We’ve all seen beautiful people. When they walk into a room, they command our attention; and something about them makes us want to stop and stare. Whether out of envy or lust, react to them we must.
Men in particular have been found to be susceptible to the presence of beautiful women. Research conducted in Australia showed that skateboarders were more likely to perform riskier tricks when there was an attractive female onlooker.
A friend of mine who works in a gym made a similar observation; that the presence of an attractive woman tended to make men try to lift more dangerous amounts of weights.
Consider also research conducted with male chess players; they made riskier moves when they had an attractive female opponent. In short, men are biologically driven to impress beautiful women.
The effect of beauty on our psyche extends to schools too. Research has found that teachers tend to favour good-looking children and perceive them as more intelligent. This is dubbed the ‘halo effect,’ signifying the apparent halo we’ve placed around beautiful people, whom we expect to be more interesting, trustworthy and competent.
Did you know that according to research carried out in the United States, your beauty may also affect your earnings?
Daniel Hamermesh and Jeff Biddle found that on average, better-looking people received more promotions at work; and earned more money. The breakdown was: Beautiful People: US$42,000; Average People: US$40,000; and Less than average People: US$36,400.
But beauty can be a double-edged sword.
In another study conducted with applicants for a graduate scholarship, it was found that attractive people received better ratings from members of the opposite sex. However, when rated by members of the same sex, while men were unaffected by the looks of male applicants, women actually penalized other women whom they considered beautiful!
In a further study, the effect of an applicant’s looks on their success was also found to depend on the looks of the person rating them. Raters who were good-looking themselves didn’t care how beautiful the applicant was, but average-looking raters penalized members of the same sex who were better-looking than them.
You’ve probably experienced this in one form or another; or know it to be true from friends who have. While the reasons for it are manifold, many psychologists argue convincingly that we think of the attractiveness of people we’re dealing with in terms of ‘opportunities’ and ‘threats.’ If we’re dealing with beautiful members of the opposite sex, we see their presence as an opportunity – for fantasizing, flirting or an actual relationship. However, when we’re dealing with beautiful members of the same sex, their presence becomes a threat – we feel like we have to compete with them for limited resources, including attention from the opposite sex.
And just how do we define ‘beautiful?’
Research suggests that symmetry, particularly of our faces, plays a big role in determining beauty. But other research conducted by Sarah Gutierres and Douglas Kenrick reveals that context is important.
For example, a woman of average beauty will seem less attractive if the person viewing her has just seen a very beautiful woman. In a study where residents of a male dorm were asked to rate the photo of a potential blind date, if they’d been watching an episode of Charlie’s Angels beforehand, they were more likely to view the date as unattractive, compared to males who’d been watching a different show.
Gutierres and Kerick also found that after looking at pictures of Playboy centrefolds, men rated themselves as being less satisfied with their partners. According to Kenrick, after seeing beautiful women, men tend to think, “yes, my partner’s fine, but why do I have to settle for ‘fine’ when there’re so many great people out there?”
In their minds, their field of possibilities had expanded while in reality, there simply aren’t enough super models to go around.
Women who’re surrounded by images of beautiful women, whether in real life or on T.V., also report being less satisfied with their looks.
While we all love beauty, its effects can be insidious. Here’re a few important things to remember:
One – If you don’t consider yourself beautiful, then your beauty is diminished, regardless of what you actually look like. Beauty is a feeling that comes from within. Today, decide that you are good-looking; and once you do that, it won’t matter what anybody else thinks. The most beautiful (not to mention happiest) people love themselves; and don’t seek validation from external sources.
Two – If people are hostile to you because you’re beautiful, ignore them. Don’t try to down-play your looks to avoid threatening colleagues or friends. Pandering to other people’s insecurities can be disastrous ÔÇô the very people you’re trying to appease will come to expect you to do more to make them happy. Make yourself happy; and let other people do the same for themselves.
Three – When you see a good-looking member of the same sex, observe your feelings. If you feel bad, why is that? Do you feel threatened? That threat only exists in your mind; and that’s where you should deal with it, by learning to appreciate yourself. Happiness is an inside job.
Four – When you see attractive people in magazines and on T.V., appreciate them but notice the beauty in yourself, too.
Also, hold on to your ideals but don’t miss out on love. Realize that your very own Kim Kardashian or Pharrell Williams could be sitting right under your nose, if you’ll just take the time to see them.
Five – If you’re already in a relationship and see someone you consider to be better-looking than your partner, revel in their beauty, but don’t let that dampen your enthusiasm about your own relationship. If beauty is your main criterion for a satisfying relationship, know that no matter who you end up with, there’ll always be someone better. Appreciate your partner; it will make you both infinitely happier.
Remember: Life is beautiful. YOU are beautiful!