How would life be different if you never had to give a thought to how you looked?

How would life be different if you never had to give a thought to how you looked? If the only concern you had about your body was how healthy it was? What if a healthy body was seen as a beautiful body?
I asked my sixty-year-old, fit as a fiddle aunt what she thought, and she said that was unlikely to happen, it wasn’t possible to ignore how one looked outside, no matter how good (healthy) one felt inside. Looks mattered, she said.
But we do know that rounded, curvaceous bodies were considered beautiful for centuries. Barbara Cartland heroines were always short (or petite) and skinny; Alex Hailey in ‘Roots’ describes beautiful women as ‘sooty black’.
When we were young a friend said she thought the athletic look was going to be the new criteria for beauty for men and women. Halle Berry fits that description? But here too, it’s not really about fitness; one still wants muscles and six packs, (sometimes risking injuries and trying drugs to achieve them) not a healthy body. Sometimes confidence, talent and style makes up for not fitting into set standards of beauty, Sania Mirza is not skinny and Rekha was not light skinned but once again, it’s about beauty.
Imagine what would change if health took priority? There would be no high heels, plastic surgeries, liposuctions, chemical hair dyes, hair removing creams and no fairness creams for men and women, no surgeries to make one’s legs longer and we would dress differently. We’d dress for comfort. We would feel more comfortable.
If beauty wasn’t such a distraction, health was taken more seriously we would think before we eat. We’d probably say no to aerated drinks and junk food and maybe, say yes to nuts and fruits?
Maybe we will see more women in sports and outdoor activities. Swimming too, I know of women who do not swim because the chlorine in the water darkens their skin.
Standards of beauty keep changing, if a healthy, fit look was seen as a beautiful look maybe we’d be a healthier world?

How much should one be willing be change one’s life style to look good?
Do you think there is more pressure to look (more than feel) younger today than there was in the past?

Edited to add: This post was written in response to Aparna’s tag here, ‘My Fragile 30-plus body’.

88 thoughts on “How would life be different if you never had to give a thought to how you looked?

  1. Oh I would love to be slim and have a thick head of hair for starters, may be a better set of teeth and hmmmmm …..

    But to get back to being serious about this, I am very content with my appearance, and sufficiently grounded to realize that I lack the commitment to make serious changes in my life style to achieve this. It is only when one is younger that one is seriously affected by appearance. Once we gain confidence and are comfortable with our own self image, it matters less. But it still does matter. I still long to be tall slim and have long thick and straight hair. But such longings hit me rarely now, may be once in a year or so ….

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    • But would me being the tall slim lady of my dreams have affected my life? I dont know … but I know that it is the inner me that lives life and makes choices. So I think it would not have made a significant change

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    • I so agree with you… With age, priority changes and so does definition of beauty… I feel more beautiful and confident when I am playing with my daughter… even in a crushed t-shirt and faded trackpants!

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    • Ritu, soul sister- I hope to be tall and slender (and have a great singing voice) maybe in my next birth. As of now, I know that tall is not in my hands, and slender involves far more effort than I’m willing to put in. Baaqi, general contentment is my scene, and being comfortable in my clothes and my skin is my mission statement!

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  2. There was a time when I was depressed and sad because I didn’t feel good enough. I tried to compensate it with a better dressing sense and friends who cared only for me and not my looks. It worked. And I started feeling better about myself. I guess this phase comes in everyone’s life – the self doubt – whether or not he/she is beautiful the way world looks at it. Age teaches you better. So now my mantra is to be fit and healthy. I have started watching what I eat and how much I exercise. A few recent brushes with health issues have made me realize that you look good only when you are healthy. And yes, like many other things in this world, you have to learn to ignore the beauty mindsets.

    Coming back to your post, I don’t think being healthy is enough to feel beautiful. A lot of other things go to it – your attitude, the way you carry yourself, the way you behave, your mannerism, dressing sense, the kind of aura you radiate – some of these are superficial and even shallow. But they matter to me in defining whether I find the person sitting opposite to me as beautiful or not.

    And as far as changing yourself to suit others is concerned, whether it is about looking beautiful or fitting into a particular stereotype, do only as much as you are comfortable in. The more you bend backward to please others, the more you break your inner self.

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  3. So true IHM. It’s definitely true that we spend far too much time and energy (and money) either trying for better looks or worrying over what others think of our looks. Looks are superficial. Looks don’t last. The body ages and declines. What’s important is the mind and our actions and values and choices. Good grooming and fitness are important.

