I think one of the most difficult things about being female in Singapore is the pressure to conform to the world. Singapore is so diverse in its culture not just in terms of ‘Asianess‘ but also in terms of influence from the West. Traditionally, and stereotypically, women in Singapore are expected to look petite, gentle, and slim. It is an expectation placed upon many growing up – gain some weight and relatives will be quick to announce, ‘Aiyo! You put on weight! Not nice. Too fat!‘, and then proceed to feed you. It is a contradiction that is difficult to navigate when you are told to eat but pressured to look small.
Then, with the huge influx of Western media, this need to have a ‘V-shaped’ face, big, deep-set eyes, a high nose bridge and a more generous bust has infiltrated the minds of many young women. The thought that to look beautiful is to hold on to some Asianess physically while trying to look Caucasian facially. As such, plastic surgery is in high demand in order to enhance facial features, sometimes changing them entirely, and slimming centres, bust enhancement centres, are churning big bucks by promising quick fixes.
These days, it’s easy to find people on social media trying to promote the importance of body positivity, of embracing one’s bodily flaws and recognising that it’s ok to look just the way we are without having to go to extremes to feel beautiful, accepted. Most of these people however, are from Europe and the West. I personally feel that there is a lack of body acceptance here in Singapore. This saddens me.
While it may seem hypocritical of me to say that it’s so damn important for women to love themselves with all their perfect imperfections seeing that I struggle to accept mine as well, it still frustrates me no end when I go onto social media and see influencers (the few whom I actually respect) helping to perpetuate this need for girls to be a certain way.
Just a couple of days ago, on said influencer’s IG stories, she was sharing about botox and facial threading, asking followers to send her questions to answer in order for them to understand more about these procedures. I couldn’t care less what she chooses to do with her face but promoting cosmetic enhancements to others is a form of preying on the physical insecurities of others. It tells young girls that they should alter the nature of their face in order to preserve their youth – one that requires long term (a life time pretty much) commitment and a regular injection of money to upkeep.
It saddens me to see society reduced to a bunch of faces, one merging into another. Beauty in Singapore is no longer about diversity, but rather, a singular form based on the characteristics decided by the media.
It makes me question how miserable people here must be to think that cosmetic enhancements will make them happier; that botox and fillers are the key to happiness. Of course, I understand that to some, it gives them confidence and is perhaps, life changing. But for companies using influencers to go out and target insecurities, promising beauty and perfection, is entirely false and self-serving.
Oh and let me tell you, bombarding people works. As I flicked through this influencer’s IG stories, for a moment, I did consider a tiny little filler just about my right eyebrow where my most obvious wrinkle is. It’s not a static wrinkle but I know that given time, it will eventually become one. For another moment, I thought of the jaw botox she was highlighting and thinking about how that might be my answer to having a slimmer jawline, put together with this HIFU thing (or whatever you call it), my naturally chubby face will look more sleek!
It’s so easy to imagine giving away money in order to have a ‘better’ look but I realise upon reflection that it is really a testament to how much more I need to grow in embracing and loving myself not just for who I am, but also how I look. I know, fillers and botox seem like teeny tiny impermanent procedures, so what’s the big deal!? True. To a point.
To me, the big deal is that it’s like opening Pandora’s box. You open it a crack and slowly, you think, Hmm.. I think I’d like to get my nose done, oh my boobs need doing, and some lipo on my legs for sure, and my butt. These are all surgeries I have considered at some point in my life – some fleeting, some seriously.
Life is truly a journey and while I try not to judge what others choose to do with their bodies, I have come to see that as much as I have imperfections all over, I don’t necessarily hate how I look. I may not have that ‘V’ shaped face, or the perfect hour glass figure, or long slim legs. What I do have is a naturally shaped face (I still have no idea what shape it is – round?), some curves where it matters, and I definitely have a butt. I have strong legs and arms that I try to maintain with regular exercise, and I have a man who loves all of me as I am.
What I do care about though, are the messages being passed to the young and impressionable. I care that rather than being taught to embrace themselves, to delight in what God has blessed them with, to be proud of what makes them different, they are being led by the hand to the offices of cosmetic surgeons who tell them that they need a little nip and a little tuck here and there. To these businesses, it’s all about the money. To me, these are young lives that have so, so much more to offer.
Influencer or not, the values we choose to impart to our children as well as the youth of today, is so important. Feel good the old fashioned way through eating well and exercising regularly. Don’t do fat talk or fat shaming. Teach them about how to see beauty greater than what’s on the outside based on society’s criteria. There is so more to life and if I could tell my younger self that, heck! Even remind myself sometimes not to dwell on the shallow ideals of what people say is or isn’t beautiful, then I’m sure we’d be far happier people focusing on more important things.
I personally feel that this deluge of advertisements preying on bodily flaws is especially bold in Singapore. Travelling around Europe, slimming centres and cosmetic surgery clinics aren’t so brazen in their attempts to draw in customers. That’s not to say they don’t exist, it’s just that they do so quietly. And so, I feel it goes back to this confusion between Asian ideals and Caucasian beauty that is acutely present here in Singapore, and Korean and Japan as well. Be petite. Be slim. Have big eyes. Have a sharp nose. Have a sharp chin. Don’t be too Asian, but remember you’re not Caucasian either. Unlike our Caucasian counterparts who refuse to be lambasted by corporations telling them to attain surgical perfection, our Asian values tell us to accept these pressures, to submit and not fight back against those who are screaming that we’re not pretty enough, that we’re not perfect enough.
I say ENOUGH already. We can’t wipe out these loud voices, but we can speak up with our own. It will take time to gather enough strength to be heard, but it can happen. Believe in your own brand of beauty – one that was perfectly customised to you the minute you were born. Just be you. And I’ll be me. 🙂
As Dr Seuss put so succinctly, “Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you”.