The Beauty Reel’s piece – The Race To Perfection – featured in the July 2015 issue of Masala! Dubai.

My nose is too big. My hair looks like it has retired at an early age. Is that another pimple? Aarghh my belly looks like I swallowed a food truck. Going through my Instagram page, I’ve scrutinized every inch of my edited body in those filtered photos, and I’ve wondered what I was thinking when I allowed myself to post some of those pictures. In one photo, I was wearing these yummy Charlotte Olympia peep-toes and I thought to myself, “How did I ever let myself wear peep-toe shoes when my red nail paint is visibly chipped.” In retrospect, a grand total of only two toes were visible in the picture! Sometimes I find that I spend an entire hour being critical of myself until I realize that I could have used the time, more productively, by catching up on Pretty Little Liars. #SkewedPriorities

I don’t think I was always like this. I don’t remember obsessing over the little fuzz that would sometimes greet me underneath my chin or the dimples that would reside on my bums; but now when I get an unwarranted inhabitant, I make sure to book a laser appointment ASAP while I start my squat count. To be honest, it’s exhausting. There is no fun left in looking pretty or dressing up for an occasion when the rat race to perfection doesn’t have a finish line.

All ‘reality’ television shows and Bollywood movies have a common theme: beautiful people. If an actress or celebrity’s outwardly features do not conform to society’s preconceived notions of beauty, that actress is more likely not to get the lead role. This beauty benchmark is reinforced everywhere in the media, from television adverts to newspapers; we’re constantly being bombarded with images of unrealistic standards of what is acceptable and desirable, and what is not. This pursuit of perfection, that we are all unconsciously succumbing to and cultivating in our culture, feeds our deepest insecurities and fools us into believing that the key to happiness, success and love lies in an unsustainable standard of beauty.

Considering Bollywood’s massive influence on society, our ingrained obsession with skin-color fortifies when popular actors, such as Kareena Kapoor-Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan and even Shah Rukh Khan, endorse fairness creams. This belief that fair is lovely, that being fair makes you more deserving – of love, of knowledge and of money – is a nonsensical notion that we’re being conditioned to believe is the truth. It is the responsibility of influencers to be conscious of the impact they have on society’s perceptions of what is considered beautiful and what is not.

Fortunately, some celebrities such as Kangana Ranaut and Nandita Das are taking a stand against this ongoing discrimination against skin colour. Kangana Ranaut, who won the best actress award for her role in Queen, recently rejected a fairness cream endorsement deal worth thousands of dollars. Nandita Das, an actress with numerous national and international awards to her name, is championing the cause of colour through her campaign Dark Is Beautiful. With more and more people voicing their opinions and advocating against this white-is-superior propaganda, one would assume that discrimination of this sort would be on the decline; but the rise in the number of fairness creams available in the market and the increasing demand to meet photoshopped realities, proves otherwise.

There was a time when only movie stars and models battled scrutiny, but now everyone is a celebrity when social media is the new PR platform. Constantly scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, tweeting on an hourly basis, swipe-festing on Tinder…. as a human race, we’ve probably never had to look at ourselves, or each other, this much before. This is what could be creating our chronic obsession with perfection.

When there are mobile apps that can give your public image a facelift, boob job or Botox with the touch of a finger, the prerequisites to an ‘upload-worthy’ picture are no longer limited to good lighting and smiling. How many times have we been out with friends, taken a selfie, passed the phone around for everyone’s approval before uploading it, when one friend raises an objection to her jaw line? Apparently her double chin looks too real. Taking pictures is no more about simply capturing a memory, as much as it is about capturing the memory to a manipulated degree of perfection that will be appreciated on the Internet.

Having the right Facebook profile picture seems to be as important as a real-life first impression. With Facebook Facelifts being an actual phenomenon, cosmetic surgery is clearly no longer a territory limited to ladies with access to chauffeur-driven limousines. Social media not only make us more conscious of our natural flaws but can also cause major insecurity issues. More and more people are opting for cosmetic surgery because they are displeased with their portrayal on social media. Most of what we dissect and analyze of ourselves, we wouldn’t have seen if we just looked in a mirror; but when we see ourselves online, we’re looking at what the world will see of us, and that is the image we’re seemingly most concerned about. We want to surpass the ideal.

Up until recently, celebrities set the ideal standards of beauty through their roles captured and exhibited through conventional forms of media. But nowadays, we’re not competing to meet these ideals set by celebrity influencers but rather, our own circle of friends and popular bloggers whose filtered-to-perfection lives seem more ‘realistic’ in comparison. Will we still be desirable if we accept our curves the way Sonakshi Sinha and Vidya Balan have, when the women we dine with every weekend are thinner in comparison? Does it really change matters if Aishwarya Rai Bachan’s baby weight shaming has finally died down, when our girls luncheon’s favoured topic of discussion is – fitting into a size 6, post-pregnancy? Our standards of perfection may be evolving, but the pressures that come with perfection continue to plague us.

Somewhere along the lines, we have been misguided into equating the perfect butt for the perfect life. We need to break free from this flawed conviction of perfection equating to beauty, and embrace personalities rather than physical attributes. We need to constantly remind ourselves that our skin colour, hairline or weight does not define us. We’re perfect just the way we are.

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The Beauty Reel for Masala Dubai 

5 Comments
  • sachisingh12
    July 31, 2015

    Absolutely wonderful piece! Do you think that society puts more pressure to be perfect on women than it does on men?

    • Ishika Sachdev
      August 3, 2015

      Thanks Sach! 🙂 I think society puts pressure on both men and women to be perfect, but the idea of perfect differs in both cases. I’m definitely generalising here, but I think women are expected to look perfect whereas men are expected to land the perfect job. In terms of physical appearance, I think society puts more pressure on women.

    • Ishika Sachdev
      August 3, 2015

      What are your thoughts?

  • Pixie
    July 31, 2015

    “the rat race to perfection doesn’t have a finish line” – beautiful!

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