MIRROR, MIRROR: DEFINING OUR PERCEPTION OF BEAUTY

The perception of beauty, influenced by society, governed by Technology.

The concept of beauty, and what it is that actually defines it, is a question that has permeated civilisation for centuries. It was, and still is, debatable amongst Western philosophy, and science still struggles to elucidate the components that make up something ‘beautiful’. But why is it so difficult to define?

Well, a definition is a singular explanation of a word or concept that is both irrefutable and concrete. Beauty, however, belongs to the category of concepts that are ultimately ‘subjective’ and therefore interpretive. It eludes a unilateral definition because our understanding of it is relative and personal.

So you could say it is human perception that defines whether something is beautiful or not. Ever heard the phrase: “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”? Indeed, yeah…that. It is this very idea Philosopher David Hume conceptualised in 1757, and it is an idea that remains strongly applicable when we consider the different ways we currently define beauty standards.

there was a $20.1 Billion market increase in the cosmetics industry between 2014 and 2019.

For example, symmetry currently holds a great deal of weight when it comes to perceived attractiveness levels. Our minds are hardwired to naturally seek out the symmetrical over the asymmetrical – an evolutionary process defined in social psychology as ‘Perceptual Bias’.

It’s like a short-cut towards understanding what we see – or whom. Hence why it is ‘bias’, because we are more than just a symmetrical face.

And if we are to remain with this evolutionary approach, we can state that human beings are creatures naturally designed to survive in groups, as Darwin postulated so long ago; so we are inevitably influenced by our environment. Perhaps our definition of beauty is relative to society?

A century ago, in the Victorian Era, beauty was characterised through full figures and clinched waists. The Italian Renaissance saw beauty in rounded stomachs and fair skin. Fast forward to the 21st century, it is now seen in chiselled jaw lines and tall heights for men, with prominent cheek bones and slim waistlines for women.

This is a change argued to have emerged as a result of the supermodel era. The world saw Kate Moss in the 90s, and for the first time, women began to resonate with the “thinnest feminine ideal in history”, writes Amber Petty, a writer and actress from Los Angeles.


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By Stephen Hinds Day: Culture Columnist


It is as though our understanding of beauty altered according to social culture. What beauty was portrayed as changed, and so our appreciation towards it changed.

With the rise of technology and social media, the magnitude of this portrayal has never been so evident. Because we now have unlimited access to the images and lives of celebrities labelled by articles and magazines as ‘the most beautiful women’ in the world.

Even the ordinary folk now gain international stardom for being beautiful. “Influencers” are currently dominating social media; with the market growing into a multibillion-dollar industry.

Being beautiful is now strongly associated with success, and because we live in a world where you can freely pay to augment and alter our bodies, absolutely anyone can achieve this experience of life for the right price. This may explain why there was a $20.1 Billion market increase in the cosmetics industry between 2014 and 2019.

Social media can be deceptively damaging, however, because we now spend our free time viewing and comparing ourselves to idealised beauty standards that are often unattainable and “hypercurated”, states Doreen Dodgen-Magee, psychologist and author.

As a result, we easily forget the truest and most significant principle that characterises beauty. That it comes from within. Our external appearance stands truly irrelevant when it comes to the appreciation of our spirit and nature.

So perhaps, this is moral of the story. For our personalities, akin to our DNA, cannot be replicated, and if beauty comes from within, then it stands to say that individuality is what really makes someone beautiful. Everyone is truly beautiful in their own way. We are beauty, and beauty is us.

What do you think about beauty? Is it as important as it is depicted? Let us know your thoughts!


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