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  • Writer's pictureS G

Thank You to San Diego Union Tribune for publishing my Op-Ed.

This lack of intellectual development can have long-term consequences, not only for our own personal growth but for society.

MARCH 28, 2023 4:27 PM PT

Glazier is a junior at Canyon Crest Academy and founder of the nonprofit
She lives in Rancho Santa Fe.

“Beauty fades but dumb is forever.” These words are eternally engraved in my mind. Every summer, my family visits my grandmother in Chicago. She has lived in the same house for nearly 60 years. When I step through her door, I feel like I’ve entered a time machine transporting me back to the 1970s. “Gaga” loves to cut clever headlines and quotes out of the Chicago newspapers and tape them on her kitchen cabinets. I’m amazed at her cabinet collage, and I enjoy reading them all. But the one that sticks with me is an old, torn picture taped on the refrigerator door that says, “Beauty fades but dumb is forever.”
I don’t know why this quote, among hundreds, jumped out at me as I sat at her kitchen table eating her famous chocolate cherry cake. Maybe because Gaga has a good sense of humor and I appreciated the irony, or maybe deep inside, I just agree.

Growing up, I was taught that education is the key to success. But the words on her fridge left me thinking about girls my age, who are completely focused on their physical appearance, never realizing, nor valuing, the most important part of themselves.

I get it! TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram convince us that beauty is all that matters. We idolize the pretty girls who teach us how to apply makeup, pushing our eyeliner out and up, contouring our faces to enhance our cheeks and bone structure, and creating shadows to thin our nose and face. We quickly learn how to wear our hair, nails and eyelashes. We admire and desire the clothes that are “in” and stop wearing beloved items when they’re “out.” We perfect our selfie from every angle, add the perfect filter, and never miss an opportunity to let everyone know that we’re “hot” and “happy” even if it’s not real.

The influencers’ messages are crystal-clear, and they come at us all day. Looking your best is all that matters. But is it?

The sad truth is that during COVID-19 social media was teens’ sole lifeline to friends and the world. We have grown into teenagers smothered with beauty tips (and if we didn’t or weren’t allowed to connect to people online, we were isolated and alone). But now we’re living back in the world of human interactions and still addicted and obsessed with social media and the messages we learned to value. We follow influencers, celebrities and anyone else with a pretty face, a dance, a trick, a voice, a message. It’s like a drug and we’re completely hooked!

This social media phenomenon is changing my generation and leaving a wake of low self-esteem, poor body image and feelings of inadequacy. According to a study by Common Sense Media, 80 percent of teenage girls compare themselves to images they see on social media, and 39 percent feel bad about themselves as a result. Another study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that teenage girls who spend more time on social media have higher rates of body dissatisfaction, which can lead to other mental health issues like depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

This constant comparison and focus on unrealistic beauty standards have changed the way we see ourselves. Our mental health is clearly suffering due to endless exposure to idealized beauty standards, but we’re also giving up so much more.

Has a preoccupation with physical appearance left us with empty minds, no longer curious about the human condition or how to pursue a meaningful life through intellectual curiosity, hard work and education? A study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that teenagers who place a high value on physical appearance are less likely to engage in meaningful activities such as volunteering, participating in sports or clubs or pursuing academic interests. This trend is disturbing as meaningful activities are essential for the development of a sense of purpose and identity, and critical for overall well-being and success in life. Instead of exploring interests that could lead to innovative thinking and problem-solving, we spend all our time and energy on our appearance.

This lack of intellectual development can have long-term consequences, not only for our own personal growth but for society. As the world faces increasingly complex challenges, we need the next generation to be well-equipped to think critically and creatively to help find solutions. Sadly, we have become a generation of superficial involvement and short bursts of attention to support causes with shout-outs and memes which can never constitute real activism. It is important for us to understand the complexities of social issues and engage in meaningful ways. Real activism involves ongoing education, community involvement and sustained efforts to effect change. We need to wake up and reject this endless, mindless pursuit for the perfect mascara and instead invest in ourselves. Because a beautiful mind is way sexier than anything we wear. Remember: Beauty fades but a beautiful mind is forever!

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