Looking good: Wish you could look different or more attractive?
Looking good is important to many of us. We may often wish we could look different or more attractive. We wish we were thinner or taller or fairer or stronger. Or we wish we had better skin, hair or teeth. Often we are conscious of our one ‘flaw’ while talking to others.
It can be painful to feel like our looks fall short of the ‘ideal’. This may cause us to have low self-esteem and not take care of ourselves, physically and emotionally.
Influence of culture and media
The culture we live in, through the people around us and the media, communicates ideals of beauty or attractiveness to us and we base our efforts of looking good on these. Of course, rules of what is more attractive vary from culture to culture but within a culture they are rarely questioned.
Research suggests that we tend to behave more favourably toward those considered more ‘attractive’ in our culture compared to those considered less ‘attractive’.
When we are treated differently, based on the way we look, we could unknowingly, internalize other people’s perception of us. Which means that we could let the way others treat us, influence the way we feel about our bodies and ourselves.
This could explain why we may feel attractive, when in a relationship where our partner treats us well; while we may feel unattractive, when our partner does not treat us well. So wishing we could look different may be stemming from how significant people in our lives treat us or what they say to us. Similarly, we tend to feel good about our appearance in situations where others act lovingly towards us and feel bad about our appearance in situations where others are critical or disinterested in us.
Stereotypes – What is beautiful is good
Research shows that we tend to stereotype based on physical attractiveness. That is, we may perceive or assume positive attributes in someone who we see as physically attractive. For example, different cultures may link social competence to physical attractiveness, without any basis for this. So when we see a person who we feel is better looking than us, we may also mistakenly assume that they’re smarter, friendlier, kinder or more fun than us – none of which is true of course!
Accepting and appreciating the way we look
When we do not have a positive picture of the way we look, our thoughts, feelings and behaviours could get affected.
- Thoughts: We may have unknowingly accepted cultural ideals as our beliefs regarding what is more attractive – such thoughts and beliefs could be unrealistic and unhelpful for us. Irrespective of how we look in reality, we may mistakenly believe that we do not meet standards of “looking good”.
- Feelings: We may feel distressed, anxious or frustrated about our appearance and desire to look different in some way. We may also feel depressed and suffer from low self-worth.
- Behaviours: We may begin to avoid situations where our appearance is likely to be evaluated or we could develop eating disorders, with consequences on our health.
In such cases, accepting and appreciating the way we look can be difficult. If this is an area you would like to work on, you could talk it over with a counsellor. There are a number of counselling approaches that could be helpful to you. The Cognitive Behavioral counselling approach has the most empirical support for helping develop a positive body image.
Cash, T. F., & Pruzinsky, T. (2002). Body image: A handbook of theory, research, and clinical practice. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Edlin, G., & Jones, E. G. (2010). Health and wellness. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Barlett Publishers.
Juntunen, C. L., & Atkinson, D. R. (2002). Counseling across the lifespan: Prevention and treatment. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.