Does beauty matter?

It seems we live in a society obsessed with beauty – the market is flooded with ‘beauty products’ and every woman, no matter how secure, holds just a little internal doubt if she isn’t the perfect 10, or has a couple of grey hairs or ‘laughter lines’ (AKA ‘crow’s feet’). But does it matter?

I know it used to matter a lot more to me. I used to believe that someone who was born beautiful was born with one huge advantage in life because having a pretty face would open doors without the need for a brain or a talent.

I still think that, to some extent, there is a psychology behind this. The more attractive you are (in the widely accepted social definition of what is ‘attractive’), the more other people will be open to having you around, whether that means giving you a shot at a highly sought ‘media’ job, or allowing you to pick and choose from a wider gene pool of potential partners.

But I know that the key element within beauty – which goes hand in hand with knowing that you have a physical advantage – is the confidence that brings.

I’ve known people (women) who would not be classed as ‘pretty’ who have done incredibly well for themselves through sheer force of self-confidence and self belief, and equally I know very pretty girls who are terribly insecure and full of self-doubt. So this obviously isn’t true in all cases and confidence certainly isn’t exclusively held by the beautiful ones.

Reading back through this it also occurs to me that we are almost exclusively talking about women – men go through life being judged and rewarded on a totally different set of criteria.

The unfortunate side effect of our society’s obsession with how we look is apparent when you look at someone like Katie Price or, just lately, Tulisa Contostavlos – people who were so unsure of their own natural beauty (or unsure of their ability to maintain standing in the media circus) that they opted for surgeries that have added nothing that was either necessary or successful, in fact Tulisa looks downright odd in my opinion – like a completely different person and in no way any more attractive than she was before.

Recently I happened across a mention of a woman who is known as ‘The Living Barbie’ doll and, after seeing a picture which I’d assumed was some sort of manga cartoon and then finding out that this was a real person, I did a bit more searching out of sheer car crash mentality. Here is the picture:

Human barbie doll

She denies having surgery other than a boob job but her waist is so thin that one interviewer described it as ‘a sock of skin wrapped around her spinal column’. She also wears ‘doll effect’ contact lenses which lend a plasticky or alien air to her being. There are plenty of articles out there musing on what this woman says about society, or what she thinks society wants or needs to see – mostly that she has attempted to adapt herself to fit into a hyper-sexualised, cartoonised male fantasy, that in reality isn’t what men want to see in the flesh at all. Massive eyes and bizarrely adjusted proportions on a woman actually seem more alien than attractive to the average man apparently.

There is also the fact that she seems miserable. Just Google ‘human barbie doll’ go to images and look through the page – barely a smile even hinted at – but come on, even Barbie smiles!

I’m kind of glad that I don’t have daughters to help navigate through those murky teenage years when they are at their most impressionable. My mum always drummed it into me and my sister that we were perfectly fine as we were but I never really agreed and always wanted to dye my hair blonde or improve on my disaster of a chin! I think my mum implied that, as we were a little physical reflection of her and my dad, it would be a bit insulting to them to want to improve on that!

I think my sister is doing a grand job helping my (14 and 15 year old) nieces to discover and focus on their passions rather than their looks – at least that is how it appears from being around them. I think that’s great and that’s how it should be but I think back to Kirstie Allsop’s recent controversial statement on the subject of mothering girls to focus on marriage and babies ahead of career goals and it makes me wonder whether she would then concentrate on making sure her daughters always look right, pretty enough, to catch a man, setting them up for a life of preening and narcissm…

So does beauty matter? Of course it matters when you think of it in terms of beauty in nature, and the pursuit of beauty in art and literature – but lets not allow society to mould the next generation into confused, dysmorphic young people who can’t see the wood for the trees.

Linking up with Sara over at Mum Turned Mom who’s prompt this week was the word ‘beauty’.



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32 thoughts on “Does beauty matter?

  1. Oh my, that human Barbie does look miserable! I couldn’t agree more that we should teach our kids to focus on their passions rather than their looks. I have a friend who had her kids at 21 (two with a 17 month gap). Her daughter is now 14 and from what I can gather utterly obsessed with her looks. I worry about where that will lead tbh… I’m glad I have a few more years to work out the best approach for my own kids, but imagine it’ll be the same as your sisters. Great post Sam xx

    • Oh dear. Not good to be obsessed with your looks at such a young age. Its even worse when parents effectively sexualise their young girls – that’s the most worrying bit I think… I’m sure you will teach them all the right things hon X

      • I’ve had the same thoughts hon. This young teen is a stunner, but basically goes to school looking like a glamour model 😦

  2. Beauty and what it really is, is always a ‘hot topic’ and it needs to be because every day there’s a new generation of girls somewhere who it suddenly becomes relevant for, and every day there’s a new ‘barbie’ somewhere impressioning on them.
    I’m so grateful for a network of thought provoking bloggers covering every topic in parenting and keeping us all on our toes, because this doesn’t start with teenagers. Our little girls need to know WHAT about them is beautiful! It’s not enough just to tell them they are!

    Thanks for linking to #brilliantblogposts

  3. It’s such an interesting topic isn’t it? I’ve written mine for tomorrow but there are some similar messages in there. I think the world does love beauty but I think confidence is even more successful and as you say, not every beautiful person has that. Fab post lovely x

    • Confidence is more important. I kind of wish I’d been born with the confidence gene, more so than beauty. I think confidence definitely comes with age though. As you get older you care less about what other people think which is all a part of that. 🙂 X

  4. Interesting post. I don’t consider myself as being a confident person, I have many hang ups about my body etc but at the same time I couldn’t really care less about what people think of me. I quite often rock up to work or the supermarket with absolutely no makeup on. I think this helps as my mum and dad have always instilled in us that you are who you are and nothing will change that, make up or otherwise and they are both pretty confident in their own skin. If I ever have a daughter I know this will be my biggest challenge to raise her realising media portrayal and real life are two completely different worlds.


