-- a universal concern
A desire to appear attractive is universal; it permeates all cultures and peoples, and stretches from the past to the present. Throughout history, both men and women have gone to great lengths to become more attractive. In all parts of the world, people take many different measures to beautify themselves. Even move, the animal world also exhibits the desire to be attractive. Male birds of paradise, with their brilliant hues, contrast sharply with the females. Male peacocks have stunning tail-feathers that are obviously used to attract females as well.
Although it is true that a subgroup of all peoples have expended great sums of money and energy to put themselves through a great deal of usually self-imposed tribulation and suffering, it is easy to discern the different perceptions of beauty held by various groups. These perceptions vary greatly abetween groups, which are demarcated by class, cultural, geographical, chronological, and religious borders, to name a few. What may be considered very attractive by one group may even be seen as repulsive in another. The gangster with tattoos all over his body, clothed in attire that is much too large, with rings in all the most unexpected places, and sporting an outrageous hairdo, considers himself very attractive indeed. Yet, so do the tall, smartly dressed businesspersons with their suit, tie, and white handkerchief. Men and women of the Victorian era, when women's ankles were not even permitted to be exposed, would surely be shocked at the revealing outfits that have been donned by members of today's society. In other words, one's perception of beauty is greatly influenced by the surrounding environment and the social groups to which he belongs. Yet, whatever one's perception of beauty, one thing is the same. This is that all have taken great pains about their appearance.
Why are good appearances so important to people?
People tend to make initial judgments by first impressions that are usually based on appearances to a great extent. These initial judgments are doubtlessly very important in many types of social, business, and other relationships. Moreover, it is much easier for an attractive person to be socially active. He or she is usually perceived as more pleasant, which makes it easier for him or her to approach others. Besides, some careers, such as models, actors or actresses, television anchors, and salespersons rely to a significant extent on their outward appearances. They must do their best to please the audience, draw attention, or make a sale.
The following three experiments done by the television news magazine 20/20 illustrate the difference that appearances can have in one's everyday life, regardless of whether one is an actress, model, salesperson, or garbageman.
In an experiment with third graders, after having been taught by two teachers varying only in attractiveness, the students consistently rated the more attractive teacher as smarter, more patient, more experienced and more knowledgeable. Right now, readers may be thinking, "Such shallow behavior is to be expected of a third grader. Grown-ups are mature and are not so arbitrary."
Yet, even when one grows up, this shallow behavior does not change. In a second experiment, two actors were hired to apply for a job. Both were equally competent, and similar in all manners except their appearances. The more attractive man was hired on the spot, while the less attractive applicant was very nearly ignored altogether.
Even more definitive is the third and last experiment -- car problems. Two actresses were hired to pretend to have car problems. They both stood at the same place, at the same time of day, with the same problem. The more attractive actress had four men pull over in 10n minutes, while the less attractive actress did not receive help for over two hours.
For those that are resolved to change their appearance, and wish to gain advantages such as those cited above, no amount of money is too great to expend, and no pain is too great to be endured. A vast array of services and products ranging in price from the economical to the exorbitant are available to cater to the demands of aspiring beauties. Procedures such as tanning, tattooing, plastic surgery, implants, body-piercing, liposuction are all available. Yet, it seems that some people are now placing an excessive amount of emphasis on their appearances, and are overdoing the changes.
However, although appearances can get one "in the front door," so to speak, they cannot be the sustaining part of jobs or social relationships. This is because the extremes of beauty or ugliness are all mediated by the eye over time. On the contrary, one's spiritual beauty is perpetually realized by the heart and is instrumental in lasting relationships. For example, Beethoven was notoriously ugly and deaf, and it was said that he had a particular body odor that was not very pleasant. Yet, this did not stop the inner person from showing through -- the genius who created the magnificent music that not only lives on through the centuries, but is also said by many to be some of the best ever written. Just as interesting is the example of Aesop. He is famous for his fables, but is also notorious for being very ugly. Yet, his inner wisdom and beauty made his master to free him from his slave status, and he traveled throughout Europe, visiting many courts of rulers to spread the fables that are so wise.
In conclusion, people should put what seems to be their endless effort used to improve their external appearance to work elevating their spiritual beauty. May we all be as wise as Aesop, and learn to balance both appearances and inner worth to make ourselves more beautiful overall.
"Aesop." Grolier's Electronic Encyclopedia. 1993.
Coon, Dennis. Essentials of Psychology: Exploration and Application. 5th ed. Los Angeles. West Pub. 1991
Robertson, Ian. Sociology. 3rd ed. New York: Worth, 1987.