Define Beauty Standards: Survey & Interviews

Part of this research project that analyses the effects of beauty standards and societal norms of what “beautiful” means on people between the ages of 16 and 50.

Questions include:

The exploration into the pressures of beauty standards

  1. What is your gender?
  2. What is your age?
  3. Do you think beauty standards exist in society today?
  4. Do you feel pressure from media to look a certain way? If yes, why?
  5. If you answered yes to the previous question, what media formats influence your idea of the ‘ideal’ man/woman?
  6. Do you think beauty standards enforced by the media are something to aspire to? Explain your answer.
  7. How has the media affected your self-confidence in regards to broadcasting images of the ‘ideal look’?
  8. Have you ever considered undergoing plastic surgery or any other treatment to change your imperfections? (If yes, please specify the motives and the procedures. Otherwise, skip this question.)

Below are some other responses gathered from casual chats and interviews, as well as my analysis of some of the responses:

  1. How do you define beauty?

A good-looking face, fit body and a beautiful personality (?) (the interviewer was  a little uncertain)

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder….it is subjective yet at the same time there are certain things people find beautiful as a whole. Many people find celebrities “beautiful”. Other things like sceneries and classic paintings are also considered beautiful by many. Furthermore music, tastes and smells can also be considered beautiful. “Beautiful” I’d define as a deeply intense yet tender reaction to empirical information. It is when our senses our pleased to the point of something elevated beyond our regular world.

A lovely essence, smell. I think you need to have a connection to something for it to really become beautiful. It’s like perfume you have personal attachments with You can see someone who is pretty but it is only when you connect with their personality or character that they truly become beautiful (…or not) (This interviewer was also uncertain)

Beauty is just a characteristic of a person. It could be the looks of a person but it could also be their personality.

Beauty is something that is truly defined by inner beauty. Outer beauty does exist, but the inner beauty is what really matters.

Someone who is pretty (which is also very personal, the interviewer added)

Confidence and the way someone feels in their body

How others look at you and what they see.

I think a well-maintained hairstyle? This could be put in a lot effort and who’s able to maintain the good look on a daily basis he/she must be very determined.

Being able to have confidence in everything that you do, and being pretty of course

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is  also the rare moments when despite all of the ugliness in the world, there seems to be happiness and purity about something or someone that makes all the bad things worthwhile. These responses make it clear to see that beauty is no longer solely about being beautiful mentally, but also many people define it as what they see in the media about the first impact: being slim and fit, having a pretty face, and being “perfect”. 

These responses exemplify the influence that the media and magazines have on our perceptions of beauty. Although the influence of the media is heavy, many people still base their perceptions of beauty on that of inner beauty, as opposed to outer beauty.

2. Do you consider yourself beautiful?

Sometimes. On my good days…I think self beauty comes from mood more than anything. If you are happy with yourself you look more beautiful to yourself in the mirror…rather than more objective things like how your hair looks.

Yes i do. i know i’m beautiful on the inside, but its sometimes hard to know i am on the outside also. 

No. I tend to see only the imperfections about myself.

Sometimes. My Self Image varies.

Sometimes.. when I have a good effort with nice makeup on. Or when I’m healthier and fitter comparing to the old self.

I do… only from others comments. Though I do think I am beautiful but I could never be satisfied with how I look.

There was a wide varieties of responses to this question. The majority of people felt as although they were beautiful “sometimes” but not beautiful in terms of what has the media been influencing or delivering as beautiful. 

3. Do you compare yourself to models, celebrities, KOLs on social media and in magazines?

 I try not to, but yes! every girl does at some point.


Yes… I Have some KOL as role models for my hair makeup and outfit inspiration.

Yes. I try not to be touched by it, but I always find myself comparing to those instagram famous girls or Youtubers.

Yeahhhh.. It’s hard not to when the media portrays this flawless and perfect image of women. And men, too.

I would be lying if I said no completely but I realised that celebs are photoshopped most of times or have had hours upon hours of work done with professional stylists and makeup artists so I wouldn’t  be disappointed at myself for not looking like them.

Sometimes…but I think we all have to realise that they are celebrities or insta famous for a reason. No matter how much make up we put on, how much time we spend on our hair or how much we diet and work out..It is extremely hard to look like them. They are airbrushed and made to look “desirable” or “perfect”. However beauty isn’t always measured that way. 

