the effect of unrealistic beauty standards on a teenage girl

by Madison Jacobowitz

Filter, a painting by Uliana Petlyakov (grade 12)

audio: read by the author

When I see a Vogue or People magazine, the Kardashians and other famous supermodels are plastered on the cover.  Flashy headlines such as “Most Attractive Women in 2022” or “Top 10 Diets to get a Supermodel Body” written on the front page would immediately grab my attention. The first thing I, and other females my age, think is “Why don’t I look like her?” These magazines have created a stigma that in order to be “perfect,” they must look “perfect”. This expectation has created unrealistic beauty standards that affect teenage girls. These standards for beauty have caused women to believe they need to be “perfect” in all aspects to meet these unfeasible standards. External and internal beauty standards can lead to numerous consequences for teenagers.

Physical beauty standards cause mental disorders that can be battled by teens for years. Teenage girls get swayed by the ease of being flawless due to pop culture, but unsuccess in being unrealistically perfect can lead to consequences. Ben Mahoney wrote “The Obsession with Beauty and How it is Linked to Depression in Teens,” which is published by Center of Discovery. Manhoney finds that  “Depression and anxiety among teenagers are serious disorders and can lead to a lifetime of psychological illnesses and even to suicide (Center for Discovery).” Depression and anxiety can be very severe, and for young women to question their lives because of unrealistic standards is unbearable to think about. Perfection is desired, but  not possible to achieve. Thus, self doubt comes over the vulnerable and can lead to unwanted disorders. Depression and anxiety are not rare amongst the teenage demographic. Pew Research center found that “Seven-in-ten U.S. teens said anxiety and depression is a major problem among people their age in the community where they live” (Pew Research Center). Communities are constantly impacted by mental disorders and their consequences. There are times when a family or best friend appears to be happy, but internally battling disorders due to not meeting the standards society has created. Beauty standards are not just shown on TV or magazines, but also on a persons’ phone. Science Daily explains how  “about 90% of young women have reported editing or using a filter of some sort on social media (Science Daily). The social media industry targets their fixed photos and  products toward adolescent girls. The media will show beautiful models, and explain how using their product will make you look like that model, but the product misleads young women. Products shown on advertisements or Instagram posts only apply to the women with the near perfect body in the photo. These photographs are captioned that anyone can wear and look good in the perfect-fitting clothes; and when women purchase the clothing  in the photo, the clothing will not fit. Not being able to look like the edited girl can lead to mental disorders. Doctors at Bradley Hospital, Butler Hospital, and Brown medical school all did a study in 2006 about negative body image issues leading to psychiatric illnesses. The doctors found that “those with [body dysmorphic disorder] and shape/weight preoccupations had significantly higher levels of depression, anxiety, and suicidality than other patients with no body image concerns’ ” (Science Daily). Seeing the edited photos plastered on social media can affect those who believe they do not have the ideal body type. The articles provided show how physical beauty standards can negatively affect teenage girls. Disorders like anxiety and depression can transpire when you women cannot meet the quota of perfection. Social media can add on the growing disorders amongst the teen population which can even result in suicide.  

Reality television manipulates behaviors and expectations by exploiting the desire of the viewers, which then sets unrealistic standards for teenagers. The purpose of reality shows is to televise the actions of “everyday” people, but not only are they broadcasting the cast members every move, they are publishing false information.  Whether it is giving someone a makeover, or fixing botched plastic surgery, the purpose is to document the process for teenagers to watch. However, reality shows are not always as they seem. Behaviors and statistics that are shown on reality shows are scripted and aren’t of the “norm,” and this could manipulate the viewer. The article “Reality Television Gives Unrealistic Expectations to Real People” published by finds that reality television shows are fixed to bring in more views. Producers will influence decisions to make the show more popular. The article states that producers “will tamper with sets and storylines as much as they have to in order to increase drama, which leads to more views” ( This is significant because people believe what they see on TV is true. Viewers will watch these shows and feel that it is possible to look like a Kardashian or have the ‘glamorous life’ Paris Hilton is seen to live. The Bachelor or Love Is Blind “[give] unrealistic expectations of love to an easily-influenced society. People who watch these shows hope for a love story as easy-going and real as they see on television” ( This can lead to false expectations. Love is not easy to find especially for a teenager, but when viewers see how contestants find ‘love,’ they wonder why it cannot be as easy for them. The viewer then expects finding what they desire, whether it’s love or looks, to be as easy as the scripted reality show. This not only alters a person’s expectations, but has consequences of lowering their self-esteem. When people don’t look like celebrities do, they wonder what’s wrong with them. The article finds that “people are destroying their self-confidence by unrealistically expecting to look like the picture-perfect personalities on screen.” People will take it out on themselves because they don’t realize that being perfect is fictional. Reality television is so ravenous for money, they will fix personalities and looks to bring in the views, but this consequently hurts the confidence of the viewer. Ultimately, this leads to a disconnect between reality and the “scripted reality,” which can cause personality change or personal doubt. 

Today we live in a society where perfectionism is always the goal. We constantly, want to change the way we look to fit other people’s standard and alter our façade. The correlation between social media and beauty standards are affecting lives of many teenagers. Throughout your teenage years you are the most vulnerable, with hormones rushing through your body constantly making you feel like you are not good enough. With very easy access to many online platforms comparing your looks, body and overall life style is inevitable.

Works Cited

“Negative Body Image Related to Depression, Anxiety and Suicidality.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, (6 June 2006),

Reality television gives unrealistic expectations to real people. The Echo. (2020, March 17). Retrieved May 2, 2022, from 

“What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?” Center For Discovery, (22 Oct. 2019),

Madison Jacobowitz

(grade 11)


My name is Madison Jacobowitz and I am a junior. When I am not in school, I like to spend my time reading, with my friends, and watching TV.

what is your main source of inspiration?


what artists and/or writers inspired or influenced your work?

Collen Hoover

what is your ideal writing environment?

My bed