If I think about my friends and work colleagues, the people I encounter regularly in my life, I would rate most of the people as “nice” looking, with perhaps one or two exceptions filed in the “beautiful” box. In my entire life I think I have probably encountered no more than 4 people who are truly perfection (here I define perfection to be traffic-stoppingly stunning looking). For most of us, glaring at them on the pages of our weekly fashion mag is the closest we will ever come to these specimens of perfection. We are unlikely to bump into them on the street, unless we regularly shop on Rodeo Drive that is. And yet 97% of women in the UK are dissatisfied with their appearance. The media’s constant hailing of these paragons of beauty is one of the main causes of our sorry state of self-loathing (nothing new there!). The question I ask myself though is this: why are so many of us allowing ourselves to be devalued by so few?
Think about it: how many of these “perfect” individuals do you know? As I look around me on the street I see all types of people: attractive, unattractive, slim, fat, tall, short, quirky, classic, the list goes on. And it makes me think: maybe we are the “normal” ones! We all know multiple Marys, Johns or Annes, not so many Catherine Zetas, Angelinas or Brads. These people are the outliers, the genetically gifted anomalies whose very existence demonstrates the wonders nature is capable of. When genetics and evolution waltz under a waxy moon in the house of jupiter and the cherry blossoms are the exact hue of pink and you add an eye of newt, they are what you get. And it’s wonderful, but it’s certainly not usual.
Beauty will always be celebrated, and I think it should be. In the same way that I admire a artist’s greatest painting or an architect’s greatest building, I can admire nature’s great works of beauty. None of those, however make me want to be a library! We put these individuals on a pedestal and expend both money and effort trying to replicate the gifts they were born with, which is no more possible than trying to change our race or how many toes we grow. In reality we should expend no more energy than that moment of longing we feel reading a great book, that we have not the capacity to create something so inspiring, or that small regret we feel listening to a beautiful piece of music, that we weren’t born with the ability to compose. We easily dismiss our failures in these arenas of beauty as due to being born without or without a specific gift. Why then are we so harsh on ourselves when faced with physical beauty? After all, one could argue that, with enough practice and tutoring, anybody could sculpt or compose.
In recent years I have come to realise that I am beautiful in my own way. I’ve not changed physically, I’m still the same ol’ me: my hair still refuses to behave, my legs are still wonky and I still have giant feet. What has changed is my perception, both of myself and of “the beautiful people”. These days I don’t look longingly at magazines and curse my genetic luck. Instead, I wish the people in them luck, both in being able to succeed with the face they’ve been born with or in being able to succeed in spite of it, whichever applies. And you know what, with all the time and energy I’ve saved, I just might write that book I’ve always thought about…