Why do we put so much stock in outward appearances?

Tonight I went for a long walk with a good friend. We talked about men, dating, work, and life. Then we continued our conversation over a late dinner (does salad count?) and iced coffee (yum). Anyway, we started really noticing and commenting on the men that were frequenting the restaurant. Mostly good comments, except for the older men that seemed strangely drawn to me. As I said to my friend, I’d rather pick up a guy in a public place that I’ve seen than anticipate meeting face to face for the first time some random stranger that exists online. It’s just a comfort thing. So I’m much more aware than I once was of the people coming and going. I try to people watch a bit.

When I got home, I was checking messages, social websites, etc and I came across a picture of someone’s cousin. He was in a pool with two young children and although the comment intended for the children to be the focus of the picture, it was hard for it not to be the man in the very center of the photo. The thought that entered my mind was, “oh God!” He was shall we say border line gorilla, poor man. He was wearing a bathing suit with no shirt. I don’t mean to be mean or rude or insensitive, but if you think about it, we judge other people by their covers all the time.

We judge ourselves by our outward appearance and we often feel good or bad about ourselves based on it. Clearly this particular man was confident in himself, his appearance, and his manhood, extra hair or not. Good for him, more power to him. I know people judge me based on my appearance. I have a friend and former co-worker who told me his first impression of me was an “innocent librarian”. I remember laughing aloud when he stated this and responding, “boy, you don’t know me very well.” But he got the impression because I was put together, wearing glasses, and therefore seemingly intelligent. But he didn’t know I was intelligent, my look said it to him and he assumed as much. It’s funny the impressions we give off when we don’t even know it.

So many people focus on the one or few things they’d like to change about their appearance if they could. Nothing wrong with wanting to improve especially if it’s something we have the power to change – like weight, or hair color, or something like that. But we focus so much on the negatives. It would be nice if when we look in the mirror, instead of noticing that hair that is out of place, we’d notice the really great top, or the excellent make-up job, or whatever. I’m definitely my own worst critic, constantly picking apart my image in the mirror when no one else sees what I see.

We often carry ideas from childhood or somewhere else that have been planted in our heads; maybe they were never true or that time has passed, but we still keep them. A friend the other day was telling me about something her mother used to say to her when she was younger, about how she wore her hair. To this day, it sticks with her, she’ll never wear her hair that way again. People don’t realize the impact they have on other people. We also don’t realize how much stock we put in outward appearances. Think about it, a guy is on the phone with a friend talking about meeting his single female friend for a possible date. She is described as having a great personality. We all know what that means, right? She’s ugly! That’s the impression anyway. I like to think I have a great personality, but I also hope that’s not how someone describes me, because it reads, “she’s ugly”.

In the world of 2013, there’s no changing the importance that is built into appearance or the fact that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, as the saying goes. We want to believe our appearance doesn’t matter, but it does, at least on some level. But what matters more is that we learn to love ourselves, or at least some things about ourselves. That instead of picking that appearance apart in the mirror or in a picture, that we can find the good in it. If we see something good and positive in ourselves, others will too. That should overrule any negatives that our outward appearance may otherwise have. Essentially, be confident, love yourself, learn what works for you, and be proud of who you are inside and out. Because if you feel that way about yourself, others will feel it too. It’s kind of like the idea of it you force yourself to smile, eventually you feel happy. There’s some truth to that.

Anyway, I got a little preachy tonight. Not something I often like to do and my apologies if it sounded like an after school special (if you remember those). But just food for thought……you can chew on it or move on to the next item on your plate. Night all….

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