IT comes as no surprise that people often view the pursuit of beauty as a frivolous activity undertaken by those who have nothing worthwhile to do with their time.
People denounce beauty as a virtue, pronounce it shallow, undeserving of serious consideration or merit. After all, what purpose does beauty serve, except perhaps to fulfil baser goals of feeding our egos and vanity?
The dating game
“A thing of beauty, be it a person or a work of art, has a very real, measurable and positive impact on the beholder. From an evolutionary point of view, beauty is an indicator of good health and good genes, and it is what attracts us to a mate,” explains Dr. Jwala Narayanan, Consultant Neuropsychologist, Manipal Hospital. Referencing Prof Semir Zeki’s work on neuroaesthetics to explain the impact beauty has on the brain, Jwala explains that looking at something beautiful lights up or increases blood flow to the medial orbit frontal cortex, the region associated with pleasure and reward. “On the other hand, when you look at something ugly, the amygdala lights up, an area associated with fear or anger. This is why we shun what is aesthetically displeasing.”
So if you are drawn towards the prettiest girl in the room, you’re not shallow, you’re just following your basic instinct!
It pays to be attractive. Not only can your beauty help you land a date, studies indicate it can also help you land a job. According to a recent Newsweek survey, on a scale of 1 to 10, looks ranked as the third most important aspect recruiters look at when hiring someone. HR professionals do try to keep these biases aside when hiring, but agree with the findings. “Good looking people do better professionally because they generally possess the confidence to aim higher,” feels Shalini Kandhari, Principal, Boyden Executive Search. “While job skill is the first thing recruiters look at, they take into account appearance as well. If you are well-groomed, you come across as being more professional. Good looks also add to your self-assurance,” she says. “It’s not just about a pretty face.”
Good looking people are often (if unfairly) seen as competent and intelligent, while overweight or obese persons are thought of as being lazy and unproductive – a perception which may not be true, but which exists all the same. In a world that is competitive enough, it makes sense to pay attention to how you look to give yourself that extra edge. On the flip side, if you are extremely good-looking, you run the risk of not being taken seriously, aka the ‘bimbo-effect’, and also of eliciting jealously from female colleagues and seniors. “Make an effort to look good, but not too good!” laughs Shalini.
The courtroom is the last place you want to be judged on your looks, but according to a Cornell study, an ugly defendant is less likely to be shown leniency during sentencing and often gets hit with harsher punishments. On the other hand, attractive defendants spend an average of 22 months less in prison. A widely cited Georgia State University study entitled ‘Ugly Criminals’ concluded that unattractive people are more likely to commit crime than attractive ones because of underlying prejudices encountered by them from an early age, showing clearly that the world is biased towards beauty. Gives a new meaning to the phrase, ‘If looks could kill, doesn’t it?’
What is beauty?
Let us understand what beauty means without holding it ransom to impossibly high standards perpetuated by magazines and the mainstream media. You don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. Beauty is subjective, and if you don’t like what you see in the mirror, have the confidence that someone else will. On your part, simply identify your best features and play them up. Great lips? Outline them with lip pencil and fill them in with a lip brush. Beautiful eyes? Experiment with different coloured eye-pencils and shadows. Gorgeous hair? Lucky you! Keep it well groomed and if weather (and your profession) permits, leave it loose when you step out.
Here are a few things you can do to immediately look more attractive.
Smile: Smiling doesn’t just make you look good, it makes you feel good. Even if you have to force a smile, do it. Before long, you’ll realise you’re not forcing it any more.
Mind your posture: Walking straight makes you look taller and slimmer. Tuck your belly in, throw your shoulders back and shimmy your way through the crowd. A straight posture also makes you appear more confident, which is hugely attractive in itself.
Wear light make-up: Although mornings may be rushed, keep time aside for make-up. A light touch in the right places can make a world of difference to your appearance. Switch to quality brands that use safe ingredients. Make-up adds a finishing touch and polish to your look.
And please, stop with the selfies! There is a fine line between trying to look your best and being narcissistic, so while it’s perfectly acceptable to make the most of what you have, don’t think of your beauty as a grand achievement that needs to be recorded moment to moment and broadcasted all over social media. Yes, that pout is sexy, but we don’t need to see it a hundred and fifty-five thousand times from every angle.
Hone your inner beauty
“If only I were prettier,” is a sentiment shared by millions of women across the globe, who accord beauty with more power than it has. Think of beauty as a head start, nothing more. It may help you get the prince of your dreams, but it does not guarantee the fairy-tale happy ending. It may help you get that job, not keep it.
For no matter how pretty the packaging, there needs to be something in the box.
In Pursuit of Beauty was featured in the Deccan Herald on March 30, 2018.