I know someone very beautiful. Her name’s Anna.
If I am ever with Anna in public, I am aware of faces turned in our direction, mainly male, like sunflowers to the sun. I know that sometimes attention verges on aggressive – wolf-whistles and calls. Or one time, we were introduced to someone, a woman, and the very first thing this woman said to Anna was ‘You are beautiful.’
I’m not close enough with Anna to ever discuss how she feels about this attention. And I am not necessarily saying we should feel sorry for her; I suspect her experience of her beauty is a mixed bag. She likes to dress well, which surely makes a difference to the quantity/type of attention you get (here’s where I sit on this issue). So in some ways, yes, she does want people’s admiration but it is in quite an innocent way; she just wants to be accepted and liked. She isn’t quite equipped to cope with these full-on responses. Maybe her beauty is difficult to live up to and adds extra pressure.
So many of us wish we looked different. These thoughts linger in the back of our minds, in our every conscious moment, forming part of low-level daily suffering (#ThePowerofNow – Eckhart Tolle). We might see photos of ourselves sometimes and hate what we see – no chin, big nose, hunchback, flat chest, stumpy legs (etc.). It seems to us that if we were more beautiful, we would be free of these feelings. We would be happy.
But would we? Beauty might certainly make it easier for you to get a partner but once you’ve found that person, it’s done and dusted! And being admired can give you a buzz but that’s not happiness – it’s nourishment of the ego; the empty kick of narcissism.
Like Anna, not everyone beautiful has a personality that ‘lives up’ to their beauty. And even the most stunning people can be plagued by profoundly negative feelings about the way they look. So beauty itself is no remedy.
What is the cause of our suffering?
We believe that looks matter more than the value of personality. This is a falsehood; a worldview misaligned with reality, and so we suffer.
This misguided belief also leaves us victims of the system, rather than proprietors of our world. Indeed, how can anyone ever feel good enough? Happiness comes from having a positive sense of the self – from what we give, not what we get.
The significance of personality
There is evidence all around us for the fact that inner beauty is more meaningful and fulfilling than outer beauty. For instance, you can think you find someone beautiful but if you discover that their personality isn’t ‘beautiful’, or simply not very interesting, you suddenly become immune. You cannot see that beauty anymore. Compare this with getting to know someone who is very interesting and fun. You might have first found them distinctly unattractive but then suddenly you want nothing more than to be close to them.
Similarly, many relationships are based on looks but for any relationship to be successful/happy over time, two people must build a respectful and supportive companionship. This creates a deeper connection and maintains a sense of curiosity.
So try to notice when you make yourself feel bad about your appearance. Try to notice your reaction when you see someone beautiful. Then think again: you are alive and you only have one life. Value yourself for who you are and value others because of who they are. And when you are stopped in your tracks by a beautiful stranger, don’t be miserable. Don’t think of the folds of fat on your midriff; think of all the things you bring to others and the reasons they love you. And remember to remain impartial; you have not seen enough of that person to know the slightest thing about what it’s like to be them or why they matter.