    There is definitely more pressure to always look good and be dressed well esp in big cities. Facebook has increased the pressure to keep posting ‘latest’ photos and get praise in the comments!

    We pay far too much attention to looks. As a consequence, the premature greying of hair, wrinkles, hair loss, skin conditions, weight issues, vision problems are now more defining about a person than personality. It’s sad.

    When I go to Mangalore I really relax. People don’t care what they wear and how they look. It’s a big load off!

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    • Additionally, judging a person by looks is so easy, doesn’t need any effort. Getting to know them and getting them to open up their real selves to you takes more effort and time and is not something too many people want to do nowadays.

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      • i agree with you,but this is the fast internet age.who has the time to invest to let people open up to you,or to realize later on that they were not worth the effort?
        even if one does not want it to be that way,beauty does attract people.
        but age brings maturity to demolish such insecurities,and by that time,one is already menopausal.

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  4. It’s Barbara Cartlands of the world that unleashed the Barbie body image. It amzes me how marketing giants have used that toy (its an idealogical means to sell certain products) and are influencing girls around the world. Agianst the media access and markting might of these giants, individual parents ability to prevent their daughters/girls in the family is left ot nothing. Nowadays, just look around and see how many girls are growing up playing with Barbie dolls, especially in the urban areas. It’s a shame that some parents so not given think before they buy a toy or encourage their daughters to play with these because it is fad toy!

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    • The focus on looks is driven by evolutionary factors. Clear skin, wide hips, shiny hair, well proportioned figure are all indicators of health and fertility. Even now plumpness is a sign of beauty in some African cultures. It’s the same with men too, I suppose. Except that today, the mating/marriage market has evolved to meet new standards. We want men to be “good providers” and therefore we focus on education. And we want women to be well geared for motherhood. Whether this should really be the case is the topic of IHM’s blog 🙂

      The mating rituals of animals also revolve around appearance. People instinctively prefer symmetric faces and certain features (sorry, too lazy to actually post links). So our focus on looks has deeper significance.

      However, when the expectations become unrealistic – anorexic looking models, dolls that don’t scale up or represent real women, skin lighter than our genes can support – that the whole thing starts to unravel. We can’t fight certain instincts. But it’s up to us to make sure that expectations are realistic! What I can’t believe is that women still buy their daughter’s Barbies…

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      • Fertility is a matter of concern when choosing mates, and good health and youth does generally indicate a fertile mate, but we also tend to value looks in interviews for many kinds of careers? Also, good skin is not always indicative of good health. Do you think the pale, untanned, clear skin that is favored today might actually indicate an unhealthy lifestyle?

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      • @ IHM: I have seen that people in India still want a pale skin for some reason. A lot of inferiority complex is attached to dark skin. I still hear snide comments towards dark skinned people. And then they say it is all a joke. So why is a joke never made about fair people?! So many of my friends absolutely refuse to go swimming saying it will darken their skin. I really do not see why a dark skin is so bad. I dislike too much of sun cos it spoils the skin and I am allergic to heat anyway, but people take it to mean I do not want to be tanned. So I end up getting gyan on why not to swim! *sigh*

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      • In my comment I said clear skin not fair skin. Huge difference! 🙂

        Anyway, I personally feel that we’re a highly racist society and we just like to feel that white skin is superior just because not many of us have it or even if we are fair, we can’t afford to not get tanned.

        Come to think about it, most current standards of beauty are indicators of prosperity and privilege. Certainly desirable qualities in a mate.

        When you think about it from that angle, the obsession with fairness makes sense. There was a dialogue in a Telugu movie. The hero’s friend asks the hero (both live in a slum) “Why are rich people always so fair?” and the hero replies, “It’s because they live their entire lives in AC”

        My hostel roommates were always using fairness creams. When I asked them why they needed to one of them replied, “You’ll never understand because you’re naturally fair”. Fair enough!

        Coming to job interviews, I think it’s the natural human bias that leads to skewed results. It’s probably more a sub-conscious thing except for flight attendant kind of jobs. But like my roomie said, easy for me to say. No one’s discriminating against me based on complexion…

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  5. Beauty is for the external world,health is for oneself.Everyone should be healthy if not externally beautiful.Internal beauty is yet another thing.
    reminds me of women who drape thin saree but wear no sweater in chilling winter weddings,just to look good.Or a woman who seeks fair girl for her son,or a man who insists on marrying a gorgeous looking girl,only to be incompatible afterwards.
    people do get influenced by beautiful,well endowed women.Intelligence frankly,is admired by men,but only from a distance.

    if in fight with a darkskinned/ugly looking person,you would think yourself to be superior even if you have no rational basis to do so,ie simply on the basis of looks we mentally score people.
    also,it’s a fact of nature that men are influenced by looks and appearance more than anything else and form opinion about women mostly based on physical attributes. beauty thus has more subconscious influence.Direct for men,indirect comparisons for women.

