When an FBI forensic artist drew portraits of women according to their own descriptions of themselves, and then a second sketch according to the descriptions of another woman they’d met, the differences were incredible – and telling: http://realbeautysketches.dove.com/
Apparently only 4% of the world’s women believe themselves to be beautiful. I don’t know if there are any figures relating to men, but let’s assume it’s also a minority of some percentage or other.
Self-awareness – a subject that both interests and frightens me, encompasses a self-image of what we think we look like. A large part of our brain is dedicated to recognising faces, and also to spacial awareness of ourselves – knowing where our bodies are, so we can move quickly and effectively. So this is a very important part of being human, with obvious correlation’s to enabling us to survive.
At the most basic level, we chose mates using this facial recognition facility. Good genetics are indicated by regular facial features. There may be genetic reasons for certain archetypes being universally sexually attractive; for example blonde nordic.
But the psychological dimension to beauty and self-awareness is fundamental, and can be devastatingly damaging. The best parenting advice I was ever given was “All you can do is love them.” This by a hard. old former Regimental Sergeant Major of a parachute battalion. There’s no doubt that children whose parents love and encourage them, do much better.
I’m sure this is because they’ve learned from their parents to think of themselves as beautiful – not in a competitive, sexual way, but simply as people who are accepted, loved and admired for what they are. Such an upbringing can protect people from a great many of the world’s “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”.
The opposite is self-hatred, which leads to self mutilation, bulimia etc. It’s a fundamental part of what particularly concerns me – the psychological problems of war veterans. It also prevents people from following their dreams: “I don’t deserve to succeed so I won’t even try…”
I’m always shocked by the difference between how I think of myself (still reasonably fit, with Peter Pan as my role model), and the hunched-up, miserable looking old git staring at the passport booth camera. The disparity drives some men to have flings with younger women.
I don’t know if this is the same for women, but if most men are like me, then how we think of others particularly women, is like the Dove beauty sketches film that sparked me off on these thoughts. What people actually look like becomes irrelevant once we know therm. As we talk to them we remember and imagine the stylised internal image we have of them, which emphasises certain things, and doesn’t see others.
One tragedy, I think, is that in growing old, we focus on what that process is doing to us, rather than the lives we’ve lived and the wisdom we’ve accumulated. Younger people in particular seem to do this – although we oldies can also be just as guilty of age discrimination. I blame the media’s constant, illogical (and vacuous) emphasis on youthfulness.
This is something we really should take action to stop.
For example, I suspect that most loving husbands don’t really see the ageing in their spouses, but remember them partly as they were when they first met, and partly as how they’ve grown to be in their lives together.
So as my RSM friend says, “All you can do is love them”; because if you don’t, or don’t tell them or demonstrate this to them, then they’ll start thinking they’re ‘too old’ – whatever the hell that is …
But actually being “too old” – as two retreating 19 year-old yobs shouted at me recently after I’d pushed one off his bike after he rode at me on the pavement, isn’t the problem. It’s thinking that you’re not beautiful enough.
We’re all beautiful. It’s just that we need others to remind us of this every now and then. “Do unto others …”