Why is our definition of attractive so narrow?

28th October, 2017

The construct of physical attractiveness sold to us, and that we are all deeply conditioned to believe is beautiful, is unattainable to most people.

I’ve often heard people say they need to be physically attracted to someone to find them a suitable mate. For many people this poses no issue and they find beauty and attraction in people not conventionally attractive. But for many, it severely limits their choices!

I’m reasonably confident everyone reading this knows attractiveness is more than just skin deep – cliches are cliches for a reason – so why then do we hold on to the idea of “good looking” (insert not fat, not bald, not old, flawless skin, tanned, good teeth etc) being so important? Because every day of our lives we are sold an idea of attractiveness that is none of these things, almost exclusively we see the construct of beauty every time we go online, watch TV, a movie, flip through a magazine, go shopping, drive on the freeway, sit through a presentation… I have been guilty of this (am still am at times) when I used to only use pictures of the current construct of beauty.

I could make the excuse that the images I used are all that was available with stock photos, but part of me knows that I chose those images as people would be more likely to look if it was a “conventionally” attractive person. You might have noticed Jodie and I don’t often include people in our pictures anymore. Now not for a second am I saying there is anything wrong with being conventionally attractive and yes it’s ok to post pictures of yourself when you think you look lovely! What I’m saying is we need to diversify what we see in the media and in our social media feeds.

Diversifying what we see in media will potentially never change unless there is a revolt where we stop…

  • Following the “ideal” image of beauty on social media – relatively easy to do, go on start doing it now by unfollowing anything or  anyone who makes you question or criticise your appearance
  • Stop walking into shops that only have very thin mannequins or pictures of the “ideal” image of beauty painted on shop windows – harder to do, I know I struggle with this
  • Stop buying or reading magazines with “beautiful” people – relatively easy to do
  • Stop dieting to lose weight – it’s like everyone knows this doesn’t work, but virtually no one wants to accept this (completely understandable and beyond the scope of this piece, check these resources
  • Stop judging and start paying more attention to anyone who happens to enter your world – not difficult to do and I am guilty of not paying attention to some truly beautiful people simply because they didn’t match my (aka societies) standards… fuck, for much of my of life I was victim to the Western patriarchal capitalism construct of beauty. This is changing.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve all fallen victim, at least in some small way. This is nothing to feel shame about, as we are all conditioned – you might even say “carefully conditioned” – to aspire to the Western construct of beauty. Funny thing is, many of us don’t even realise this, we simply think what we want is a certain physical look because that is what we taught. I wonder what would happen if everywhere we started to see more human diversity in terms of body shape and size, age, skin colours and skin complexion (aka acne, wrinkles, pigmentation)? I’m pretty sure my struggle with acne scars and now skin discolouration (ironically from tanning to supposedly help my acne and not listening to my mum) would lessen. The more I immerse myself in this conversation, the better it gets, truly it does.

For my fellow Game of Thrones lovers, who doesn’t find Peter Dinklage one of the most compelling, and therefore attractive, characters in the series? Tyrion is obviously not a real person, but he has been made to be desirable through the power of media and many of us now desire to see him.

Way too many of us feel deeply unhappy with how we perceive we look and no amount of expensive products we buy will truly allow us to feel content within. So rather than buying more products for the body, or paying other people to change our bodies, we need to smash the perception of what we think we need to be. Even if you just do one of the 5 suggestions above, you’ll be on the right path.