    • I definitely don’t envy mothers of girls. Your mum and dad obviously had the right idea though. I don’t feel like my parents were lacking in giving us the positive vibes to trust ourselves but maybe it’s something that just has to be in the genes as well – I was always a bit of an introvert as a young person. I’m getting a lot more confident in my old age!

  5. It’s a fascinating and also depressing topic really isn’t it? I do worry about how girls grow up thinking about themselves when all these images are thrown at them. I’ve heard of girls having aspirations to be like Katie Price, and that makes me feel really sad! Did you see the article about the mum taking her 2 and 4 year old daughters for spray tans? yikes! Great post 🙂 xx

    • Some girls really look up to Katie Price that’s certainly true. I guess she has that side of her which is the entrepreneur and business woman – someone who is maybe not what you would classically think of as intelligent, but she certainly has the confidence and the business intelligence. Unfortunate that the working class girl made good has to also be a vapid ‘glamour’ model who is a walking talking model for plastic surgery and botox. The people who try to turn their daughters into little image obsessed adults are unbelievable! So sad. X

  6. Great post on a never-ending debate. While it may be perceived that attractiveness may give you a bit of an edge in terms of getting on with life, as you say attractiveness doesn’t always equal confidence. Confidence is key to really getting on in life, and achieving what you want. It’s even worse these days with the media pressure to conform to the ‘ideal’ – I feel bad for young girls – and any female – who feels that pressure. It’s far better to focus on being healthy and happy with what you have, which will help you physically and psychologically Those Barbie dolls are just disturbing. x #brilliantblogposts

    • The wannabe Barbies are a bit touched I think. But this goes back to the whole debate about the design of Barbie in the first place… and Barbie is the tip of the iceberg nowadays… Thanks for commenting 🙂 X

  7. Great post and very thought-provoking. It is so sad that there seems to be so much pressure in the media for women to conform to certain stereotypes (although the human Barbie woman is an extreme example and I agree, she certainly doesn’t look happy). Despite the grey hairs and fine lines that I see in the mirror these days, I feel more attractive now than I did in my twenties because I am more confident – it really does make a huge difference.

    • I think this is so true. I actually believe that beauty – even external beauty – can come through confidence and passion and self belief and just getting on with it and not giving a fig really! 🙂 X

  8. Beauty does matter. Whether we want it to, or not. I’ve grown up reading glossy magazines and comparing myself (not favourably) to the thin beautiful models. I hope that I can raise my daughter to feel beautiful without comparing herself to any standard of beauty. #theprompt

  9. Great post! That human barbie makes me shudder – I can’t imagine she can be happy if she feels the need to do that to herself! Our society seems to have moved a long way away from realistic standards of beauty and it does worry me, particularly as a mother. I only have boys but still feel I should do my bit to ensure they understand what ‘real’ women look like and that beauty comes from within. #theprompt

  10. Oh good grief, I hadn’t seen the human barbie before… I’m not quite sure what to say about that! To each their own, but that we live in a world that someone would aspire to that is quite depressing. Great post Sam, I was always mindful with my boys, both about them and how they see others, but now having a daughter too I worry, a lot. As Elfa says, beauty does matter whether we want it to or not, and we have to work out how to raise children who understand the nature of true beauty. Thanks so much for linking to #ThePrompt x

    • To be perfectly honest I think that Barbie woman is a bit mental as she does also talk about being on a diet of just ‘light and air’! You’re right, whether we like it or not beauty and imaginative and all of our children will battle with their place in the scheme of things at some point. We just have to try and keep them grounded. X

  11. Looking good matters, but there’s nothing more beautiful than a good human being. That Barbie doll actually serves as a reminder of how an unhealthy obsession with physical appearance is a sickness we need to banish. #brilliantblogposts

    • As I might have mentioned before the Barbie woman does seem a bit mental – I don’t think she’s on the same page as ‘normal’ people. Makes you wonder what her own childhood looked like though. X

  12. I really don’t like that living barbie doll and I think it’s weird because barbie is actually already based on a woman called barbie who created her. Great post though #brillantblogposts #theprompt

  13. I think beauty and confidence go hand in hand. If you feel “beautiful” you have more confidence and in turn, confidence can make you more beautiful.
    The Barbie doll girl is sad. Everytime I see pictures of her it makes me upset and I hope my own kids can see how beautiful they are without having to go to extremes to get there.
    Great post. Makes you wonder what the future holds for our children. Hopefully they’ll be able to see past the skin, bones and flesh to the person underneath. X

  14. I’ve never seen that human Barbie doll picture, but I agree it doesn’t look real. Good insights on the topic of beauty. Everyone’s beauty fades and if you don’t have something other than that to focus on, it’s very hard!

  15. Sam, I am also a little relieved that I don’t have to navigate girls through the murk of teenhood. It seems that instilling a balance of being comfortable in your skin but also taking care of yourself (whatever that means to each individual) is tricky. I do like me with my make-up and a fab frock, but I think that if I was a horrendous person, those superficial beauty additions would only go a short way. You can physically beautiful but inner ugliness, lack of confidence etc will show through quite quickly. Call it a cliché, but one’s personality outshines their looks a million times over. About Kirstie: I don’t think her overall message was for women to abandon career ambitions, but from my understanding was about encouraging women to consider the order in which they do things in their lives. So many women are achieving high career goals, property ownership etc, but can go on to experience the heartbreak of infertility because they haven’t chosen to have children during their most fertile years. The human Barbie is bizarre to say the least. Great post, Sam.

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