(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Portola High School

Opinion: How quarantine influenced attitudes on physical appearance

Let’s rewind a few months back to March 2020 — the start of quarantine. On March 13, schools around the country announced that they would be closing due to COVID-19. To help protect ourselves and our communities, we settled into a new normal. 

Instead of spending days at school or interacting with friends and teachers, sitting in front of computers for hours participating in Emergency Distance Learning became the daily routine for many students. 

Although this time was used for all kinds of hobbies from binge-watching Netflix to baking banana bread, many — especially teenagers — found themselves struggling with the lack of social interaction. 

For Portola High School junior Natalie Ho, it became difficult not to fixate on her own appearance.

“Since quarantine started it always felt like my physical appearance was changing every hour and it was out of my control,” Ho said. “I think having so much more time to myself and with myself made me a lot more perceptive to small details, whether or not they actually came about during quarantine.” 

Ho was not alone in her concerns. Numerous videos on the social media platform TikTok arose of teenagers discussing their body image issues. Some took to exercise as YouTuber Chloe Ting’s workout videos became popular on TikTok.

“I started working out with Chloe Ting’s videos because it seemed like everyone was doing it,” Portola High School senior Kayla Nguyen said. “With all of this extra time, I wanted to feel like I was doing something productive even though at times this stemmed from a negative body image.”

While many similarly looked to exercise for feelings of productivity, there are issues with this mindset so focused on “doing something with your time.” 

“I do think that it’s harmful to imply that you absolutely need to use this time to transform yourself and your body, or to be productive,” Portola High School senior Kelthie Truong said. “This pandemic is taking almost everybody out of their normal routines and I don’t think there’s a need to make people feel guilty for being less active than they usually are.” 

COVID-19 has affected every single person regardless of age, gender or nationality. In the face of an unprecedented crisis, feelings of guilt and worry are easy to arise. However, as we all continue to get through this together, maybe we can all agree to be a bit kinder to ourselves.