You probably aren’t beautiful. It’s statistical, not personal.
Most of us are average, a few of us are ugly, and a tiny number of us are beautiful or handsome.
Many of us struggle with our own attractiveness, and in particular, the idea that we don’t have enough of it. Research suggests that body dissatisfaction, or not liking one’s body, is a major concern for both men and women. And the pursuit of a more attractive body, if manifested as a drive for thinness or a drive for muscularity, is a big risk factor for the development of eating disorders and muscle dysmorphia, both which are on the rise in Australia.
In the absence of population-level interventions to improve our body image, social media and corporations have filled the void.
Tumblr and Instagram are replete with images and words that “everyone is beautiful”, that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, that “beauty is only skin-deep”.
Myths and maxims of beauty
Consider the sentiment, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, which suggests beauty is subjective.
Data suggests that people are remarkably consistent in their determination of who is attractive and who isn’t, both within and across cultures. That’s not to say that subjectivity plays no role at all – as we’re all guided by our individually formed preferences – but that the scope for subjectivity exists within the narrow confines of the objective traits of physical beauty.
What about “beauty is only skin-deep”, or in other words, that a person’s appearance has no bearing on their personality or behaviour?
It does. “What is beautiful is good”, according to a group of oft-cited psychologists in their seminal 1972 paper that explored this very idea. Decades later, we know beautiful people are not only just thought of as “good”. Attractive people are also considered more intelligent, sociable, trustworthy, honest, capable, competent, likable, and friendly.