Looks Matter

External beauty influences your personality as well as others' perception of you

GirlEvery year, a number of beauty pageants ranging from Miss Universe to local beauty contests manage to capture the interests of many youngsters. It is not only a step towards achieving their dreams but is also recognition of their looks. Beauty is that master key which opens the entrance to a future filled with luck, money and love. Happiness seems to follow the perfect body in a world where shape of the body shapes destinies.

The concept of beauty spans philosophy, biology, psychology, and culture. Limitless examples of beauty products, wonder drugs and bodies that willingly go under the knife send us a message: the emphasis on looks is extraordinarily powerful.

The appeal of beauty begins in infancy. One of the parameters of beauty is symmetry and babies are known to respond better to symmetrical faces. A study by behavioural scientists found that women who made love to handsome men reached orgasm in 75 per cent of the instances while others had them only 30 per cent of the time. The attractive man was more likely to have his ejaculation at the same time his female partner was having her orgasm. So, according to this study, symmetry and physical beauty also meant better chances of reproduction.

Good-looking people are considered to be full of vigour, health and positive energy. Psychologists call it a "Halo effect", which means that when we consider a person good in one category, we are likely to make a similar evaluation in other categories. The "Devil effect" is just the opposite where we automatically blacklist unappealing faces. For us, those attractive are intrinsically good and the unattractive, inherently bad.

Studies show that attractive people get a lower bail for crimes, are helped more in emergencies, are more likely to be celebrities and have higher incomes.

Aristotle believed that "Beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of introduction." Says Dr Carolyn Chambers Clark, author of Living Well With Anxiety, to Complete Wellbeing, "It's true that in a society that values beauty and youth, beautiful young people do have an advantage over the others."

The "beautiful-is-good" stereotype means that across the cultures, beautiful people are assumed to be more sociable and well-adjusted. Research shows that while an individualistic society like the US further assumes they are independent, assertive and self-reliant, a collectivist society like Korea assumes they have integrity, generosity and concern for others.

Our perceptions of beauty are heavily based on cultural stereotypes. Psychologist Preeti Nagaraj explains, "People don't share the same beliefs in life. So, considering the law of averages, it is definitely true that people differ in the way they view even beauty and the various aspects of it."

However, does this mean that beautiful people are more likely to have higher self-esteem and never suffer from looks-related anxiety?

Clark says, "Beautiful people are not always confident and don't always have high self-esteem. They are often aware that others judge them only on their looks and so may lack confidence. This can lead to performance anxiety in areas they're not competent in. Such reactions can be fired by the fact that they've leaned heavily on their looks to get them through life, and never learned communication skills, or studied hard in school, so they can be at a disadvantage when those traits are important."

Despite the unfair advantage that the beautiful of the world have enjoyed for centuries, today, studies show there is growing awareness that not all great wrappers contain great goodies - better still, not all good things in life come wrapped in great packages.

Points to Ponder

Beware of illusions

What we see in media is the result of an entire team of hair and make-up artists and photographers working hard to create a dream. We need to realise this.

Clothes

The style, colours and fabric of our clothes sends out strong signals. Dressing right influences our self-esteem, confidence and success. And confident, successful people are attractive.

Manipulate

Most of us are born with average looks, which can be enhanced. Beauty aids and accessories conceal imperfections, highlight assets and create an optical illusion.

Hair, piercings, and tattoos

Would you consult a surgeon with hair streaked in pink and green? A psychiatrist with a pierced tongue? Or a life coach with 'Bitch' tattooed on his arm? Looks matter!

Personal hygiene

Animal magnetism doesn't mean jungle breath. Further put-offs include dirty finger nails, brown teeth, picking of nose and so on.

Body language

It accounts for 55 per cent of communication, voice tone for 38 per cent and the actual words only seven per cent. Confident, subtle, sexy.What's your style?

Facial expressions

If you don't play poker, don't be deadpan. Lip licking, tightening of the jaw, eyes that blink too often, and unconscious expressions mar your looks.

Beauty and the brains

Beauty is brain deep. For a lot of men and women, intelligent is sexy. Bimbos do go out of style after a while.

Overall personality

Traits of personality such as sense of humour, creativity, passion, honesty, grace and goodness have an impact over whether you are perceived beautiful or otherwise.

Reinventing yourself

Surprise yourself and people with the unexplored part of you. Go for a change, an entirely new persona. A reinvented look is always interesting.

Feeling good

When you feel good, it shows. When you feel terrible, it's tough to look good.

Being you

Trying to be somebody else is a struggle. Sometimes you are beautiful because you are you!

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