The media hosts an ongoing parade of beautiful people. They even offer commentary on the most beautiful eyes, lips and buttocks…helping us to embrace both a false sense of normal and a false sense of ideal.
There is no ideal. And there certainly is no ideal for everybody — 5’10” cannot be ideal for a woman who is 5’4″. I know this!
Yet studies show that the vast majority of women are uncomfortable with their looks, particularly their bodies. But women are giving men — who live longer, stay more active and marry women half their age (I’m funny, not bitter, really) — a taste of how it feels to be gawked at, reveled in and critiqued.
Still, women are more apt to be trapped in their innate desire to please men (the creation story in Genesis nails this). Measuring up to the ideal they think men want weighs on them, the way being strong and powerful weighs on many men.
Think about it, though. The average man is less than 5 feet 10 inches tall. Do you really think he prefers a 5-foot 10-inch woman to make him feel big and strong? There is no ideal match, either; I think God made my husband, Sam, 6’3″ just to remove any doubt.
But there is practical value in being attractive. Attractive people are generally perceived as more poised, interesting, sociable, independent, exciting, sexual, intelligent, well-adjusted and successful (as well as more vain and materialistic)! So, who’s going to get the job, the date, the “prize”?
In study after study, physical attractiveness has overwhelmed everything else as the best predictor of how well a person would be liked after a first meeting. No wonder we spend so much time and money to look good!
In a more recent study, though, men and women who exhibit positive traits, such as honesty and helpfulness, are perceived as better looking. Those who exhibit negative traits, such as unfairness and rudeness, appear to be less physically attractive to observers.
“The findings show that a positive personality leads to greater desirability as a friend, which leads to greater desirability as a romantic partner and, ultimately, to being viewed as more physically attractive,” says study author Gary W. Lewandowski Jr., an assistant professor of psychology at Monmouth University.
This is refreshing news, but most of us already knew it to be true. It reflects our experience of other people…and their experience of us! Scientific validation feels good, though.
If you’re one of those “nice” people, you might be thinking, “Yeah, right, everybody always wants to be my ‘friend.'” Turns out, though, that friendship is a lovely (if not ideal) lead-in to a romantic relationship.
And I love the prominent position of honesty in this study. People want to know who you really are. How liberating is that! If you want more than friendship, don’t be afraid to say so.