It's Easier to Love Pretty Things
My confrontation with body-shaming and the ‘unattractive’.
Originally published in: Mental Health Arena
I recently read an article that hit home in its illumination of some of the judgments I often hold towards others, which are informed purely by the way that they look.
Often times, this takes the form of “fat is failure”, or some other face-level valuation of an individual that fails to consider anything but their physiology.
It’s not so much that I was unconscious of the presence of assumptive judgments, so much as that I had yet to fully admit I harbored and made them so frequently.
Judgment is quick…and it’s difficult to admit to
It’s estimated that we judge others in a fraction of a fraction of a second. I am certainly not the exception to this rule.
This is often, as I’ve now noticed is true in my case, based almost purely on one’s physical appearance.
When written or said aloud, it becomes an especially difficult truth to come to terms with.
This habit could, and likely has, inhibited what could have been otherwise meaningful friendships, connections and life experiences.
We Allow Appearance to Inform Our Perception
To this day, I find myself willing to do more for people whom I consider to be good looking.
Whether it be for cute children on the streets of India, a well-groomed stranger, or someone who just “looks” important, I’ve been more likely to go that extra mile.
Similarly, I find that my own inner turmoil and anger can be subtlety projected onto people that I then deem to be less than (from a physiological perspective).
If someone is substantially overweight, for example, I notice that I can be quick to attribute towards them adjectives like ‘lazy’ and ‘sad’, without first pausing to consider the trauma, life circumstances, and other factors that have contributed to their condition. Many of these things are perhaps entirely out of their control.
What’s more important is that, irrespective of the reasons they appear as they do, I’m only harping on their shortcomings, reflecting that same truth within myself.
It’s impossible for me to speculate as to the myriad of physiological, psychological, environmental, social and cultural factors that contribute to these hasty judgments, for I’ve no doubt that there are more than I could comprehend.
I’m certain, however, that my own long-held feelings of shame, ugliness, and fear towards myself are at play. I therefore condemn what is outwardly ‘ugly’, whilst running headstrong towards things that I’ve learned to associate with “success” (aesthetic beauty, acceptance, reverence, etc.).
My Own Experience
I consider myself to be a good looking human. And, no, I don’t always feel attractive. In fact, the opposite is often true.
I’m continually at odds with my inner ugliness, which I think often tends to be at the root of our judgment of others.
I still fail to believe people find me alluring, and I suppose I’ll always carry around some remnant of the chubby kid I used to be. Yet I do understand, at least intellectually, that I’ve been born into a relatively attractive body.
I’d be a fool to assert that this reality has not introduced certain privileges to my life, largely because of the very fat/ugly shaming that I’ve observed as being so pervasive in our culture.
Partners, family members, and strangers alike have, at least since I’ve developed into a more sexually mature individual, told me how handsome they think me to be.
It’s reinforced within me the self-proclaimed message that I always have to look good in order to be loved love, and consequently that those whom aren’t good looking are not deserving of that same love.
This view is toxic. We are all pieces of the same, merely experiencing this world in unique physical vessels that have become the center of what many consider holy.
We Use Others As Scapegoats for Our Own Ugliness
Though I still feel it on a daily basis, I don’t want to be that chubby kid I was growing up. He felt disempowered, unworthy, and deeply uncertain.
When I see others whom remind me, no matter how irrationally, of the emotions I associate with that physical appearance (shame, disability, lack of self control etc.), I am pre-disposed to think of them, on some level, in the same manner that I did myself.
They represent targets through which I can, albeit silently, vent my self-judgement.
This is, quite obviously, not a way of being that I wish for anyone to perpetuate.
If any of this resonates with you, I’d be willing to bet that you feel the same way.
So How Do We Change Our Perspective?
The only way to change, in my mind, is to heal our self-perception. We cannot love others if we do not first love ourselves.
If we allow ourselves to allow for our own merits to be accepted, then this same perspective will be reflected in our view of others.
But this is easier said than done.
We cannot simply dissolve our idea of what’s attractive. It feels good to look our version of good. And it is difficult to get to a place of such complete acceptance that there is nothing about our bodies, and by extension someone else’s, that we would want to change.
The features that I tend to be sexually attracted to are generally indicative of a lifestyle that I would find appealing in a partner. For example, I love women’s butts. It’s just how it is. A nice bum is hard to fake, meaning it tends to be representative of an active lifestyle which is something that I value in a potential partner.
The issues we need to address are more about those snap-moment judgments. It’s important to grow conscious of what we associate with success, and how and why we judge people.
There is no all encompassing solution. If there was, I probably wouldn’t be writing this.
As tends to be the case with most things, I advocate that all healing starts within us.
If we can adopt a level of compassion for ourselves and our inner ugliness, that will inevitably extend to the rest of the world. This helps in creating a reality in which we are able to, if not stop judgment, at least judge people with a more holistic view of who they are. One that takes into account their beautiful qualities, as well as all the pain and trials that they’ve been through that may have contributed to an unhealthy physical appearance.
There is always more than what meets the eye.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, and your own experience with this.
Thanks for reading!