and more compulsive. Western society's narrow standards of beauty may trigger BDD in vulnerable people.

How does social media affect body image? ›

Unrealistic beauty standards

Social media platforms often feature images of people with seemingly perfect faces and bodies, often using filters and photo editing tools to enhance their appearance. This can create unrealistic beauty standards, leading to body dissatisfaction and low self-esteem in both women and men.

What are the positive and negative effects of beauty pageants? ›

Perhaps beauty pageants are educational and confidence boosting to some, but the negative effects include depression and low self-esteem. In addition, young girls who participate in pageants learn that beauty equals success.

What are the dangers of being beautiful? ›

7 surprising downsides of being beautiful
  • There's a fine line between acknowledging your beauty and being conceited.
  • It's worrisome when your appearance changes as you get older.
  • You may give off the false impression of always being happy.
  • It's harder to convince people that you're nice.
Sep 22, 2015

Does physical appearance affect self-esteem? ›

Physical appearance and self-esteem are often closely linked. Our perception of how we look can have a big impact on the value we place on ourselves and how much self-confidence we have in our day-to-day lives.

Is beauty problems are also health problems? ›

Even a constant beauty problem like acne and hair fall can be an indirect indication of an underlying health problem, which needs to be addressed. Our body has certain external signaling mechanisms in place, which indicate health problems via changes in skin, hair and body weight.

How does the media affect body image in females? ›

Studies show that 88% of women compare themselves to images they observe on social media, with over half of them emphasising that the comparison is unfavourable. Studies also show that 65% of men compare themselves to images they observe on social media, with 37% of them indicating that the comparison is unfavourable.

Why beauty standards should not be more inclusive? ›

Unrealistic beauty standards can cause people to struggle with their mental health, and feel isolated, misunderstood, and invisible.

How does media affect body image positively? ›

Positive effects of social media on body image

On the positive side, the internet can be a great tool for building self-confidence and self-esteem for people struggling with body image problems – helping them to achieve a more positive, 'healthy' view of their appearance.

How does social media impact women's body image and self-esteem? ›

With repeated exposure, our thinking can perceive “exaggerated or imagined flaws” in how we look, resulting in Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Social media often objectifies bodies and can shape people's relationships with food, fashion, and fitness under the guise of inspiration.

How does social media affect self-esteem? ›

While social media is sometimes touted to combat loneliness, a significant body of research suggests it may have the opposite effect. By triggering comparison with others, it can raise doubts about self-worth, potentially leading to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

How does social media affect women's self-esteem? ›

Research shows that the more time people spend on Facebook and Instagram, the more they compare themselves socially. This social comparison is linked, among other things, to lower self-esteem and higher social anxiety.

Do beauty standards directly contribute to anxiety and depression? ›

Studies prove that beauty standards directly contribute to anxiety and depression. They can trigger body dysmorphia and disordered eating. They can fuel low self-esteem, self-harm, and even suicide. All of these conditions have risen in recent years, and all of them are unequivocally connected to beauty standards.

How does Korean beauty standards affect mental health? ›

The pressure put on individuals to reach these standards has been shown to have a detrimental effect on mental health, and individuals who fail to reach these standards have been found to suffer from low self-esteem.

What are the problems with beauty standards? ›

Several studies have proven that beauty standards directly contribute to anxiety and depression. And, they can even trigger eating disorders and body dysmorphia.

How does appearance affect someone's psychological well being? ›

Being preoccupied with your appearance can negatively affect your emotional wellbeing. If you are very dissatisfied with the way that you look, you may feel depressed, anxious, embarrassed or even ashamed.

How does beauty affect the brain? ›

When looking at beautiful judgements, areas of perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and reward processing were activated. Specifically, areas such as the orbitofrontal cortex and motor areas were found to be activated in beautiful judgements for pictographs.

How does cultural identity affect mental health? ›

Research has also found that a strong sense of cultural identity has been associated with enhanced mental health, specifically with improved self-esteem, resilience, coping styles, general life satisfaction, performance under threat, and protection against distress from discrimination and mental health symptoms, likely ...

What are toxic beauty standards? ›

Unhealthy beauty ideals, as defined by the report, are beauty norms that are narrow and unrealistic. They're typically only reflective of white standards and lack diversity of all sizes, ages, skin shades, hair types and body shapes.

What problems are caused by unrealistic beauty standards? ›

Beauty standards are considered harmful because they can cause issues like depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. They may lead to self-harm and, in some cases, even suicide.

How do you deal with toxic beauty standards? ›

Tips to overcome unrealistic beauty standards
  1. Accept yourself.
  2. Go on a Social Media Detox.
  3. Indulge in Positive Messages.
  4. Read self-help books.
  5. Try positive affirmations.
  6. Practice Non-Judgment.
  7. Find what you are good at.
  8. Seek professional help.
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