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Our Obsession With Youth and Physical Perfection

Our obsession with youth and physical perfection
Our obsession with youth and physical perfection

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal our misguided obsession with youth and how it is creating misery, depression and broken relationships.

First a quick update:

“Protecting Your Children From Drugs”
Did you know that parents play the biggest role and are the single most critical factor in determining delinquency, youth violence, and drug abuse – even greater than environmental community factors? Also, boys who have very low self-esteem in the sixth or seventh grade are 1.6 times more likely to meet the criteria for drug dependence nine years later than other children. The root cause of each youth’s behavior is the result of the relational conflict within his/her family. What can parents do to protect their children from drugs and help children who have fallen victim to drugs? Listen to the interview and discussion between myself and Aaron Huey from Fire Mountain Sober Living Home for Teens in Colorado, read more here.

Go straight to the interview here.

Now, let’s talk about how our misguided obsession with youth & staying young is causing misery, unhappiness and broken relationships. Recently, a storm arose in France and the US over French Vogue magazine’s adult-styled photographs of 10-year-old child model Thylane Loubry – topless, pantless and nude.

Magazines and advertisers have been promoting fashion images of girls who are many years below the age of consent and are portrayed to look sexy, thus further reinforcing a beauty-based value system that alienates adult women by promoting the idea that the younger the woman, the more appealing she is.

In 1999, at age 17, Britney Spears became famous with her pig tails and sexy school uniform in the video “(Hit Me) Baby One More Time” and later being sporting a bra and panties on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

In 2010, “Glee” stars Dianna Agron and Lea Michele posed for a GQ magazine spread, set in high school, sucking lollipops, with their legs wide open. The same year, supermodel Miranda Kerr posed topless in school girl clothes for French fashion magazine “Numero.”

The overall message blasting out is that if you are a woman and you want to be attractive and appealing to men, then you need to be really young – a teenager – and sexual.

The sexualization of young girls promotes the message that it is okay for regular men to be sexually attracted to underage girls. But western society is also placing greater value and greater emphasis overall on youth and being young. Music, television and film idols and stars are becoming younger and are expected to look that way or otherwise be quickly tossed away.

Britney Spears was 17 when she became famous, Miley Cyrus was 15 when she posed topless for Vanity Fair magazine and Justin Bieber was 14 when he became a teen heartthrob. Yes, we have always had young idols in pop music and culture but today, youth is sold as the ideal; something to constantly strive to attain and maintain – even when we have passed our youth. It is sold in commercials and advertising, in film and in television programs – in the form of clothes, food, beverages, cosmetics and surgery. And when we see older women on the television, such as the ‘Housewives’ series, we see them struggling and immersing themselves in plastic surgery in the hope of looking young.

We have progressively torn down the value of knowledge and wisdom gained through life experience. Instead, we have replaced it with the idolization and obsession with youth – staying young and looking young – the ‘constant quest for youth syndrome.’

This is part of the larger problem where we believe all of our value and self-worth lies in the physical and external aspects of life and our world: cars, houses, material possessions and our physical body. The result is misery, depression and self-loathing because we are struggling to achieve and desperately hold onto something which is impossible and over which we have no control – stopping the clock and attaining physical perfection, and; getting sucked down in the quicksand where we can never have enough or be satisfied.

And no matter how young you might look, it doesn’t replace the feeling of emptiness or hopelessness. If you don’t like yourself because you were never loved, you were abused or never given enough time, attention and affection from your parents, changing your body won’t change the way you feel and it won’t compensate for your feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness.

Fortunately, a few celebrities have begun to wake up and have announced their regrets over their plastic and cosmetic surgery procedures – Lisa Rinna, Nicole Kidman, Heidi Montag, Jennifer Grey, Bruce Jenner, Kenny Rogers, Mikey Rourke and Dana Delany. However, most of these celebrities seem to regret the negative result of the procedures (the unnatural look or permanent damage – nerve paralysis, holes in the skin and hernia) more than they regret the actual motivation behind the procedures. Meanwhile, actresses, Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson and Rachel Weisz have united over the issue of plastic surgery, forming “The British Anti-Cosmetic Surgery League”, resolving never to fall prey to the surgeon’s knife and expressing their aversion for this constant quest for youth and the extraordinary stress on older women to try and disguise their age.

This obsession with youth, physical perfection and a youthful body also destroys relationships:

  • Women strive to look perfect (ignoring the real glue of the relationship and what they truly have to offer – love, affection, sensitivity, nurturing, creativity, humor, vulnerability, compassion, tenderness and so forth);
  • Men conclude that it is natural to be attracted to younger and younger women & girls (viewing women as consumable disposable bodies) and;
  • Children are seeking out and having plastic surgery because they believe they are incomplete, flawed or seriously damaged. The result for children and young adults is body image and eating disorders, drug abuse and extreme mental and emotional problems.
  • Friendships are artificial and two-dimensional because selfishness and narcissism prevent meaningful connections and devoted relationships.

Of course, there are many reasons for this phenomenon of a value system based on an external focus – the obsession with the physical and external aspects of life: advertising (the constant message that there is something wrong with you and you need to buy this product to fix it); decay in morality and values (selfishness, greed, narcissism and loss of respect) and; lack of purpose and meaning in life.

Ultimately, we believe that the more wrinkles or gray hair we have the less worthy and lovable we are.

By viewing and valuing youth only as external physical beauty, we have lost sight of the real value and magic of youth, and we are actually robbing ourselves of the potential to find joy, happiness and satisfaction if we were to only choose to hold onto the qualities of youth over which we can control.

So what does youth represent to you?

Physical beauty

  1. Physical energy and vibrancy
  2. Physical health
  3. Mental agility
  4. Adventure and fearlessness
  5. Innocence, sense of wonderment, and excitement for life
  6. Free spirit and freedom of expression
  7. Lack of responsibility
  8. Being nurtured, protected and loved
  9. Endless options and opportunities
  10. Sense of invincibility
  11. Extraordinary friendships and bonds

If we are to begin a quest for youth, then it is truly empowering to focus on the real aspects of youth that gave us such joy and which combined to create a magical time – a time of innocence, freedom and adventure.

If you truly want to stay and feel young, then express the spirit and excitement for life that a child does. Seek to live with fearlessness, courage and passion for life. Enjoy the present moment, express all of your emotions, and live with a free spirit. Recall the power and significance of special friends and friendships. Notice the beauty in everything and everyone – including yourself.

When you choose to live this way, you will feel young in a way that no cosmetic surgery could ever do for you.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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