When I was a teenager, like most people, I was pretty self-conscious of my looks. I thought my nose and teeth were too large and thought I was hideous when I had a pimple or two and my hair was the worst thing imaginable. It didn’t help, of course, that at the time everyone seemed to be straightening their hair until it was flatter than flat could be. Luckily, this was a pretty short phase for me, and most of the time, though I didn’t like certain features, I still thought I was relatively pretty. It’s sad to realize how rare that is, and even sadder to be in my late twenties and know so many people my age who still hate the way they look. I’m lucky to fit in pretty well with current beauty standards and have clear skin and straight teeth (thanks to braces) but I know a lot of people who also fit these arbitrary standards and still aren’t happy with the way they look.
One of the things in Korean culture that I just can’t accept is the strong emphasis on one standard of beauty and all the money, time and effort spent on attaining that, because if you can just look like that ideal, your life will be so much better. Of course, being a foreigner, I’m exempt, in general from these exact standards- they still show a preference, for sure, sometimes a very huge one, but I don’t have to wear make-up, or dress a certain, or fit exactly into a certain Korean standard, because foreigners come with a different set of expectations. So I definitely can’t give a real Korean perspective on this issue, it’s very much a situation of being on the outside looking in.
I had a few conversations with one of my coworkers and was trying to explain why I thought it was bad for Korea girls to be getting plastic surgery on their eyes at such a young age (apparently some get surgery as a middle school graduation present). I told my coworker that when I was that age, I hated my nose and thought it was too big. Before I could explain that I later came to like my face the way it is, long nose and all, she said “You should get nose surgery while you are in Korea! It is very inexpensive and easy!”
Somehow I don’t think I got my point across. My face is not “perfect” or same as what you see on make-up models or on magazine covers, but it’s me. It has character. I don’t want to look like anyone else.
My opinions on this subject were further confirmed by my photos. In Korea, photos, even ID photos, are habitually photoshopped, sometimes so drastically that it may not even really look like the same person! About two years ago my photo was taken for work and it was a lovely photo. The lighting was great, and I’d just gotten a haircut, and it all looked great. Then I got the pictures back and they’d been photoshopped. And it looked like me, but not. It was extremely weird, and I didn’t like it at all! My nose was shortened, my skin was whitened, my chin-dimple was erased, and my smile lines were removed.
My coworkers raved over what a great picture it was. I looked at it and saw my character, humor, and experiences erased. The same thing happened again with my Korean driver’s license photo. I look shiny and plastic and unreal and “perfect” according to a standard that I don’t even care about. In my opinion, looking “perfect” is way overrated. I’d rather look like myself.
Awkward Duck’s face after photoshop
Random unphotophopped, unfiltered selfie vs my Korean driver’s license photo. My nose!