Saturday, February 28, 2009

Physical Appearances: If we aren't supposed to judge a book by its cover, why do we do it anyway?

I'm not the most attractive looking guy. I suppose I could make some effort at trying to present myself in a more physically attractive manner to others, but in my personal philosophy, I really can't be bothered to do so. I feel like its a waste of my time to make myself look like something other than how I am or how I feel. I want people to see what I really look like, not what they want to see.

So why are people so obsessed with outward appearances? Everywhere you look, there are very savvy advertisers trying to convince us all that we should look a certain way, and that to look differently from that would make us less desirable. Among my favorite examples of this type of advertising is any which focuses around cosmetics (people will like you more if you slather the stuff on your face?) or hair (so, when all of your hair falls out, does that mean your going to die or something? Are you really less attractive simply because you have less hair?) These are the messages the advertisers want us to believe. Frankly, I just don't buy it.

To me, the most interesting things about a person have nothing to do with their appearance, unless there is something particularly striking about it, whether that be by choice (purple hair, anybody?) or by circumstances (Gorbachev's birth mark makes him very distinctive looking). Such physical attributes are usually not the kind that most people would find terrifically attractive, but I'm not attracted simply to the physique. True, that might draw me in a little, but I'm personally far more interested in a person's personality (how they think, how they talk, their personal values, their sense of humor, etc.) than their appearance. I'm even somewhat militant when others try to give me unwanted advice about how I might make myself look better in a physical sense. I'm just not interested in looking nice. I want people to be attracted to me in the same way I am attracted to them, not by their appearance, but by their intellect, their sense of humor, and other aspects of their personality. Is that too much to ask?

This post was originally published on on Aug. 17, 2007 at 12:34am.

1 comment:

  1. The following comments were posted by people from the community:

    On Aug. 16, 2007 at 11:42pm, Isis1854 wrote:

    Nope. But the laws of attraction dominates our society. People are always attracted to something they perceived as aesthetically pleasing to the eyes.

    I'm with you on this. Good post!

    On Aug. 17, 2007 at 01:20am, Ben Evans wrote:


    I totally agree. Our sight is blinded by what we were taught by society. Quite often people don't have a chance to look inside.

    This is why forums such as this are good. This is faceless so we look at character instead of appearance.



    On Aug. 17, 2007 at 12:40pm, Orange Bubble wrote:

    You have a ton of great points, but I can't help but point out that you really can tell a lot about a person by their appearance. You can tell that people who don't take even a tiny bit of effort to be presentable are lazy. No; you don't have to put on a ton of makeup. But at least brush your hair and put on a clean shirt. You can tell from some people's appearance that they don't have much respect for themselves (or else they wouldn't let themselves get that way), and if they don't respect themselves, how can they respect you? You can tell that women who wear a ton of makeup and fancy clothing etc. are usually quite shallow. And of course there is an exception to everything I have just pointed out. You only have a problem with these assumptions if you hold onto them instead of spending a few minutes with the person to see if perhaps you were wrong.

    On Aug. 17, 2007 at 03:59pm, I wrote:

    Isis1854, interesting comment about "aesthetically pleasing". I'm not going to hide the fact that this holds a VERY different meaning to me than to the average person. To me, this means somebody (including myself) who is easier for me to identify. I haven't blogged about issues related to the topic of my personal website, but I've written a lot about it there. (My profile has a link, if you're interested in checking it out.) In summary, though, I'll say that people who are physically different in some manner are much easier for me to recognize, and because I can recognize them easier, I can relate to them much more effectively on a personal level. Even then, though, I'm far more interested in who they are than in what they look like.

    Ben_Evans, that is precisely one of the reasons I love interacting on the internet with people.

    Orange_Bubble, you've written precisely about the point I was trying to make. Why do we make these assumptions about people? Just because I don't care about how I look doesn't mean I'm a lazy person, just that I'm lazy (by choice) with my appearance. It also doesn't mean that I don't have self-respect. I've got quite a bit of that. And it seems that most people DO hold onto these assumptions without even bothering to spend a few minutes with people they might otherwise find exceptionally interesting to interact with. I wouldn't be complaining if I thought people didn't hold onto these assumptions.

    On on Aug. 17, 2007 at 04:13pm, Orange Bubble wrote:

    We make these assumptions because we are narrow-minded human beings. If one assumption was proved correct, it feeds our "right" to make said assumption the next time.

    On Aug. 17, 2007 at 07:05pm, mayzie71 wrote:

    I think that people are just physically attracted to people for their own personal or subconsious reasons. I find lean tall muscular men very attractive while my best friend likes shorter buffer men. I think that society does try to set some sort of guidlines for what is attractive but they are for the most part useless because people don't follow them. Most adds show twigs but most men find the mary kate/ nicole ritchie look disgusting. Some men like twigs some like curves it doesn't matter what advertising says.

    About their own appearance. I have issues with my weight. I weigh 110 pounds and am a size zero, but I have very little muscular tone in my stomache and arms. Am i concieted or vain or high maintenance because I am unhappy with my build? No, I just had a father that stressed a little too much that he divorced my mom because she got fat. I know that sounds horrible but he wasn't a bad father, he just needed to grow up.

    I think the emphasize on looks is there because it is a way to judge someone before you know them. It is our way of advertising ourselves to the world. If you want the world to think of you as a certain type of person you dress and revolve your style around that way. For the most part when you buy a piece of clothing and you try it on, if you like the way it looks on you, you buy it. What you wear is basically saying this is how I think I look good.

    You can judge certain things by the way people dress. You can tell how confident they are with themselves, you can tell if their style is similar to yours. You can tell if they like to dress up or dress down, or if they fluxuate between styles. I don't think it is judging a book by a cover it's just a way to tell if you think the person is worth more of your time to find out more about them.

    On Feb. 01, 2008 at 09:07am, Roomspimp wrote:

    All of the attributes that determine the value of a person are things not seen with the naked eye. That being said, physical appearence and attractiveness is something we are drawn to based on biology not society. Studies with infants show that they are drawn to the more attractive face the more beautiful woman. They have had no socialization and yet they automatically choose beauty. The human proclivity for choosing physical beauty is innate. Since we know that humans do this naturally why fight it? Comb your hair, shave, and put on some decent clothes, and give people a chance to get to know you and find out how great you really are.


Do you agree? Disagree? Is there something which maybe I neglected to consider? Please let me know what you think!