Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder.
“You’re such a pretty little girl.”
It’s probably the number one thing young girls get told, regardless of whether they’re actually beautiful or just look pretty in a cute puppy kind of way. It’s the start of a never-ending stream of commentary about our looks that follows us around for the rest of our life.
And perhaps the most over-used statement we hear when it comes to our appearances, is that ‘beauty lies in the eye of the beholder’. But here’s the thing: beauty isn’t subjective.
A study by the University of Texas revealed that in fact we’re remarkably consistent in our determination of who’s attractive and who isn’t, both within and across cultures. Plastic surgeon Dr Stephen Marquardt famously went further to postulate this determination can be made by applying the mathematical principles of ‘the golden ratio’, a series of measurements examining facial symmetry and harmony. The more precisely a person’s face fits these measurements (read: the more balanced and symmetrical they look), the more likely they are to be deemed attractive.
This finding is easily backed up when looking at advertisements and magazine covers. It’s pretty clear that beauty is very well defined in our society, and usually involves a perfectly-proportioned, thin body, shiny hair, flawless skin, defined cheekbones and voluptuous lips. How many of us are blessed with all of those assets? Not many. And yet, we’re constantly told that we’re all beautiful. Well, we’re not. And the sooner we accept most of us don’t check off the criteria for that title, the less disappointed we’ll be once arriving at the inevitable conclusion that life isn’t fair.
Who are we trying to fool when saying we all have equal opportunities to get ahead, and that hard work always pays off? We have to be more realistic than that, and research proves it. A 2011 study showed that beautiful people not only earn three to four per cent more than people with below average looks, they also get promoted more often, and get to enjoy more perks in their jobs.
If you don’t believe in statistics, just think about your own experience with friends who are better looking than you. I have one of those supermodel-type girlfriends, and while I love her to death, hanging out with her is seriously challenging to my self-confidence. When we’re at a bar, she never has to pay for anything as there are always guys more than happy to shout her a drink, while I pretend not to be offended when they offer me a pity-drink once they notice me next to her (if they notice me at all).
While I’ve accepted I’m not as beautiful as her and will never be, a lot of other women in similar situations might just try harder to match up, whether by buying new clothes, wearing more makeup, or even dipping their toe into a little plastic surgery.
In 2014, women had more than 17 million cosmetic procedures performed in an effort to improve upon what we were born with, the most popular surgeries being breast augmentations and liposuction – both linked to features considered universally attractive on a woman (full breasts and a slim physique).
Our growing obsession with happiness and self-acceptance isn’t just getting out of hand, it’s way too focused on external beauty. I hate to burst your bubble, but having a higher self-esteem as a result of liking the way you look isn’t necessarily going to be life-changing. In a study published in the American Psychological Society, researchers found there was no correlation between students with high self-esteem and improved academic performance. Instead, the study showed that success was never the result of self-esteem, rather, self-esteem was the result of success.
By believing the omnipresent and supposedly mood-boosting mantras like “beauty comes in all shapes and sizes“, we are setting ourselves up for failure. Just imagine all the things you could have achieved in the time you’ve spent trying to fix your physical appearance. We need to stop thinking that things like contouring, injectibles and shape wear will make us feel as beautiful as we supposedly truly already are, and instead understand that we don’t have to be beautiful at all. It’s that simple.
Just think about it; how many times have you looked in the mirror today and ‘fixed’ something about yourself in order to look better? Does it really make you a better person if you look a certain way? It’s hard to change our mindset about beauty, but it is absolutely necessary and extremely liberating to acknowledge there’s so much more to life than our looks.
As for the other stuff, stop kidding yourself. A new pair of boobs and a spray tan are unlikely to make you classify as attractive if you’re like the 99 per cent of people on this earth who weren’t born conventionally beautiful to start with. So rather than trying to change it, or convincing your friends, daughters and colleagues they’re beautiful too, accept that you’re all probably not, and that’s okay. Because at the end of the day, the only thing that should really matter to any of us, is our internal beauty, and cultivating that is a lifelong journey.
Image via youtube.com.
Comment: Do you tell other women you think they’re beautiful, even when they’re not?
Nadine is a beauty writer who's always on the hunt for the perfect nude lipstick and the best Instagram filter. She has a weakness for handbags and never says no to a cup of strong coffee. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.