Fretting over one’s physical appearance is a common preoccupation; and this is for good reason, as visual acuity is the primary manner in which humans interact with their external surroundings. Unlike with smell, taste, hearing, and touch[i], our reliance on sight is so profound that without it, and without sufficient aid and acclimation to blindness, we wouldn’t be able to carry out the tasks necessary to survive. Because of this, we[ii] initially judge our external reality on the basis of how it meets our visual standards, and the fact that we don’t accept, discuss, and reflect upon the callous- and at times brutal- nature of human sensory perception generates negative consequences for us, whatever our appearance happens to be.
When we first encounter an object outside of ourselves, our standard reaction is to judge how this external entity pleases our aesthetic biases. The object does not necessarily have to be beautiful (for it could be practical, unassuming, or interesting) and neither does the human being judged have to be beautiful; they could have a kind, non-aggressive comportment, a pleasing style, a mysterious allure, or perhaps a familiar look and disposition. These aspects, regardless of the physical beauty present, can cause us to apply positive attributes to the person, living being, or object.
It is important to note that visual bias is not entirely negative, as instinctive impressions are necessary components to survival. However, our physical judgement becomes problematic when we judge a person solely on their corporal manifestation or from preformed biases and fail to investigate the reasons behind this. This concern is most prevalent in teenagers and young adults, as youth, especially those searching for friends or mates, often struggle to distinguish an individual’s appearance from their personality, causing them to bestow perks upon beauty that are often unwarranted.
Due to these perks, the life of a beautiful person is superficially easier, at least from an external perspective. They receive preferred treatment from others, free products for little work or output, increased preference in career, social, and community organizations, an expansive selection of mates and friends, and the capacity to get away with behavior that would not be tolerated from their less beautiful peers. Therefore, the struggles beautiful people face in fulfilling their basic needs (food, shelter, and social interaction) will be less than someone who doesn’t exhibit the physical aspects deemed beautiful by society[iii]. And it is for this reason that we tend to envy, desire, and resent beauty.
Yet there are adverse consequences to beauty that arise from experiencing an increased ease in life. Physically attractive people, especially those who are attractive in their youth, are not required to develop aspects of themselves necessary to achieving goals and fulfilling needs. They won’t feel as pressured to excel in intellectual, artistic, or entrepreneurial pursuits, to improve upon their flaws, or to cultivate a kind, empathetic personality and deep, loving friendships, as they can easily be forgiven and can find social interaction with increased ease. Therefore, those who identify as ‘average’, ‘homely’, or ‘weird’- especially as teenagers and young adults- can have an edge up on their beautiful peers, as the grind required to find acceptance and a social relevance in the world provides them with the experience and perseverance necessary to cultivate a self-aware, confident, and stable individual. Furthermore, as beauty fades and loses its significance with age, those who were not considered visually appealing in their youth, but nevertheless surpassed the negative consequences of this, garner an internal beauty infinitely more alluring and viable than physical appeal.
The fact that beautiful people will receive perks over non-beautiful people is an inevitable aspect of our visual, social nature. It isn’t something we can eliminate, but it is something we can understand, take notice of, and act in accordance with by understanding our proclivities towards beauty, realizing why so many of us feel insecure in our appearance, and using this information to cultivate a sober, rational perspective of our visual impressions. In any case, if beauty and aging is something you severely struggle with- any person can increase their physical appeal by eating well, sleeping well, exercising, and wearing the right make-up and clothing. This can require a tremendous amount of effort, but not even the genetically gifted are spared the time and grit needed to reach a developed state of beauty.
Life isn’t an even playing field. Some people are born with societally accepted aspects, impeccable beauty, insane wealth and opportunity, adequate nurturing in their formative years, or a passion, proclivity, and drive to succeed. But no matter the playing cards one is given in life, not much can be made with a given hand if the game isn’t practiced and the cards aren’t used wisely. In regards to beauty, even the models and celebrities you compare yourself to would not be as physically alluring without devoting a copious amount of energy into their appearance. Moreover, individuals such as Albert Einstein, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Virginia Wolf, Martin Luther King, or Coco Chanel wouldn’t have created their masterpieces without extreme effort, drive, patience, and resilience.
Unfortunately, most of us are not born into the necessary conditions, are not sufficiently encouraged, or do not realize our potential and strengths at an early enough age to be able to excel in such a manner as the examples above. But it is never too late to sit and quietly reflect on your character and use that knowledge to live a contented, successful, and beautiful life.
[i] I did not include the vestibular system and proprioception in this list, as those senses- although just as necessary to survival as sight- have a deep internal and spatial basis to them. (Furthermore, senses such as intuition and premonition are so complex that I have to further investigate those traits/senses in order to write about their importance to survival.)
[ii] For stylistic purposes, I did not include blind individuals in this we. However, I do acknowledge their existence and the importance of their unique perspective.
[iii] This includes traits other than beauty, such as masculinity, relatively pale skin, a tall and somewhat thin stature, and a healthy, abled body.
No matter the playing cards one is given in life, not much can be made with a given hand if the game isn’t practiced and the cards aren’t used wisely.