Art by Peau Porotesano
One quick scroll through our Pepperdine email accounts reveals a lot about what our university values. There are emails about career fairs, clubs to join, volunteer positions, internship opportunities and, wait a second — what is this one?
SavvyChic is seeking models for its latest fashion show for its annual fundraiser for the Boone Center for the Family. Although there may be plenty of women who want to apply to be a model, there are certain restrictions: All models must be taller than 5’8” or have a 24- to 27-inch waist and 35- to 37-inch hips. But what if we’re not all perfect Malibu Barbies?
Living in SoCal, especially in Malibu, an unspoken code seems to exist: We must all look good, we must all look fit, and all of our eyebrows must be “on-fleek.” Nobody ever vocalizes it, but the pressure to be beautiful, especially at Pepperdine, is exceptionally high. On top of the stress related to other areas of our lives — including academics, expectations in leadership and the pressures of our social lives — unrealistic standards of beauty dominate Malibu and are seeping into the minds of both male and female Pepperdine students. This focus on appearance negatively affects the way we view ourselves.
Before our arrival at Pepperdine, many of us never had to deal with this extreme beauty competition. For some of us, getting dressed up for an 8 a.m. was actually looked down upon as trying too hard, while sweats and a T-shirt comprised an acceptable outfit for going to the grocery store.
Living on campus introduces a mythological standard of beauty; even the ocean view raises the bar. It’s as if the backdrop demands we look good every morning, as if we will detract from the breathtaking view if our shirts aren’t pressed or if our shoes don’t shine. That puts a lot of pressure on those of us who are definitely not morning people and are lucky to get to class without drool dried on our faces.
Our setting is not the only thing that piles on the pressure to be beautiful — events also lead us to try our hardest to look presentable. For example, last week was the kickoff for sorority Recruitment, and we all know what that means — a lot of high heels, dresses and makeup. Soon, fraternity Recruitment will start up, and guys will be put in the spotlight. With so much pressure to fit in and find a place, students may feel it is necessary to hide their true identities and put on masks of conformity.
With both Recruitment and SavvyChic coinciding this week, we wanted to emphasize that it’s OK to be normal; it’s OK to be yourself. As Pepperdine students, we are used to being called to higher standards. Whether it is leading a Step Forward Day group, attending a Project Serve mission trip, achieving a 4.0 or dominating UCLA on the soccer field, we are relentlessly pushed to be the best possible versions of ourselves.
Often, the pressure that affects us more than anything is the pressure that we put on ourselves to live up to this imaginary idea of what perfection is. Our social media-driven worlds are constantly bombarded with images promising us that looking a certain way will guarantee love and happiness. Maybe the pressure to conform to whatever the media tells us is beautiful has always existed; but it’s time to challenge these roots of evil and cherish the unique inner strengths, hearts and minds that make each and every one of us truly beautiful. Consider how New York Fashion Week added plus-size body types to one of its shows this year. Change is possible.
Instead of constantly comparing ourselves to those around us who seem to meet the wishful expectations we hold for ourselves, we could look in the mirror and say one thing we like about ourselves every morning, separating the bad thoughts we all have about ourselves from the things on which we receive compliments. Or better yet, we could realize that we are worth so much more than the way we look. Our character, which will not fade as beauty will, is what is truly important.
So whether you are a woman or a man, big or small, smart or not so much, athletic or musical, you are a human being, and you don’t need to change anything about yourself to achieve any status in society. We can be aware of the beauty in our world, but we should not make standards of beauty based solely on what we can see. Face value, after all, is just that.
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