A lot of people nowadays blame the media for its negative influence on body image.
They accuse the media of making people feel insecure and self-conscious about their physical appearance and body image.
But is that actually true?
My answer would have to be yes, and no.
Because there is no denying the fact that the media’s high standards of beauty are having a negative impact on people’s self-esteem.
You may not know this, but your perception of beauty is distorted to a great extent by the media’s unrealistic standards of beauty.
It’s a fact of life, most people nowadays are more shallow than ever before; everyone wants to have a partner that looks like Kylie Jenner and Brad Pitt.
We think highly of attractive people.
Numerous studies have found that attractive people are generally smarter, more successful, have more friends, and are more trustworthy.
There is a lot of debate on if that is true or it’s just because we inaccurately perceive them that way.
Or again — maybe it’s because of the media, and television.
For example, I love watching movies… almost all genres.
Because I know some movies can be life-changing.
I have often wondered why there are exceptionally beautiful actors in most movies that I watch? why are they almost always in the lead roles of the films?
You feel like you’re in some fantasy world, where everyone is stunningly beautiful.
It’s not a coincidence.
These ”Insanely attractive” actors were there just because they were – beautiful.
And they are mainly successful because of that, even if they say otherwise.
Just think about the most successful actors in Hollywood – Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, Natalie Portman.
You can see that they’ve one thing in common…
They may have a great acting talent, but it’s their stunning looks that make them stand-out.
You can be the most talented actor/actress in the world, but you won’t go far unless you look decent.
Hollywood and other film industries know this.
They know that physically attractive people are perceived in a positive way.
They know that we are genetically hard-wired to prefer beautiful people on TV screens.
This is why beautiful people are everywhere you look – TV, magazines, billboards, bus stops, etc.
It’s so ridiculous!
Patrick Swayze probably felt the same way when he said:
”Good-looking people turn me off. Myself included.”
Why do we like beautiful people?
Throughout history, beauty has been appreciated and admired by all human beings.
Those who were gifted with exceptional beauty lived happier, and more fulfilling lives.
And they will continue to live a better life.
According to most studies, life generally rewards beautiful people.
But what makes a person beautiful?
It somehow depends on who you ask.
For the most part, beauty standards differ around the world. Cultural differences generally affect people’s physical attractiveness perception and preference.
You may think that you look ugly according to the beauty standards of your culture, but in another place that has a different culture, you may be considered very attractive; you never know.
For example, crooked teeth are considered cute and attractive in Japan!
Some people in Japan consider a snaggleteeth (or yaeba in Japanese) to be the most physically attractive part of a woman.
Perfectly straight teeth are not very attractive in Japan, they’re just considered normal/boring, and not ”cute”, or attractive.
Japanese women are paying hundreds of dollars to dentists to have their straight teeth look crooked, so that they can be considered cute and attractive.
It’s a CRAZY world.
Another example of different beauty standards would be in Mauritania, where large women are considered to be very attractive and desirable than thin women, to the point that parents force their children to get them to eat more in an attempt to ”fatten” them up.
There are many other similar examples around the world.
It turns out sometimes ”Imperfection” can make you stand out and look more attractive, because good-looking people are all the same. A recent study has found that beautiful faces are harder to remember, because things that are unique and different are more interesting to the human brain.
And you know what’s more interesting?
It’s when your beliefs change.
By traveling to some other country that is very culturally different from your own country, your beliefs may change because of the influence of the new culture, you may unconsciously change your beliefs about many things, including your beliefs about physical attractiveness.
I have a friend of mine who travels to South Korea on vacations, and after a few years, I’ve seen him taking pictures with Korean girls on Facebook and what not, and as I expected – he’s now obsessed with Korean girls and thinks they’re more attractive than any other girls in the world.
Is beauty culturally dependent or universal?
Some scientists say that despite the cultural differences, some features of physical attractiveness are universally accepted as beautiful, this is commonly referred to as – universal standards of beauty.
There’s a lot of debate on this within the scientific community.
However, I do believe that standards of beauty are culturally-specific to a certain degree, while not forgetting that there are some physical attractiveness features that are universally accepted as beautiful.
Facial symmetry – for example – is globally accepted as beautiful.
The world’s most beautiful people have this one thing in common, facial symmetry.
It’s just not possible to look decent without having a symmetrical/balanced body and face (more about this in an upcoming post).
Another example is the hour-glass figure in women.
It’s a physical trait that is considered globally attractive, It’s also one of the most attractive physical features in women. (Unfortunately, the hourglass shaped body figure is present in only 8% of women).
In general, there are many other physical traits that are considered to be universally attractive; So to answer the question: Is beauty culturally specific or universal? In a nutshell, It’s somehow both!
There are physical traits that are only considered attractive in certain places/cultures around the world, and on the other hand – there are physical traits that are universally considered attractive.
As a result of rapid technological advancements which has made the world become like a global village, people’s perception of physical attractiveness is starting to become more universal.
Nowadays, we all have access to similar films, TV shows, and social media sites.
People from all around the world consider Brad Pitt to be synonymous with male beauty, and Angelina Jolie synonymous with female beauty.
You often hear things like, ”You look like Brad Pitt”, or ”I’m no Brad Pitt.”
People from around the globe also enjoy watching Hollywood movies, unaware that unrealistic western beauty standards are also affecting them unconsciously.
As a consequence, universal beauty standards are starting to form.
And this will cause more negative feelings, low self-esteem and self-consciousness among people from all around the world due to the flawless and unrealistic images that the media is portraying and trying to enforce on all of us.
Sooner or later, people from all around the world will start to agree on who’s attractive and who’s not.
Numerous scientists report that we are genetically hard-wired to find good-looking people more attractive and desirable than their plain counterparts.
The human brain is genetically hard-wired to recognize a beautiful face.
It takes only 3 seconds for someone to form an impression about you, and it’s largely based on your physical attractiveness.
This means that our brain is extremely fast at processing people’s facial proportions and determining their physical attractiveness.
It’s also important to realize that, symmetrical faces are easier to process by our brains.
It makes sense, because ugly faces are harder to process by the brain.
This means that the more symmetrical your face is the easier it is to be processed by people’s brain, and the more attractive you will be perceived.
”But what if my face is not very symmetrical?” – you may wonder.
Don’t worry, you can actually become more attractive in the eyes of those who matter to you and without having to change anything about your physical appearance.
There’s a psychological phenomenon that can help people’s brain to process your face much faster so that they see you as more physically attractive.
It’s commonly known as, the mere exposure effect.
The mere-exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon where people tend to develop a ”preference” for things or people just because they are more familiar with.
It basically means that – the more often you see someone, the more pleasing, likeble, and attractive that person becomes.
When someone sees you almost everyday, their brain will find it easier to process your facial features. And according to research studies on this phenomenon, people find faces that are easier to process by their brains to be more aesthetically attractive.
(I talk more about this in Chapter 5 of my free book)
The topic of beauty and physical attractiveness is not something that is easy to explain.
Are we genetically hard-wired to like beautiful people? Is beauty culturally-defined or universal? Is the media shaping our standards of beauty?
As you can see, these aren’t simple questions that can be easily answered with a simple yes, or no.
But overall, I believe I gave accurate answers and explanations for the above questions.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this…