beauty

From Instagram to The Bachelor: We need to talk about "pretty privilege."

How much time and money do you spend every pay day on products in an attempt to make yourself beautiful? 

I’ve got some bad news for you: you’re wasting your money.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what they behold actually has very little to do with you, and everything to do with brain chemistry and social conditioning. Sorry ‘bout it. But stay with me.

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Whether through our own eyes or someone else’s, beauty plays a huge part in our day-to-day lives. You may benefit from ‘pretty privilege’, you may be trying to attain a certain beauty standard, or you may be acting upon an unconscious bias toward pretty people.

Regardless of who you are, the concept of beauty is always there and affects you without you even realising it.

FYI: Pretty privilege is the concept that pretty people benefit in life from being perceived as beautiful. 

Pretty people are seen as being more intelligent, more capable and are more likely to be employed or picked up at a bar.

Have you ever had a drink purchased for you by a random person? Odds are you’re pretty and you have privilege.

Today’s lesson in beauty has very little to do with makeup, so put the brushes down and let's put our critical thinking hats on. Because to dive deep into what makes a person beautiful, we need to push past what society has taught us (even though society does play a part) and look at beauty from a different lens. 

So. Biases in the bin please, and follow me.

The science behind being beautiful.

Lab goggles on, we’re getting scientific! 

When you look at photos of different people, it’s pretty easy to point out which people you think are beautiful. But why? 

Science says one of the reasons is that people are viewed as more attractive when they have a symmetrical face. 

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So, we as a society grow up with an unconscious preference for people with symmetrical faces. There are subtle differences though, because no face is truly symmetrical.

Beautiful people also have ‘mathematically average faces’, meaning that their proportions are ‘correct’. 

Their eyes are the appropriate distance apart (just under half the size of the face from pupil to pupil). And the distance between their eyes and their mouth is around a third of the size of their face and a whole bunch of other ratios that I won't waste your time with. But it’s science!

And this is why we wear makeup. 

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When was the last time you sat down and thought about the mathematical equations and ratios that influence your makeup application? I'm guessing never. 

Thing is, we contour our noses and wear fake eyelashes so our features sit more inline with the ‘mathematical ideal’. 

Your nose looks thinner, your eyes wider and all of a sudden you’re more attractive to people because your facial proportions are correct and more symmetrical.

Why is the mathematically perfect face so appealing? 

Two reasons. The first is the very ableist view that aesthetically pleasing people are healthier, so therefore they make good mates. The second is that symmetrical faces are easier for our brains to process; i.e. it’s easier to read the emotions on a face that is symmetrical and that we are used to seeing.

Interesting, right?

What society considers beautiful.

It’s the age old question of nature vs nurture. Are we pre-programmed to think certain qualities are beautiful, or are we taught? Can it be both?

Our brain (as we’ve already discovered) is programmed to like what we know. 

So, if you’ve grown up in a country like Australia where our media has lacked true representation (and still does), then what you and the society around you perceives to be ‘beautiful’ is thin, white and able-bodied. 

Just look at any season of The Bachelor. If all we see are thin, white symmetrical women on TV and in magazines, then that is what we are going to think is beautiful - but I’m happy to say that’s changing. 

Have you noticed the (if only small) increase in representation in the media? This, and the integration of social media into our lives, means that the types of people we can choose to see is endless. 

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But you have to make the choice to diversify your feed to see a variety of faces and beauty and, once you do, your brain starts to perceive things a little differently. 

You’re literally rewiring it.

The flip-side of the amazing well of diversity that social media can be, is the presence of filters - which augment our faces. 

So, take this way of thinking a step further - ditch the filter and be real. Your nose is cute without the bee on it.

Beauty on the inside.

If I’ve learnt anything about beauty in my 31 years of life it’s this: beauty comes from within. Super cheesy, I know, but it’s true.

Truly beautiful people radiate beauty from their smile and the generosity in their heart. 

It’s this true type of beauty that you can’t appreciate on face value. You can’t just look at this type of person and say “She’s beautiful”. No, you need to stick around and get to know her. 

This is the type of beauty that your friends see. 

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There’s a little gender bias here, but from my research I bet if you sat a bunch of men down in a room and asked them what makes a person beautiful the answer would range from ‘a nice smile’ to ‘a great ass’. 

However, if you asked a group of women the same question (I asked my Instagram followers), the answers you get back are: generosity, authenticity, passion, ambition, empathy - etc. It’s nice to know where our priorities lie.

While people who are beautiful on the inside might not benefit from ‘pretty privilege’, other people benefit from having them in their lives. What’s a free drink compared to the knowledge that people need you in their world and that you make a difference?

True beauty isn’t skin deep, but for many of us that’s all we see.

What I’ve learnt though, is that by and large that’s not our fault. It’s all science and social conditioning. I’m not saying don’t buy makeup. Buy your makeup, enjoy your serums and feel lush, but sleep soundly in the knowledge that we all have our conscious and unconscious bias. 

So, stop wasting time trying to fit someone else’s idea of beauty.

See more from Lacey-Jade on Instagram.

Feature image: Instagram/Kendalljenner/thebachelorau

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