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Unmasking Beauty Standards: When Pretty Isn’t Pretty Enough 

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UPRM chapter.

Olivia Rodrigo’s “Guts,” released on September 8, has been a great hit with Gen-Z. It contains a balanced fusion of heartbreak titles, pop-punk rock, and soft, mellow sounds. One song, however, stood out when I listened to it for the first time. This particular song that I related to with every line was “Pretty, isn’t Pretty,” which connected to the feelings of insecurity while growing up.

The song is about how no matter what you do or how much you sacrifice and change yourself to feel pretty, it will never feel enough. The song is short and relatively simple, but it perfectly encapsulates how I’ve been feeling my whole life. Some of us have been consumed by the feeling of not being enough since we were young. There is always this need to be changed; like we need to be more like others and less like ourselves. It is this need and wanting to be perfect, even though it isn’t attainable.The feeling of never being satisfied with who we are and how we look has deeply affected society.

The fact that I was so far from achieving any of the beauty standards promoted made me feel miserable, and they still do in one way or another. These thoughts began to subtly creep up when I was young, but they profoundly started affecting me at the age of eleven. I began to deal with acne, and because of that, kids at school began to make fun of me. So before school, I would secretly take some of my mom’s makeup and put it on, hoping it would divert the attention from my acne. Olivia begins the song with a line that expresses this.

Bought a bunch of makeup

Tryna cover up my face

I’m sure that many of you can relate to this, too. Wearing makeup is lovely, and I love so much to do my makeup and get ready. The problem isn’t wearing or not wearing makeup. The sad part is when makeup is used from a young age to hide insecurities. I still struggle with this, but I am working on it. Wearing makeup makes me feel more confident, which is a complicated relationship. But brands and companies benefit from this; each day there is a new product you need to use or wear to conceal an imperfection. Then Olivia continues with the lyrics:

I started to skip lunch

Stopped eating cake on birthdays.

These lyrics are powerful and heartbreaking. Anyone who has struggled with having a healthy relationship with food knows how difficult it is. Getting the “perfect body” or having specific “perfect measurements” isn’t realistic or healthy. This is a deeper topic that can have much discussion, however, it is essential to get professional help if you are struggling with this.It is more common than ever to know someone with an eating disorder. If you or someone you know is going through this, recognize that there is help and treatment. It can be difficult to actively work in accepting your body and its beauty. Your body does many things for you; it is just part of you, not who you are.

Looking back, this insecurity of not being pretty enough was fed by many different things growing up. How the pretty girls in the Disney Channel show I would watch always looked a certain way. In all the supermarket isles, there were magazines with big headlines about how to lose weight. Every ad for women focused on how they could buy a product to be sexier, prettier, or better. Everything that surrounded us was setting the expectations of what we should look like if we wanted to be considered pretty or enough.Olivia references how this pressure is everywhere in the lyrics:

And I try to ignore it, but it’s everything I see

It’s on the poster on the wall, it’s in the shitty magazines

It’s in my phone, it’s in my head, it’s in the boys I bring to bed

It’s all around; it’s all the time; I don’t know why I even try.

It is impossible to escape this feeling because even the content in our phones reminds us of it. It is so deep in society that it is impossible to escape this feeling. Social media has become a place filled with ideas and standards for women. Trends are dictating specific aesthetics. You need to choose between being a coquette or a downtown girl. Which products to buy for anti-aging? The filters with lip fillers and other things that make your face look more real daily. There are videos on being more attractive or getting an hourglass shape quickly. Influencers constantly promote the ultimate product to make your hair more shiny or make your lips plumpier. And the list goes on. About this, Olivia sings:

When pretty isn’t pretty enough

What do you do?

And everybody’s keeping it up

So you think it’s you

She is referring to these standards of perfection that are not real. Companies, brands, social media, and everyone else are trying to achieve this unattainable perfect pretty standard, even though they know it isn’t real. In the chorus, Olivia perfectly summarizes how this is not about needing to change anything or trying a new product or diet. This is part of this bigger societal problem.

I could change up my body and change up my face

I could try every lipstick in every shade

But I’d always feel the same

‘Cause pretty isn’t pretty enough anyway

Even the models or actresses given the title of most beautiful woman in the world have expressed how they don’t feel pretty enough. It is a highly complex topic with many layers involving patriarchy, capitalism, and consumerism. Still, the gist is that this is all a socially constructed idea.

I have learned to live feeling like this. In a way, I accepted it, but I also encouraged myself actively to question this thinking. On what am I basing how I feel about myself? Where is this tought coming from? And even though it has been a long process, I have learned to slowly love myself the way I am. I still feel insecure. I still sometimes cry when I look in the mirror. But I am working on it each and every day.

My bottom line here is that feeling like this is valid. Society has placed this weight on us, but you don’t have to take it fully. Be conscious of the content you consume and work on learning to love yourself from the inside to the outside. Get the professional help that’s needed. Don’t support damaging trends and information. Do things you like, and you are good at. Surround yourself with people who make you feel happy. Life is too short to live it looking at the mirror, picking each imperfection. If you have to cry, do so. But don’t let these thoughts consume you; you are more than your physical appearance. You are enough. 

Valeria Martinez is a senior writer at Her Campus UPRM. This is her fourth year on Her Campus. She focuses on writing about popular culture, social issues, and mental health. She also completed an internship with Her Campus Media. Beyond Her Campus, Valeria is a Digital Marketing intern for Puerto Rico Wire Group. She also interned for the non-profit organization Thirst Project, managing their socials and creating content for them. One of her poems is to be published in Sabanas Bilingual Magazine. She currently works as a Digital Marketing intern. Valeria is an English Literature undergraduate student also doing a minor in Writing and Communications at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus. In her free time, Valeria loves going to the beach, reading, the movies, and cafe hopping. She is also a musical enthusiast and theatre kid who can't go out most of the time because "she's got practice." Her ultimate goal is to become a Journalist focusing on Latin Communities. She plans to move to NYC to Graduate School at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York next year.