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    • Oct how would life be different if nobody cared about how one looked…even men? Do you think we would be healthier? Even men are pressurized to look ‘fair and handsome’, and to ‘dress to impress’, both their boss and women in general.
      Now that women are being given a choice, it seems women think men’s looks matter too.

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      • as per my understanding,health has no connection with looks.
        but again,healthy or not,frumpy women and paunchy men are unsightly.It certainly shows irresponsibility towards one’s body.Podgy candidates are less frequently hired by interviewers…

        as for men,not looks but cleanliness matters more.Tall,dark,rich and handsome still remains the stereotype.Dhoni,whether bald or long haired,enjoyed popularity.For women,looks,manners,claenliness,fairness all interplay.
        Men are more receptive of beautiful women.

        and since visual sense brings major input to our brain,looks will continue to dominate.one cant ignore or look past it,since It’s not even a matter of conditioning…

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  6. IHM, I am that girl who loves to wear her high heels, basic make up, accessorise well and match her shoes to her bag. 
    Last year I started taking swimming lessons to overcome my water phobia. I had plenty of reasons holding me back- wearing a swimsuit as per this country’s standards, fear of the water itself, not wanting to struggle when kids were around, etc but NEVER for the fear of my skin darkening. 
    Me – Why did skin darkening not bother you? Don’t you think skin colour makes a difference to how good or bad one looks? What if one’s skin does tend to get patchy if they swam – should they continue to swim or avoid swimming to protect their skin?

    And everytime I suggestswimming as the most fun you can have to shape your body, women ask me if I have noticed my skin darken. And it surprises me everytime. How does it matter? Men ask me if it is to lose weight because i dont need to. When I say it is not to lose weight but for general fitness they look at me like I don’t belong to this planet.
    Beauty, I feel, can add truckloads to your confidence just like it has the potential to give you a complex.
    Have you noticed the little hop we have in our steps when we wear something new?
    The key is to accentuate what you have, proudly strut it and not radically change it. And it starts from being comfortable in your own skin and able to carry yourself well and refuse to follow trends that tend to harm you. 
    As if I have not taken your comment space enough here’s a link [ http://celestialrays.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/is-it-really-only-skin-deep/ ] to what I wrote about it 🙂 This is my favourite topic you see, sorry 🙂

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  7. It’s true that how we look has become pivotal to our existence in an obsessive sort of way. And that’s unhealthy to say the least.

    But there are some healthy choices also that one ends up making while trying to look good. Like you mentioned, having nuts and fruits instead of colas and junk food. That’s something a lot of people are already doing because they want to cut down on the calories. And it’s healthy too. I hate Kareena’s size zero avatar, but from what we hear, she’s made some very healthy lifestyle choices – like turning vegetarian and taking up yoga. If we can balance the health and looks department what’s the harm? Who doesn’t like to look good?

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  8. I would love to look better. Indian society thinks beauty means being ‘slim, fair, pretty’, which is very skewed. If we didn’t have this notion of beauty, it would certainly be nice.

    Hey! I could have been Miss World instead of Aishwarya Rai 😉 😉 But I’d have stayed away from the Bacchhan clan 😉 😉

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  9. Going through some amount of angst on what you look like is fine when you are a teenager and are discovering your body and your sexuality, but after that, you really do have to make peace with what you have. I know tonnes of usually intelligent people who are still in the middle of ‘body image’ issues and I get really impatient although I know the problems are very real for them. Have you noticed how everyone these days has straightened hair and shaped eyebrows? I mean, I’m not against experimenting with one’s looks, but when it becomes such a uniform thing…it just gets so boring. I blogged about this around the time I got married because I was so sick of listening to beauty advice: http://mediumboss.blogspot.com/2009/10/monologue-for-beautician.html

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  10. If health took priority over looks, I think liposuction,fairness cream et al would just be replaced by surgeries to detoxify the body, pills to maintain a good digestive system, chemicals to make body parts stronger.
    I think it is human nature to go ignore/exploit what is natural and then take help from artificial resources. Where would the moneyed people splurge? On quick fix solutions to gain a healthy body.