Again, the above answers (including my own thoughts) are very much related to “how beauty is defined”. It is inevitable to compare oneself with who you think is ‘beautiful’ but it is also unhealthy if this makes oneself uncertain and question about their own beauty. 

4. Do you think your life would be “better” if you better fit your definition of beauty?

My life wouldn’t necessarily change, or be better, but I would be happier and less self-conscious.

Yes, I do feel that if I changed part of my appearance that I don’t like I would feel better. For example loosing a bit of weight would definitely boost my confidence. I know people should feel they are beautiful no matter what however the whole society is obsessed and overwhelmed with the whole perfect look kind of stuff.

 I wish I could forget about the models and the whole social media stuff, beauty as something unique would make everyone’s life better, they wouldn’t be focusing on the standard look stuff.

Not necessarily better, but i would feel better about myself and perhaps spending less time getting ready. Perhaps I would also be happier about group photos? I don’t know really ….

Almost every response to this question was positive. Making it evident that most of the times the media might have negative effects on self-confidence, specially there might be psychological tricks on the images they see is how they should look like.  

5. If you had the option to undergo plastic surgery to “correct” a part of your body, would you go through with it? Why?

Yes I might consider, only after enough research and after I fully understand the risks in it. 


NEVER! You’ve got to embrace who you are. Changing one aspect of your physicality will not alter your perception of yourself in the long term. You will always find something “imperfect”.

I had this struggle as a teen. I was upset and got teased about my big nose and hoped to have had surgery to alter it. But then i thought to myself, I am beautiful the way i am, why change for other people?

I don’t think people should totally against having surgery done. I think the most important thing about beauty is comfort, and if this will help you feel more comfortable in your own way or, to the ‘standard’ you’d like to approach then why not? it’s a personal choice.

Yes, I don’t mind, and I had minor surgeries done too. The change and confident gave me afterwards definitely worth the pain. However I have been telling myself to gaze at this sensibly. There are people who sunk into this unhealthy aesthetic appreciation and try to approach everything via surgery. I wouldn’t encourage people around me to get surgery done though. There are risks more or less in every single surgery, people need to have a fully understanding on what surgeries really are and what risks they may face.

Yes I would. I feel so insecure about one particular part of body and having it “fixed” would mean I wouldn’t need to worry about it anymore.

I would because sometimes the pressure to be the “ideal women” or have the “ideal body” is too great.

Interviewees who answered this section were mostly female, ages between 21-30. Younger teens around 18-20 year olds tend to change their ‘Ideal Looks’ now and then therefore the database was not convincing enough (followed up with 4 interviewees who are at their teens changed answers within 2 weeks). Besides, legal age for plastic surgeries in most countries varies between 18-21. Male and female (35y+) weren’t too willing to speak about it. In general, it seems female ages between 21-30 are more open with changing aspects of their features through plastic surgery.

6. How does one become content with their appearance?

Realising your own advantages is more important than anything else. Be happy with how you look, other people’s opinions wouldn’t matter that much after all.

It would be easier if you recognised your flaws at first. No one is flawless. And no one could ever be 100% satisfied with how they look. 

Learn to compromise with your inner self, it’s a long procedure.

It is a mindset. I think once one does not compare themselves to others it’s easier for them to be confident in their appearance and in who they are as a person. Everyone is beautiful in a certain way. One needs to realise their own beauty, both physical and metaphysical.

Confidence..raise your own confidence…I suppose we are more or less tend to be more harsh on ourselves. Perhaps working on our outer beauty is indeed important, however such beauty alone wouldn’t necessarily making you feel beautiful and confidence over all. 

We all tend to be quite harsh on ourselves, learning to love your own flaws would make life so much easier

There are people including myself who would never become content with my own appearance. There are always ways to approach the ‘ideal beauty’. Though the so called “ideal beauty” is constantly changing. However no one is flawless, compromising and realising beauty in a different way might be the key.

7. Do you edit photos of yourself before posting them online? If so, why?

I used to, but not anymore. it made me feel better about myself, worried about how many “likes” I’d get. Now it’s more like I would rather save the efforts, no matter how much people like my pictures.

