When is enough, enough? After watching this YouTube video that was sent to me I became overwhelmed with emotion as I thought about how many women and girls in our culture have become obsessed with our physical appearance. Literally. I mean obsessed. At first I thought, “Yeah, speak it loud and clear sister! Looks shouldn’t matter at all! And as women we need to stop thinking about, caring about, or worrying about what we look like! Who even cares!” Well, after coming down from this emotional high and thinking about it a little further I’d have to say that I do feel this way… to a certain extent… but I’m not ready to go out and burn my bra any time soon.
I believe we, both men and women alike, were created with an eye for beauty – not just in other humans, but also in our world. There is so much natural beauty around us and many of us feel good when we experience the beauty of creation. So then, if we were born with the propensity to appreciate looking at things that are pretty and appealing, is it then maladaptive to want to be attractive and appealing ourselves? I’m tempted to say no. Is it maladaptive and unhealthy to be constantly preoccupied with wanting to devise ways to look more attractive? And spend much of our time, energy, effort, and talents attempting to attain a certain feeling that is not actually attainable by way of stuff and things? To that I’d have to say yes.
Something else that has come out of my research on happiness which I found fascinating is that as it turns out, on these extreme makeover shows where women who thought they were unattractive and thought that they could only ever find real happiness if others found them physically beautiful, were right… after they’d recovered from their umpteen different face, body, and skin operations and procedures and were able to look in the mirror and for the first time be giddy with delight in what they saw these women did feel really, really happy… for the first few month. At best. Usually the dramatic spike in happiness stuck around for a few weeks after recovery and then went right back to generally the same level of personal happiness the madeover women felt before they ever went under the knife.
So, will it make me genuinely happy and content with myself if I shop till I drop and acquire all the nicest clothes, sexiest purses, or most powerful pumps? If I have the perfect shade of chestnut hair, the most flattering hue of rose coloured lips, or the ideal waist-to-hip ratio? The research results are clear: not a chance. Is it, however, unhealthy to enjoy and delight in feeling attractive and pretty from time to time? Of course not. Just as long as we don’t naively buy into the lie (aka marketing tactic) that it will actually make us happier.