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  11. I’ve noticed with a couple of people, they are really pretty, even by Indian standards, but what really makes them so likeable and lovable is their gentle nature 🙂 So yes, looks do matter. Looks can draw attention. But nature is what retains them.

    Though, if we did away with looks, we would end up having some other measure!!! Either way, people are always competing with each other on some basis or the other. So if not looks, then something else!

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  12. “Do you think there is more pressure to look (more than feel) younger today than there was in the past? ”

    Well, at least all the cosmetic companies would have us believe it is so. The recent ad for Ponds Age miracle cream is so dumb. There are these two women, one of whom looks like she has a black eye and another who looks normal. The black-eye lady states that had she started using anti-aging cream five years ago, she would be now looking young (read normal) like her friend. Both women look like they are in their early 30s. Meaning Ponds expects women to start dabbing anti-aging cream from the time they turn 25?

    Really? So using anti-aging cream is what stops you from looking like you have a black eye when you are past 30? I won’t speak for myself since I do use moisturizer/sunscreen regularly. But, in my mom’s generation, when daily “make-up” used to primarily consist of talcum-powder and a bindi, most ladies continued looking quite lovely (no, no black eyes) well into their 40s and 50s. Evidently those ladies did not receive the memo that said that since they did not use anti-aging creams, they should start looking like shriveled prunes with black-eyes to boot the moment they crossed 30.

    While I do admit I get a cheap thrill when someone thinks I am younger than I actually am, I also think this obsession with looking young is getting a bit too ridiculous. Why on earth should a 35 year old look like they are 25? Going by that logic, should a 5 year old look like they have not been conceived yet? Why is looking your age such a shameful thing? It’s not like everyone else is aging in reverse!

    People following a healthy diet and a good fitness routine to be in the best shape they can be in is a great thing. But, when people start going under the knife or follow crazy diets or start basing their worth on their looks – um, not so good anymore.

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    • Actually, the pressure to look pretty was there in the past as well. It has always been there. We just do not realize it because pretty meant something different then. Otherwise the older women would not be wearing all the jewellery that we take as custom today. Also, the number of times I have heard from elderly ladies and men that a bindi makes a girl look prettier, so all women should wear bindis. The “need to look pretty” ideal was there, only in different ways.

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  13. I have tried IHM.. and tired a LOT to get that 6 pack and be all that, but it has not worked so then i gave up, Now i eat and drink what i want to WHen i want to .. Who cares.. End of the day if you look all these heroes and heroins once they stop working become fat and what not 🙂

    Being all handsome and good looking wont make me a good human being and end of the day if we look good human beings is what is the need of the hour not slim beauties or men with biceps .. moreover I have seen that Men who have all that big biceps and 6 pack end of the day are scary cats .. the strength lies in the MIND not in the biceps.. You hit them at the right place and they cry like a baby.. when they are sitting in the back seat to be taken to custody all you hear is the whimpering and crying and the PLEASE’s.

    So I am happy the way i am, I can still run faster then loads, I can EAT more then anyone and Drink tooo 🙂 he he he he what else do you want KHAO PIO AISH KARO 🙂 is the motto…

    The only reason I go to the gym/swim/horse riding or play hockey now is to keep my chalestorol in check … thats it .. and when the hockey game finishes have a Beer.. I have to laugh at people who say why did u do this whats the use of sweating in the game .. Well dont you go to the side and have your smoke .. Thats worst then having a beer …

    oooops it seems i have gone on a tangent here sorry

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  14. What a beautiful thought, IHM!! If, only the focus was on being healthy instead of looking beautiful, life would surely be a lot different!
    I guess, with age, the definition of beauty changes and we move towards being healthy and beautiful inside!

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  15. I love Celestialrays’ comment, and I really feel that being comfortable in one’s skin is important.

    I don’t now if nobody cared about the way they looked, we would necessarily have a healthier society. Because it is all down to individuals, isn’t it? Even today, despite the focus on ‘beautiful bodies’, and the mad race to be ‘thin’ or fair’ etc, there are plenty of people who go against the current. Some proudly flaunt grey hair,refuse to conform to fashions and still manage to look amazing. I think the self confidence that we have is what matters. I think a confident person looks good in everything, because of the way they carry themselves. I know for a fact that I cannot carry off certain types of clothes, so I stay away. Even the prettiest dress will look ill-fitting, if I don’t have the confidence to carry it off. And even the prettiest face, with the best features can lose the shine, if the personality does not show through.

