Our society can seem superficial at times, with a crazed obsession with celebrity culture and other beautiful people we see in the media. While some of that can seem a bit excessive, it’s actually ok to be beautiful. In fact, being beautiful, or just striving for it, is natural and can actually be good for you. Here’s 4 reasons why.
1. We’re Programmed to Desire Beauty
Beauty is important to everyone. Even the outstanding Eleanor Roosevelt said “I only wish that I had been prettier.”
This is not vanity. Evolution has programmed us to try to look beautiful. Neanderthals mixed vividly colored cosmetics, and sculpted seashell jewelry. Ancient mummies reveal that primitive orthodonture used catgut to straighten teeth and close gaps.
Evolutionary psychologists assert that trying to look beautiful is partly about sexual courtship. Looking beautiful is delightful to see, plus it can show skill, intelligence, and ingenuity.
Whether or not people who beautify themselves are aware of it, making themselves beautiful has also resulted in bonding them together socially: another aspect of evolutionary survival.
2. Beauty is Found in Nature…Even “Clothes”
Know that interest in beautiful clothing springs from inborn inquisitiveness, individual expression, and drive for competency. Your sweetheart need not be shallow or a spendaholic.
Searching for beautiful fashions or jewelry springs from curiosity. Wondering what flatters us uniquely, we try out styles. Psychologists’ research [i] has shown that desiring to be masterful – and we can include interest in how to dress attractively – is an important motivation in humans. It motivates us to banish boredom. We are attracted to the stimulation of variety. New fashions help fulfill these needs.
Consider artistic ‘fashions’ in certain animal displays such as splendid peacocks’ feathers. They ‘strut their stuff’ to gain attention, including romantic interest. An eye for couture is an alert, discriminating eye and can definitely be a survival skill.
Having a keen fashion sense can also be a special kind of survival skill for some people. As the fashion photographer Bill Cunningham put it “Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life. I don’t think you can do away with it; it would be like doing away with civilization.”
3. Striving for Beauty Can be Good for your Health
Are you a fitness buff or weekend warrior? Do you love to hit the gym or do outdoor activities so you can look better in the mirror? If you’re working to gain fitness and power, that’s a good thing; it can translate into greater self esteem and enhanced sexuality. In fact, working on fitness is a great way to improve your desirability from potential mates and is also a good way to build a relationship with your current partner.
You may however want to be alert as to whether your interest in fitness is becoming an obsessive preoccupation. Do your work-outs and diets keep escalating and never seem to bring greater self esteem? Does the wish to look different morph into demanding plastic surgeries or other regimens which begin to seem abusive, like dieting to the point of anorexia.
If this is the case, you need to recognize that not feeling beautiful enough stems from internal emotions about feeling unloved – and feeling like this can emerge in how you experience your physical self. If you’re transforming ‘ugly’ feelings, like anger or jealousy, into thoughts that your body is ugly, you may need to to deal with the emotions before you begin to work on the body.
4. Beautiful Hair Can Reinvent Your Identity
Grasp that women, particularly, feel that they ‘lead with their heads.’ From the fairy tale Rapunzel to current reality TV shows about hairstyle competitions, females have focused on what they hope is their crowning glory, at least since their pre-teen years.
Accept how much you value this potential asset. Beauty salon visits are an essential part of most women’s, and even some men’s, lives. Treatments allow beautification, confessional outpourings to the sympathetic hair stylist, and much needed you-time.
Perhaps most significantly, hair feels like the most changeable aspect of oneself: re-invention of one’s identity always seems possible with a new hairstyle.
For all of these reasons, the wish to be beautiful is a healthy and normal pursuit. It’s desirable to care about how we look: it makes us feel better and it makes others feel better to see us looking attractive!
Ellen Sinkman LCSW is a Supervising Psychoanalyst and the author of the book The Psychology of Beauty: Creation of a Beautiful Self.
Featured photo by Ana Patrícia Almeida
[i]Linda Mayes “Exploring Internal and External Worlds: Reflections on
Being Curious” in Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, vol. 46, pages