Asian Americans Affecting Adolescents' Self-Admiration

By Hannah Kim

Even with the body positivity movement growing louder and more prominent, the surplus of children that are eager to change their appearance and are struggling to fit the status quo continue to increase. Despite being incredibly common among all people everywhere, with the rise of Kbeauty and Asian beauty standards, an unattractive adolescence period can be excruciatingly distressing in an East and Southeast Asian household.

The glorification of having fair skin, a slender face and an even more slender body has become a common staple in most East Asian nations, expanding the popularity and need for dermatologists, plastic surgeons and cosmetic companies in those countries. In South Korea, plastic surgery is extremely normalized among teenagers to the point where it is a common occurrence for students to request plastic surgery as a gift for getting a good score on the College Scholastic Ability Test, rewarding them with supposid “upgrades” in their appearance. Although these ideas are specifically prevalent in Korea, these shallow views and the normalization of permenantly reshaping one’s body have been brought beyond this region and to the Asian families in America.

From the nitpicking minute flaws to the constant criticism of facial characteristics, it is cruel that subjecting judgment onto teenagers and children that are going through puberty is often culturally accepted by Asian Americans that follow the beauty standard from the East. Occurrences such as these happen frequently, and shallow distasteful comments usually fill the dinner table conversations, family gatherings and even short passing-by conversations. Some of the most common features that are pinpointed and obsessed over are having a slim face and jawline, long nose bridge, and double eyelids. When children fail to have these attributes, relatives and family members tend to take part in shaming and expressing concern for their lack of these typically praised traits, even suggesting plastic surgery as an option to obtain them. Ingraining the idea that changes are needed in order to be beautiful, parents and family members worsen the self esteem issues that come with puberty.

Similar to the encouragement of cosmetic surgery and bodily modifications, the promoting of blemish removal and whitening treatment is another major problem that hurts children's self esteem and contributes to colorism. Due to the long history of colorism in Asia relating back to the idea that laborers had darker skin from working under the sun while the elite had fair and clear complexion, many first and second generation Asian Americans still live by these ideals and brainwash their children into fearing the idea of having tanned skin. With young adults being vulnerable to new ideas, these comments can become the root of a new insecurity and promote the purchasing of whitening creams. However, no matter what history says, it is unjustifiable to make one’s children feel bad for the color of their skin and for something that they cannot inherently control.

Source by Hannah Kim

Beauty products, skin care and even whitening creams are common purchases among Asian American households.

Beauty standards also range to body image with mainly skinny and slender figures being presented as the ideal type. This leads to the Asian American youth having to endure negative bodily remarks on top of their already existing expectations about facial features, since how normalized it is for parents to comment on their pubescent child’s body shape. Statements relating to weight gain and form are frequently and nonchalantly brought up to the point that most teens have a deep insecurity of their diet and figure.

Despite possibly seeming trivial to some, the abnormal levels of obsession towards appearance in Asian culture has truly hurt the developing perceptions of our youth, making them hate themselves even before they fully understand themselves.

“Upon reuniting with adults, they often comment that I ‘lost weight,’ when I’ve actually maintained the same weight for the last couple of years. It’s a bit unsettling to know that they always perceive me as heavier than I actually am,” senior Emma Ouyang said.

Instances such as these where family members constantly insult and encourage commenting on others’ looks can be detrimental to the mental health and self value of those who are in the process of discovering who they are. It can often get them to question their worth, and the 246% increase in cosmetic surgery procedures among the Asian American population can partially be attributed to how accepted it is in the culture. Especially in Asian households with a high income, treatments and surgery are frequently hinted at and suggested, pressuring kids and students to make life altering changes on themselves.

As teenagers are growing and learning to accept themselves, it is necessary for them not to be bombarded with hate and judgment in order for them to have a fulfilling existence. Lasting impacts of body shaming, especially from loved ones, often carry into adulthood, leaving us perpetually feeling worthless, ugly and struggling to accept ourselves. After being brainwashed with ideas of skin whitening, constant diets and surgery, we are stricken away from our control and autonomy over our bodies and forced to conform to society out of fear and self hate. Although alterations can be made to improve the physical features of those that want them, obtaining these changes due to pressure can leave one more mentally broken and dependent on others’ validation than perfected.

In order for us as a community to combat such a toxic and oppressive internal conflict such as this, it is necessary for all the beauties, uglies and changes of puberty to be recognized without judgment and for the unhealthy obsession with appearance to no longer be considered normal. Compassion and acceptance towards different bodily traits are needed, allowing people to gain the chance to become confident with their identity. Overall, people, especially the youth, have to be able to be in an environment that gives them the chance to grow comfortable in their shoes, since self understanding is the only way to terminate the chain of degradation and insecurity that is too commonly found in numerous Asian families in America.