Yeah pretty much every single time. It makes me feel prettier, and definitely boosted more confidence. I often feel not good enough. I don’t wanna disappoint my fans – though there aren’t many. Still, I do hope I’d look like how I photoshopped.

Yes I used to and still do sometimes, but as there are lots of selfie apps available out there I don’t think it’s necessary to do so.

Very very rarely, if I do ever edit them, it’ll be photos of me and my girlfriend together and she’s the one who edits.

Does filters count? If so yes, and I do crop photos though, easy and fast.

No, I rarely take selfies.

Sometimes because I want to look good on social media? Even just dark circles. 

Nope. I generally don’t post photos of myself, but when I do, I figure there’s no point pretending to look different from how I actually do.

Sometimes I whiten my teeth maybe? 

Nopeeee. my flaws are what make me ME!

Here and there. I think people do it because they see themselves one way in the mirror and then they see themselves in photos and these are not exactly what they expected to see.

There’s nothing wrong with having blemishes and not every single person should look alike. Photos can distort the way you look, it all depends on angles and lighting. Social media image is perhaps something that people consider the most. How could I develop my ideas further in order to help people realise it is okay to be flaw?

8. Do you think the media showcases women in a negative or derogatory light? Please explain.

I personally think the media has a very specific idea of female beauty which is incredibly narrow-minded: skinny/fit , perfect skin, perfect hair. It’s frustrating that this is the image that we are bombarded with because beauty is so much more beyond that. It’s hard to come to that understanding when you are younger and these are the only images that you are exposed to. Because the “beauty” of the women we see in magazines or ads or social media is only physical and we don’t know who they really are besides what we see, beauty itself is objectified. Beauty becomes a set of features, a guideline or manual, when really beauty is incredibly variable and there is no single definition.

In a way, yes. The media tend to deliver the message that girls should dress or to look in a certain way. However there are a lot of powerful, inspirational women out there who would also be great role models.

Yes and no… we shouldn’t define beauty in a way that media define it. It is a personal taste, it is all about what you want to achieve and who you want to be. 

Yes (derogatory) because they only showcase what makes us a ‘woman’. e.g. good features, nice nose, long legs, waists etc.

High fashion models are generally underweight which is super unhealthy. But I think the society is gradually accepting diversification. But the majority are sending messages for a “better look” which is not necessarily a healthy look. I know staying healthy is more important than anything, but I’m pretty confident that I could still be healthy even without being able to fit in a size Small.

Almost Every single participant agreed that the media showcases women in a negative light or delivering messages which doesn’t help being confident as who they are. I realised people tend to share the best of themselves on social media, which leads back to  question 5 and 7; Is there anything wrong with how people look as how they are? Not everyone needs to be a model or celebrity; there is so much more beyond that. Is it ethical for media to negatively influence people (women specially) thus affecting them psychologically?

9. Do you ever feel pressure to look a certain way? Please explain.

Always; I care a lot how I look on photos. Girls around me always feel that they need to look ‘perfect’ as presented on TV, movies, magazines and influencers on instagram. I mean not perfect in every single way, but at least I don’t feel comfortable out without any makeup, or bad hair.

Yes. Magazines and movies only use beautiful look actresses as female leads, and they are used to portray roles like students, daughters as how they should look. And we start to believe that is what we are supposed to look like.

Yes and no. I think women worry more with how they look, but don’t forget us men also has this masculine look judgement to worry about. We get told we should look masculine however what, you might get teased with what perfume you wear and you are not ‘manly’ if you tried to cover up your acnes… I mean it is hard to look good and without trying at the same time.

Yeah definitely I always feel like I need to be a certain size, wear make-up and wear certain types of clothes when I’m out. Social pressure is huge.. and we all want to be “popular” and “desirable”. However other aspects of success in life does make you look better or makes you care less.

I do feel pressure, but i don’t give into pressure.

As much as people try to accept who they are and be confident, it is very hard in the society so preoccupied by beauty. There is nothing wrong with aesthetic appreciation and there is definitely nothing wrong with dressing up to look good so that people feel better with themselves. But where does this boundary lie? How hard should we try to look good without feeling to0 much pressured to approach to the ‘ideal look’?