Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's 2013, and I think, by now, we're all pretty much in agreement that there's something troubling with the impossible standards of beauty set upon us by popular culture, the media and modeling agencies that will, in the extreme, recruit their talent outside of treatment centers for anorexia.
This is a problem. It's good that we recognize it as such. It's good that we do something about it.
But I don't think it's that simple. It's not just that we tell girls they have to look a certain way; we also tell them that they're never allowed to think they look that way, or in any other way that is positive, really.
I'm going to get a little personal here.
As a wee little one, I was pretty sure I was something like God's gift to mankind, set to grow up to be whatever the heck I wanted and marry a prince, too (my Magic 8 ball told me so). The world was my oyster.
By the time I was in the fourth grade, I was weighing myself multiple times a day and wincing at my 56-pound self. And it wasn't that I had seen girls in magazines or on television and wanted to be like them.
I had no idea how much the ideal 9-year-old weighed, nor did I particularly care.
All I knew was that as a young female growing up in middle-class America, I was supposed to be unhappy with myself.
That no matter the number that showed up on that scale, my reaction ought to be, "Too much."
Now the aspiring neuroscientist in me wants to attribute this to my undeveloped (oh, so undeveloped) prefrontal cortex. But the truth is that this conclusion I had reached wasn't just some immature blip in reasoning. It wasn't even really faulty.
It was just that in my nine years of living and observing, I had come to the understanding that no one likes anyone who likes herself.
Now, at twenty-one, that understanding hasn't changed. This is a problem, too.
It's not just an issue of what's seen as beautiful. It's an issue of not being allowed to believe you're beautiful. Campaigns for body image like Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty are good things.
Still, they don't address the fact that no matter your size or shape or color, no matter how close you are to societal ideal, no matter how far you have come in believing in yourself, you are not allowed to say so out loud.
That would be arrogance. Even now, I am very much concerned with how I can write this without somehow giving off the impression that I think the unthinkable—that I, myself, am beautiful.
That's a little ridiculous, isn't it? We are so wary of crossing that fine line between self-esteem and self-importance that we have shifted the line into virtual nonexistence. And it goes beyond just appearance, too.
We're not allowed to publicly like ourselves in any capacity, whether it is in regards to intelligence, personality or in any of our abilities.
We must, after all, be humble.
So while we aspire to the unattainable perfection that the Internet, our televisions and our magazines are broadcasting to the world, it may be worthwhile to consider what our "humble" silence says to others as well.
Melissa Lee is a senior in College Scholars. She can be reached at email@example.com.