During my commute to Manhattan on the Express Bus one morning, I had the company and pleasure of reading the March issue of Allure magazine. I began by reading the Letter from the Editor Linda Wells and stumped upon this striking catch phrase, the “pursuit of beauty”. Linda explains this phenomenon to be much like the pursuit of the American Dream. It is “a right to determine and improve our essential selves, psychologically and physically…that transcends gender, class, race, age and sexual orientation.” I thought to myself, “this is so true!” What person today does not want to be and feel beautiful? There is no doubt, that we as human beings are acutely sensitive to our physical appearances and will do anything to gain or to maintain our personal beauty. Our insatiable need for all things “beauty” proves that we are all in full pursuit and unapologetically so.
According to dictionary.com beauty is “the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or gives deep satisfaction to the mind.” This emotional bond to pleasure explains why beauty plays such a significant part in our lives. We can’t help ourselves in the presence of things or persons that call to our sensibilities. Physical beauty, though a matter of taste and opinion is also characterized by society’s views. In most cultures, the existence of symmetry or balance is a determining factor of beauty because it suggests the absence of “flaws” or “defects”. Facial balance, complexion, body shape and size, as well as youthfulness are all standardizations of beauty. The characterization of beauty however, cannot be understood without also realizing that beauty has another side to it – One that is not so physical, but rather metaphysical (a more intangible element ). We cannot necessarily see or touch it, yet its presence is undeniable. With that being said, we cannot exclude psychological factors such as personality, intelligence, politeness, elegance or charisma as determining factors in recognizing beauty.
As I researched more into this beauty craze, I stumbled upon some very interesting findings. To my surprise, (ok maybe not so surprised) researchers have found that possessing physical attractiveness can be quite influential in a persons life. Someone who is considered to be beautiful is likely to get higher grades, receive better care from their doctors, receive lighter prison sentences and earn more money. As if we don’t have enough problems in the world today, now we know that uncontrollable factors like our God-given beauty or “lack thereof”, is just another social barrier to add to our list. Whether we acknowledge it or not, and whether we do this consciously or unconsciously, this type of “lookism” has plagued our society for years and can shed some light on the depth of shallowness that exists in our world today.
This daunting truth certainly affects how we perceive ourselves as well as others. The images we see on tv also determine what we consider to be beautiful and is the driving force towards this search for perfection. We spend thousands of dollars and insurmountable time shopping online or at the malls, purchasing all sorts of beauty products, making nail, hair, facial and botox appointments, reading fashion magazines and taking particular note of what our favorite celebrities are wearing, doing and using to stay slim, youthful and yes, beautiful.