Why Are We Obsessed With Beauty? Is All This Attention on Beauty and Looks Healthy?

I can’t help but wonder what all the fuss is about. Why do we feel we need to look, dress, buy, think, and behave a certain way to be good enough? I’m not saying that I’ve never felt that I needed to be something other than myself to be accepted because, unfortunately–I have felt that way. What I’m questioning is why any of us ever feel that way in the first place? When and how does it start? At some point in our life, we all feel the pressure.

As a child, I seldom thought about what was cool or not. I didn’t focus on looking and dressing a certain way. I didn’t compare myself to others in terms of physical beauty. I didn’t particularly like my hair and knew I’d never have a models figure, but I honestly didn’t care because I was focused on more important things. Looking back, I think it really helped that my family didn’t focus on “looks” in our house.

I cared about laughing and being goofy with my friends and family. I cared about being physically strong so that I could play soccer well. I thought about the best way to keep my hair out of my face, so that I could see the soccer ball and all players on the field at all times. I thought about how far I could push my body, in a healthy way, in order to run my personal best times and beat track records (a goal made by and for me and not anyone else). I thought about eating healthy, so that I would have enough energy for the big race or game the next day. I had a passion for books of all genres. I was always curious and had an insatiable appetite for knowledge. I loved reading books from all different perspectives to see how all great minds do not necessarily think alike. I cared about current events.

In grade school, I wanted to be the top in my class. It was not necessarily to beat other people, but to do my personal best. I thought about getting good grades so I could go to college too. I thought about how I would have enough money for college. I thought about what I wanted to do after college. I thought about raising my own family and maybe owning my own bookshop one day. I enjoyed thinking about those kinds of things.

At thirteen, I started my first job as a dishwasher at the Honey Bear Bakery because I wanted the freedom that a job, money, and an education would afford me. When I turned 16, I took on a second job so that I could save more money for my future and treat myself to Dunkin’ Donuts whenever I liked. No joke! I relished in the simple pleasures and set goals for the future too.

With my attention being focused on all these other goals and activities, I didn’t have time to think about being beautiful, perfect, or fitting into the “in” crowd. I liked being a “floater” (with a couple close friends) because I was able to be friends with an eclectic mix of people with varying ideas and interests. And, it’s not that I didn’t care about how I looked or that I didn’t put in any effort; it’s just that it was not a priority. I think some girls and women nowadays are obsessed with their physical looks and clothing labels. It’s sad.

So I guess what I’m questioning is why there is so much focus on being a specific shape, age, weight, or dress size? Why are we making this a priority?

I look at my daughters and think about the things they are interested in—horse riding, piano, skiing, animals, art, soccer, reading, writing, dance, science, discovery, day dreaming, and whatever new activities they may become interested in, and I think—this is where it’s at. I don’t want them focusing on the topic of “looks”. I want them to focus on things that are more important—their passions and curiosities. I hope they stay focused on those things, which mean the most, because if they do, they have a much better chance of being authentically happy than if they are focused on being the “perfect” size or having the “right” clothes.

We may feel the pull of empty material or physical trappings at times, but each of us have the power to turn away.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jodi Hopkins
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 13:44:25

    Great post! Yep, I’ve had it with all the beauty talk. Take care of yourself, take pride in who you are but beauty is only skin deep. It’s what’s inside that counts and I think that those people who are too hung up on their looks are struggling inside with who they are. All of the girls I knew growing up who stressed about their hair or makeup had very sad stuff going on in their lives. :( I heard a great quote yesterday that goes something like this: “tell your kids every day who they are (meaning smart, funny, talented) because if you don’t, the media will fill in the gaps for you (meaning they may start believing they aren’t pretty/funny/smart enough if they rely on what they see on TV and in the magazines). Not to say I haven’t struggled with my own body image, I am a work in progress but I definitely don’t focus on my looks to try and tell the story of who I am.

    Reply

  2. Liz
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 19:16:04

    Thank you, Jodi! I feel that it’s time to focus on more important things!!

    Reply

  3. Jodi Hopkins
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:24:36

    I had my makeup done at Nordstrom the other night with my Bestie. The lady who did our faces asked “how much time do you want to spend on makeup?” and we both said “no more than five minutes!” She showed me some great tips to accentuate the positive, and it’s literally something I can do quickly before date night or a dress-up day. My friend and I continued to talk over dinner about how as a woman it’s nice to have these options, but it’s sad when people take it overboard and let their appearance start taking up too much of their life.

    Reply

  4. Liz
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 18:18:48

    Yes, it becomes an obsession for some women. When I was a teenager, I sometimes looked through the Victoria’s Secret catalogs, but not really beauty magazines. Thankfully, the magazine that really sucked me in was the National Geographic. :) Those magazines inspired me to think globally at a young age.

    Reply

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