Can We Change Our Looks Too Much? Part 3

March 4, 2011
If we truly loved ourselves and accepted others just as they are, would we still feel a need to make major changes to our bodies in order to be “good enough?”

[ If you have not yet read Part 1 and Part 2, I recommend you read those before this. ]

Mary Lou Cook, multi-talented community activitistWhen I wanted an illustration for this post, I entered “old people” in the search field on Wikimedia (my favorite site for great royalty-free photos) and found this vibrant 91-year old lady, Mary Lou Cook, who has left her imprint in cities around the country as a calligrapher, constant volunteer, peace activist, minister, teacher, author, organizer, and cancer survivor.

Her face is not attractive to us because it is free of wrinkles, but because her wrinkles speak of the joy of living a vibrant life.

Or are you bothered by her wrinkles?

Setting Standards for Others

How bothered are you by how others look? I know some people who, in my opinion, would look “better” if they used a different shade of lipstick, or cut their hair, or let it grow, or wore more makeup, or wore less makeup, or wore clothes that didn’t make them look so fat, etc.

Some of these people don’t seem to care how they look. Others don’t seem to know how they are viewed by others. Why should it matter to me?

Why should I presume to determine whether someone else is dressed to my satisfaction, or has features I consider attractive?

Much of the answer lies in the fact that I’ve been watching and reading ads for 75 years and am fairly clear about society’s standards. That has taken up a lot of my brain circuits. Now it is taking awhile to clean them out and replace them with plain old acceptance.

I write about transforming judgment into acceptance in Healing Relationships is an Inside Job — and I acknowledge that this process doesn’t happen overnight.

I want those who are bothered by their judgments of others to know that as I have learned to love and like myself more, I love and like others more. Of course, I’m not a saint yet. I still sometimes make snap judgments about others. But now I have a way to short-circuit those judgments.

For example, last week at the mall there were several people I thought “should” look different in dress or face or hair. Then, recognizing I was doing it again, I consciously opened my heart to them, feeling my heart expand. In less than half a minute I found myself accepting them just as they were.

It felt so much nicer inside than to have me think they should be someone they aren’t. Even more, when I do this, I discover that I am interested in who they are, what they do, and what it is about their lives that has made them who they are.

What is the tipping point between caring enough about how we look and caring too much?

For me, the answer to the “tipping point” question comes down to the issue of why we don’t like our looks.

If we believe that God made us, then do we think God made a mistake? If we are Asian and want to change the slant of our eyes, what does that say about our rejection of our racial identity? If we are Jewish and have a large nose, what does that say about how we want to fit within the culture where some people may be anti-Semitic?

Because I was born into a social and cultural group in which I haven’t had to fight for the rights I take for granted, I can’t criticize those who believe they will have a better chance if they make some nips and tucks here and there.

However, I think it is important to realize that our emphasis on looks is often a case of not liking ourselves deep down, where it really counts. If we like ourselves just as we are, we are less likely to be bothered by whether or not others like the way we look.

On the other hand, if we are focused on whether someone is judging us on our looks, we are more likely to spend an excessive amount of fussing and painting before we stick our heads out the door.

Let me emphasize that when someone goes to a little bit of trouble to look “better,” I don’t see a problem with that. But just as addiction can be defined by doing something that interferes with several areas of one’s life, if the emphasis on looks keeps us from having time, energy and money to expend on other things, maybe it’s time to see whether we have gone past the tipping point into “too much” emphasis on our external and might be skimping on our internal beauty.

Standards set by plastic surgery

I want to end these posts about changing the features that nature has given us with comments about breast implants and the plastic surgery industry.

Before breast augmentation was possible, some men liked women with larger breasts. After all, breasts are part of sex. An agreeable part at that. But when it became possible to increase the size that came with our specific body, large breasts became the gold standard. And boy, some of the sizes women buy now are absolutely amazing!

Consequently, women can get depressed because they feel they weren’t given “enough” by nature to catch a man or to compete with other women. That’s when many of them run to the plastic surgeon’s office to set up an appointment.

I’m glad I’m not among them. I haven’t been blessed with enough to fill out all my clothes the way they are “supposed” to be filled out, or enough to be given a role in a chorus line. On the other hand, I have enough to have nursed four children, including a set of twins. And my husband likes me just the way I am. Thank goodness.

Five question we would all do well to consider

Do you like your friends because they are good looking, or do you like them for some other quality they express in their lives?

If they had the body of  a “culturally-defined” gorgeous woman or handsome man, would you like them better? Why?

Do your friends like you because of how you look, or because of the way you treat them?

Do you think that if you had the body of  a “culturally-defined” gorgeous woman or handsome man, would your friends like you better? Why?

If we truly loved ourselves and accepted others just as they are, would we still feel a need to make major changes to our bodies in order to be “good enough?”

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Did you enjoy this post?
Here are a some related posts from this blog, and articles from the Support4Change website:


3 thoughts on “Can We Change Our Looks Too Much? Part 3

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