The Psychology of Beauty…What’s your take?

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Psychology-of-Beauty

I dislike beauty pageants, and I have often wondered numerous times what exactly the rationale behind them is… I still don’t have an answer! I feel this way because I believe beauty as a trait is subjective and immeasurable. Any attempt to put such in ranks or define them according to social constructs simply does not make any sense to me.

There are diverse ways to look at this subject of beauty, and what I intend to do this is to go a little bit underneath to give you another perspective of viewing things. Realistically, when we meet someone new a first impression is about looks; only later do things such as personality, brains and character start to take on meaning to us.

In today’s world, looks matter and that is why advertising and modelling agencies are strict with their criteria for selection. Some companies even place a premium on hiring very attractive people, and on average they have higher revenues than similar companies which did not. Generally, we have been wired to recognize beauty and differentiate between different levels of attractiveness due to how heavily the reward circuits in the brain fire.

There are certain assumptions and misconceptions we make when we encounter very attractive individuals. I remember in my teenage years, one of my aunties said something along the lines of ‘you should stay away from attractive men when you get older because the whole world would date him with you’. This is wrong because infidelity has nothing to do with looks; rather it is a defect in character (self-control issue). In the same way too, most people believe that beautiful women have it better and get away with things ordinary people can’t. This is somewhat true as most beautiful women may get more smiles, more compliments and a host of preferential treatments, but this is not the case for all. Where this becomes a problem is when the society can barely distinguish if one is truly deserving of an accomplishment based on the virtue of one’s ability, or just good looks. Conventional wisdom says it is rare for you to find a combination of beauty and brains; it also makes a generic assumption that all blondes are dumb.

This brings me to the question, ‘Are beautiful women taken seriously?’ According to research, when both women and men look at gorgeous women’s success, they instantly accredit it to their looks and not any talents or brains they may possess. In most cases, chances are she’ll be taken more seriously by a male, but not many of them. Essentially, the most difficult thing for these types of women is the social rejection they encounter from members of the same sex. As listed in the top ten things that make a woman threatening to other women, the number one on the list is beauty. Whether this is true or not, some women perceive ‘the beautiful woman’ as a threat to steal their man away. Therefore, they may not trust their spouse/boyfriend/lover in the presence of such women, and simply prefer to reject her instead.

Another side to this subject can be summarised by these two words ‘pretty hurts’. I started fixing weave around the age of 9/10, and I remember my mum’s hairdresser constantly reminding of these words every time I tried to complain. There is a lot of pressure to keep up all appearances, which could lead to a certain obsessiveness to be perfect and flawless at all times and rightly as Beyoncé put it, ‘it is the soul that needs a surgery’. We cannot always assume that beauty equates confidence or a good self-esteem, rather low self-esteem is more common in beautiful women than you would expect.

Some women just don’t believe they are attractive. Their mindset has been skewed and they have a distorted self-image, so they don’t believe others who tell them how stunning they are. While some are dependent on the reaction of others to help them define who they are (i.e. they only see themselves as beautiful just because the society says so). This type of woman may begin to see herself as someone with no talent, no intellect — no redeeming qualities other than her looks. Therein lies my issues with pageantry.

As with everything in life, there are good and bad sides to everything and beauty is not excluded from the list. You may think that those lucky enough to have it are the equivalent of genetic lottery winners. I say… NO, all that glitters is not… beautiful. There is a kind of beauty of the physical, which may or may not last and there is another of the soul which transcends into the physical. Ever met an individual with a striking personality and all you can think about is how epic they are? There is a certain kind of endearment you will feel for them which is totally unrelated to how they look. On the other hand, there are those with extremely repulsive personalities which make the whole essence of their beauty a total waste. Beauty is an asset, just like any other physical prowess and the most important thing about such is how you use it as opposed to being defined by it. It is O.K to be pretty, it is O.K to want to look good but never forget that you are an individual first before anything. Define your beauty; do not let the society put you in a box because looks are just a minute fraction of who you are.

These are things I want to teach my daughters and I wish every woman does. That YOU MATTER, regardless of how you look. Things may happen differently for most beautiful women, but not necessarily better. So next time you see a stunning woman…. enjoy the view, compliment her, but never make judgments or assumptions simply because she is beautiful.

Photo Credit: nigeriafilms.com

About author

Kemi Wale-Olaitan

Kemi is a retired broadcaster from the service of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria; while in service, she had her interest in women issues and had interviews with several notable women in the course of her duty as a producer in the service of the Federal government. Her interest in broadcasting was informed by her creative writing prowess; she has been very active in creative writing since her undergraduate days, and she has written a few fictional works in form of short stories and novel. Some of her short stories have appeared in anthologies of Short stories. Kemi was also very active in the establishment of the Women Writers Association of Nigeria (WRITA) and she served on its first Executive Council.

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