A desire to appear attractive is universal; it permeates all cultures
and peoples, and stretches from the past to the present. Throughout history,
both men and women have gone to great lengths to become more attractive. In all
parts of the world, people take many different measures to beautify themselves.
Even move, the animal world also exhibits the desire to be attractive. Male
birds of paradise, with their brilliant hues, contrast sharply with the females.
Male peacocks have stunning tail-feathers that are obviously used to attract
females as well.
Although it is true that a subgroup of all peoples have expended great
sums of money and energy to put themselves through a great deal of usually self-
imposed tribulation and suffering, it is easy to discern the different
perceptions of beauty held by various groups. These perceptions vary greatly
abetween groups, which are demarcated by class, cultural, geographical,
chronological, and religious borders, to name a few. What may be considered very
attractive by one group may even be seen as repulsive in another. The gangster
with tattoos all over his body, clothed in attire that is much too large, with
rings in all the most unexpected places, and sporting an outrageous hairdo,
considers himself very attractive indeed. Yet, so do the tall, smartly dressed
businesspersons with their suit, tie, and white handkerchief. Men and women of
the Victorian era, when women’s ankles were not even permitted to be exposed,
would surely be shocked at the revealing outfits that have been donned by
members of today’s society. In other words, one’s perception of beauty is
greatly influenced by the surrounding environment and the social groups to which
he belongs. Yet, whatever one’s perception of beauty, one thing is the same.
This is that all have taken great pains about their appearance.
Why are good appearances so important to people?
People tend to make initial judgments by first impressions that are
usually based on appearances to a great extent. These initial judgments are
doubtlessly very important in many types of social, business, and other
relationships. Moreover, it is much easier for an attractive person to be
socially active. He or she is usually perceived as more pleasant, which makes it
easier for him or her to approach others. Besides, some careers, such as models,
actors or actresses, television anchors, and salespersons rely to a significant
extent on their outward appearances. They must do their best to please the
audience, draw attention, or make a sale.
The following three experiments done by the television news magazine
20/20 illustrate the difference that appearances can have in one’s everyday life,
regardless of whether one is an actress, model, salesperson, or garbageman.
In an experiment with third graders, after having been taught by two
teachers varying only in attractiveness, the students consistently rated the
more attractive teacher as smarter, more patient, more experienced and more
knowledgeable. Right now, readers may be thinking, Such shallow behavior is to
be expected of a third grader. Grown-ups are mature and are not so arbitrary.
Yet, even when one grows up, this shallow behavior does not change. In a
second experiment, two actors were hired to apply for a job. Both were equally
competent, and similar in all manners except their appearances. The more
attractive man was hired on the spot, while the less attractive applicant was
very nearly ignored altogether.
Even more definitive is the third and last experiment — car problems.
Two actresses were hired to pretend to have car problems. They both stood at the
same place, at the same time of day, with the same problem. The more attractive
actress had four men pull over in 10n minutes, while the less attractive actress
did not receive help for over two hours.
For those that are resolved to change their appearance, and wish to gain
advantages such as those cited above, no amount of money is too great to expend,
and no pain is too great to be endured. A vast array of services and products
ranging in price from the economical to the exorbitant are available to cater to
the demands of aspiring beauties. Procedures such as tanning, tattooing, plastic
surgery, implants, body-piercing, liposuction are all available. Yet, it seems
that some people are now placing an excessive amount of emphasis on their
appearances, and are overdoing the changes.
However, although appearances can get one in the front door, so to
speak, they cannot be the sustaining part of jobs or social relationships. This
is because the extremes of beauty or ugliness are all mediated by the eye over
time. On the contrary, one’s spiritual beauty is perpetually realized by the
heart and is instrumental in lasting relationships. For example, Beethoven was
notoriously ugly and deaf, and it was said that he had a particular body odor
that was not very pleasant. Yet, this did not stop the inner person from showing
through — the genius who created the magnificent music that not only lives on
through the centuries, but is also said by many to be some of the best ever
written. Just as interesting is the example of Aesop. He is famous for his
fables, but is also notorious for being very ugly. Yet, his inner wisdom and
beauty made his master to free him from his slave status, and he traveled
throughout Europe, visiting many courts of rulers to spread the fables that are
In conclusion, people should put what seems to be their endless effort
used to improve their external appearance to work elevating their spiritual
beauty. May we all be as wise as Aesop, and learn to balance both appearances
and inner worth to make ourselves more beautiful overall.
“Aesop.” Grolier’s Electronic Encyclopedia. 1993.
Coon, Dennis. Essentials of Psychology: Exploration and Application. 5th ed. Los
Angeles. West Pub. 1991
Robertson, Ian. Sociology. 3rd ed. New York: Worth, 1987.