The Popular Crowd: Individualism vs. Society

Do you remember the first time you approached the popular crowd and were rejected because your hair and clothes were not fashionable for the times? Or perhaps your body type was the butt of their joke. What was your reaction? Did that sick feeling swell in your stomach, embarrassment filling your cheeks, hot and pulsing. Your heart rate probably sky-rocketed as you walked away scolding yourself for being so foolish as to think that such “cool” people would want to be associated with you at all. Did you ever try again? This time you were wearing your best clothes and had your hair done in hopes of a different result. Did you ever wonder when and where the characteristics of “cool” were born? Who decided that your hair was better the second time around? Who decided it was bad the first time? It was you. Individuals decide what is “cool” to them and society redefines “cool” within a population. Unable to recognize this truth, many young women get sucked into the “cool culture” and realize too late that they suffer serious consequences.

The “popular” girls are products of the population’s definition of “cool.” Clothes must be trendy and up-to-date. “In with the new, out with the old” should be their wardrobes’ mottos and mirroring that idea, their hair is usually cut for the times. Those who want acceptance from these “cool” people dress just like them. They go to the Abercrombie and Fitch stores purchasing shirts with petty saying and images on them for a ridiculous price. They make sure their hair is cut into the flipped out bob which is so “up and coming.” The result is a swarm of girls who all look the same. Individuality is lost and with every major or minor change in society’s opinion of “cool” these groups change to mimic it. With masses of consumers living in ignorance, companies such as GAP, Abercrombie and Fitch, and others can run young markets for clothing dollars. The media targets them. Everyone who has figured out how easy it is to blindly lead these easily-influenced people has taken advantage of them. Now the society which tricked these impressionable people into thinking they are “cool” for dressing up or down a certain way takes advantage of its power to rob them blind.

Beyond clothing alone, these popular girls are genetically endowed. Skinny blondes seem to be the stereotype, but as long as they are physically attractive, even brunettes and carrot tops have a chance at acceptance. Media and marketing executives, seeing the trend, project an importance on looking thin, being externally beautiful, in an attempt to make girls think that they need to meet their high expectations. In order to be “cool” the girl who is five pounds over the average weight needs to lose it and fast with the latest Hollywood Diet. That girl with the thunder thighs, even if they are muscle and she is the star player on the girl’s softball team, needs to trim up with the “Thighmaster Plus!” To complete the look they should each proceed to dye their hair the latest shade of blonde with the newest hair-friendly dye by L’Oreal or Revlon. All this attention on external beauty causes multitudes of young women to forget about cultivating their inner beauty and pampering their souls leading them to become uncomfortable with their natural self. In this struggle to fit the stereotypical “cool” body type girls lose their identities by denying who they were born to be. They become anorexic or bulimic in some cases, or in others, just plain unhappy with themselves or suicidal. If society really cares about itself, then why does it have unrealistic expectations and desire that its girls succumb to personal degradation? Why isn’t it “cool” not to be thin and pretty, but rather to be happy with yourself no matter your physical appearance? Why has the focus been taken away from subjective inner beauty and placed on objective external attractiveness?

This focus is so deeply imbedded in society that it is difficult to find its source. External appearances have always been important to human beings. For example, in prehistoric times it was important for women to appear strong and able to handle the wilderness. During the Renaissance, women of a larger build were found attractive because the fact that they were large was a sign that they had money to feed themselves, thus signifying wealth. By examining what traits have been deemed attractive in history, I am left puzzled as to why in this day and age “skinny” is considered attractive. Skinny can show good health, but at the same time can also be evidence of a will power that exists solely to keep oneself thin. Blonde is just a matter of dye and genetics, so those who have neither are just out of luck. However, all of this information still does not answer why it is that external beauty is so important in our culture. If it was attractive to be able to handle the environment during a time when man did not have control of it, if it was attractive to be overweight during a time of famine, and now it is attractive to be thin during the time of “obesity epidemic” it seems that what is found attractive in a society reflects its weaknesses. By this logic, those women whom are considered good-looking have conquered those weaknesses and somehow succeeded.

In spite of all that external appearances may allude to, I am still left wondering why there is no emphasis on internal beauty. First off, one can not “see” inner beauty. It is most unlikely that when a woman walks by a guy he would do a double take and say to a friend, “Hey, did you see how hot her personality was?” Character, personality, morals, everything that comprises a person’s “inner beauty,” is only revealed through ones interaction with other people. There is no window into the soul.
However, just because people do not see a physical manifestation of the soul, why is its cultivation consistently allowed to be ignored? In the age of computers, stock markets, and a feeling that time is running faster, where everyone is encouraged to go to school, work, have kids, work more, maintain a social life, and work even more, people get stressed out. In fact, I find that as I get older, and everyone around me, including myself, gets busier, the more stressed we become. This in turn leads us to forget to take care of ourselves, both physically and mentally. Add the pressure to be physically attractive to this equation, and naturally, the focus is not on inner beauty.

Being a young woman in today’s society which projects importance in trivial appearance, attending a school comprised mostly of sorority girls who easily could have come out of catalogs, I can not say that I am unaffected. Everyday I question whether to get sucked into this faÃ?§ade or keep striving to be an individual. Everyday I swear that I will eat less, workout more, and lose the “ghastly” weight. Growing up in a world where hips are meant for child-bearing only, I look in the mirror and am appalled by the hips my mother genetics, so graciously bestowed upon me. I am constantly battling myself in desperate attempt to fit society’s standards. All of this leaves me feeling empty. These standards can not be applied to every single individual and realistically be achieved. So every pathetic attempt to apply these expectations to myself is only digging a miserable hole which is so hard to get out of. In the end, trying to fit the mold, I will only find myself sad and alone in the world.
On the other hand, if I nurture myself and reveal my true colours, I will be completely content with myself. I am an intellectual, an individual; I was brought up to think for myself and make my own decisions. These traits lead me to question the expectations of society. I understand that being one in a large crowd does me no good. If I make friends with people because they are popular, if I cut my hair or wear certain clothes to be fashionable, if I lose weight to become another skinny girl, then I am not being true to myself. Furthermore, if I can not be true to myself, how can I be true to others? If I do not know who I am, if I deny myself my own identity, then I obviously can not let others know who I really am. Battling myself leaves me too bewildered, too confused, and too tired to attempt to build bridges with other people.

The only solution to this battle is to change the focus. Despite that society provokes me to become one of the millions, I need to be one in a million. Self development is essential for me to reach my potential as a person. I need to provoke my inner spirit to be who it wants to be, and stay true to that being. Considering my surroundings, the task is easier said than done. The problem with me focusing on my inner self and not on my external appearance is that I am still a member of a society which does not function that way. Therefore, I receive little to no support from those around me.

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