Is It Inevitable That There Are Beauty Standards?

Is it inevitable that there are beauty standards?

Beauty, a concept as subjective as it is omnipresent in our society, has been the object of admiration, debate and, in many cases, controversy throughout history. From the beauty canons of ancient Greece to contemporary trends promoted by social media, the perception of what is considered beautiful has constantly evolved, influenced by a variety of cultural, biological and social factors.

In the modern world, the omnipresence of the media has intensified the pressure to meet imposed beauty standards, generating a multi-billion dollar industry focused on products, treatments and surgeries aimed at achieving physical perfection. However, this obsessive pursuit of ideal beauty has led to a series of negative consequences, from eating disorders to low self-esteem and discrimination.

Is it inevitable that there are beauty standards?

Given this panorama, a crucial debate arises: Are beauty standards inevitable? Or is it possible to challenge and transform these norms to promote a more inclusive and authentic vision of beauty? In this article we explore these questions, analyzing the historical origin, biological and psychological factors, the influence of the media and the social and personal repercussions of beauty canons in contemporary society.

Historic context

Beauty canons have existed since time immemorial, shaping the perception of aesthetics in various cultures and times. In ancient times, the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations had their own standards of beauty. For example, in ancient Egypt, beauty was associated with facial symmetry and a slim body, while in classical Greece, an athletic, proportionate body was valued, exemplified by sculptures of gods and heroes.

During the Middle Ages, beauty was linked to virtue and piety, strongly influenced by the church and Christianity. Women were idealized for their paleness, which symbolized purity and nobility. In contrast, the Renaissance brought with it a return to appreciation of the human body, inspired by Greco-Roman ideals. The paintings of Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci present voluptuous female figures with ideal proportions, reflecting a more naturalistic and earthly canon of beauty.

Moving forward to the 18th and 19th centuries, the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of photography changed the way beauty standards were disseminated. Fashion magazines and advertising began to promote an idealized image of women, focused on elegance and refinement.. In the 20th century, with the rise of Hollywood and television, beauty standards were consolidated globally, homogenizing the perception of what was considered attractive.

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Throughout history, these standards have influenced fashion, art and social behavior, reflecting and perpetuating the cultural and social norms of each era. Today, although beauty standards continue to evolve, their historical impact persists in our contemporary society.

Biological and psychological factors

The existence of beauty canons not only responds to cultural influences, but also to biological and psychological factors. From an evolutionary perspective, certain physical traits have been associated with health, fertility, and survival ability. For example, facial symmetry is widely perceived as attractive because it may indicate good genes and high resistance to disease.

Additionally, the waist-to-hip ratio in women, typically around 0.7, has been considered an indicator of fertility and reproductive health, which may explain its recurrence in various beauty standards across time and cultures. Likewise, men with characteristics such as a strong jaw and an athletic body may be perceived as more attractive due to their association with high testosterone levels and good physical fitness.

On the psychological level, attachment theory and evolutionary psychology suggest that we are predisposed to find certain traits attractive because they provide us with security and comfort. Additionally, familiarity and repeated exposure to certain faces and bodies in media also shape our beauty preferences. This phenomenon, known as the “mere exposure effect,” suggests that the more we see something, the more we like it.

However, it is crucial to highlight individual variability in the perception of beauty. What one person finds attractive may differ significantly from another’s preferences., influenced by personal, cultural and contextual experiences. This diversity underscores that, although there are common trends in what is considered beautiful, individual appreciations of beauty are complex and multifaceted, combining both innate and learned factors.

Cultural and media influence

Culture and media play a crucial role in promoting and perpetuating beauty standards. From an early age, people are bombarded with idealized images of beauty through television, movies, advertising, and social media. These representations often present an unattainable standard of beauty, digitally retouched and based on select models who meet certain physical criteria.

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The media exerts a powerful influence in defining what is beautiful and desirable, which can have significant effects on self-esteem and self-perception, especially among adolescents and young adults. Constant exposure to photoshopped images and “perfect” bodies can lead to harmful comparisons and a relentless pursuit of physical perfection, fueling body insecurity and dissatisfaction.

In addition, Globalization has led to a standardization of beauty, where Western canons predominate throughout the world.. This can have negative consequences on local cultures, as unique ethnic and physical characteristics are devalued in favor of a homogeneous ideal. The lack of representation of ethnic, gender, size and ability diversity in the media contributes to the exclusion and marginalization of those who do not fit dominant beauty standards.

However, as counterculture movements emerge and greater diversity and inclusion is promoted in the media, traditional beauty canons are being challenged. The representation of diverse bodies and the celebration of beauty in all its forms are gaining ground, promoting the acceptance and appreciation of human diversity.

Social and personal consequences

Beauty standards, although they may seem superficial, have profound social and personal implications that affect individuals of all ages and genders. One of the most notable consequences is its impact on self-esteem and body image. People who do not conform to prevailing beauty standards may experience low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression, especially when compared to idealized images presented in the media.

This social pressure to conform to beauty standards can also lead to the adoption of extreme behaviors, such as restrictive diets, excessive exercise, and cosmetic surgeries, in an attempt to achieve the desired beauty ideal. The prevalence of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa is largely related to the obsessive pursuit of thinness and physical perfection.

In addition, beauty standards can influence career decisions, interpersonal relationships, and participation in social activities. People can face discrimination and prejudice based on their appearance, which can limit their opportunities and affect their emotional and psychological well-being.

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At a societal level, beauty standards can perpetuate inequalities and marginalize specific groups, such as people of certain ethnicities, body sizes, or physical abilities. Lack of representation and the promotion of a homogeneous beauty ideal can reinforce harmful stereotypes and contribute to the exclusion of those who do not fit these standards.

##Current and future debate on beauty standards Currently, the debate on beauty standards is more current than ever. Movements such as body positivity and diversity in fashion and media are challenging established norms and promoting a more inclusive and realistic vision of beauty. Acceptance of different body types, ages, genders and ethnicities is gaining ground, encouraging the celebration of diversity rather than uniformity.

However, despite these advances, beauty standards are still present in our society and in the media, perpetuating unattainable standards and contributing to pressure on physical appearance. The proliferation of technology has also introduced new challenges, such as the use of beauty filters on social networks and cosmetic surgery that is increasingly accessible and normalized.

The future of beauty standards depends largely on how society and the media address this issue.. It is essential to continue promoting diversity and inclusion in all areas, as well as fostering a culture of acceptance and self-acceptance. Education about the importance of mental health and self-esteem, as well as encouraging more authentic and varied representation in the media, are crucial steps towards a future where everyone can feel valued and accepted regardless of their appearance.


In conclusion, beauty canons, rooted in history, biology and culture, have profound social and personal implications. Although diversity and acceptance movements are challenging these norms, they remain pervasive in contemporary society. Advocating for inclusion, authenticity, and valuing diversity is crucial to promoting a more equitable and compassionate vision of beauty.