From birth, North Americans are subjected to a lot of advertisements and messages that teach our cultural values and tell us what our dreams should be. Whether you are female or male, you will experience pressure throughout your lifetime to behave and make choices that are strongly influenced by cultural values. Girls experience a lot of pressure from the media to be thin, have a perfectly proportioned body, have perfect skin, have thick hair and to generally conform to our cultural ideals of beauty. Boys equally feel this pressure to fit into a predetermined shape of what it is to be a man, including pressure to maintain fitness and muscular tone throughout each stage of life, to have thick hair, to be tanned and to be the embodiment of strength.
This conditioning is extremely harmful to people who do not or cannot fit the “ideal” shape of cultural beauty. The way a person develops can be made or broken by how one feels they measure up to society’s expectations and the cultural standards for beauty. Unconsciously and consciously, there is a need to fit in. This pressure is especially felt when we are young. Going through changes during adolescence involves growth both physically and mentally. There are so many pressures growing up that we face, including excelling in school and sports, that adding the pressure to fit in with the North American ideals of beauty can be exhausting.
As you become a young adult, you will notice that you will develop a sense of self and hopefully a sense of purpose. It is important to remember that there is no one else like you on Earth. Celebrate the fact that you are unique and embrace who you are. If you are having trouble with self-esteem, reach out and talk to a friend, parent or even use a resource like Kids Help Phone. Being yourself is the best option!