    ‘How much should one be willing be change one’s life style to look good?’ – I am not sure if I will change my lifestyle to look good, but I will change my lifestyle to feel good. I am one of those people who feel good after a workout, or just a walk, so in that sense, I might not have the time to go for a manicure sometimes, but I try not to give up my walks.

    Although, knowing that one is well-dressed/well-presented, adds to one’s confidence. I think it is a matter of balancing everything out. Not to get obsessed with the idea of fitness(I remember reading how some people have got addicted to exercising) or to the idea of looking good. A balanced personality would go farther.

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  16. Thanks for taking up my tag, IHM! I am still a little confused on this. Given how many other species try and make themselves look attractive during the mating season, I’m not sure if human beings also have an innate need to look attractive. But yes – the premium placed on beauty over all other attributes is saddening.

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  17. Health is beauty, how can one have good skin quality without enough water and a well balanced meal? That also means maintaining a healthy body weight, so obese should be out in our own defence. We are anti-barbies here even for kids, in the interest of getting them to develop a healthy image of their own bodies. And use muscles to push protein into meals, hit balls/shuttles harder – like that. Looking your best also shows that you take pride in yourself.

    Me – What if one is healthy but the skin is not clear – say chicken pox marks?

    So it is important to care about how you feel and look because one links into the other. That said, I get asked every time I got for a haircut if I am going to get my hair coloured (answer – not on your life), am the one walking around in Fabindia kurtas that get more faded and comfortable with every wash and Oshos. I noticed (in the women’s compartment of the Delhi Metro) that EVERY woman was well turned out from head to toe, nails and slippers and all. So I had people to admire and people had me as the kala tika! 😀

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    • At all times is a nice smile, a pleasant expression, so many thing that are more important. So what if you skin is marked? It can still look healthy with a glow from good nutrition, sleep and exercise.

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  18. Lovely post 🙂
    But honestly I like looking good, but good for me doesnt mean size zero, fair and gorgeous. I like the way I am and I like looking good for myself.
    But without doubt our society is full of people wanting to be fair and lovely all the time. So much so that people advise me what to do to make my daughter look fairer and she is all of 9 months. But hello! I dont want a fair daughter I love her the way she is. She just so gorgeous, the loveliest person ever. I just want a healthy child…no prodigy and beauty queen, just a normal happy baby that she is….

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  19. I am fat, I am dark, my face is covered with pimples and I look like I am always wearing a tent..but ask my three year old, she loves me the most in the world…Wish everyone was like her. I have go through a lot of image issue problems IHM when I was a teenager..from comments like ‘you have so many pimples that you can audition for zee horror show AND get selected’ to ‘you look older than your elder brother’ to ‘you are so fat that you wont even get anything to shop readymade’ blah blah blah..I have been compared to cousins who were way thinner, better looking, better skin, blah blah blah .I had issues when I was a teenager or even in my early twenties..

    but I learnt hard, that all you need is a healthy body, good stamina, positive outlook and strong will to ignore comments 🙂 Yes life would definitely be easier if people just worried about their health and not their looks but I have realised that as long as you are comfortable in your skin and care a damn, its just shouldnt worry you

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    • Absolutely! Funnily it works the other way too. I was berated all my childhood for being tall, thin and dark! The funniest thing was when I was about to start my ME a “well meaning” family friend who was teaching me to drive scooter had this to say “Think hard before you do this. Do you really want to cause more grief to your father? You are already very tall and dark and your father is going to find it very difficult to find you a groom. Do you want to make it more complicated by going in for higher studies?” I nearly crashed the scooter, I was completely taken aback that someone could even think like this. I mean think about the number of assumptions going on in this one piece of thought: (a) tall is ugly (b) dark is ugly (c) a woman cannot marry someone who is less educated/shorter than her (d) you *must* be married (e) looks are all there is to whether or not you can/will get married! There may even be more I am missing! I think he must have been shocked when I went on to do a PhD and marry someone of my choice, 8 years after we decided to get married to each other. I still can’t stop laughing when I think of him. But to be fair, he has changed too. I think he has grown out of some of his old stuck up beliefs!

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    • Beautiful is that beautiful does… Fainting frail beauty is not for me. Beauty lies in the strength of character and stamina for me any day. If DG’s vitals are in healthy range and her knees are giving under your weight then that is good for her no matter what others say. When going gets tough DG watches this

      DG

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  20. If looks didn’t matter? Let’s see. If looks didn’t matter, we would not be berating each other about it. We would not be using it to undermine each other, control each other. We would all achieve our own optimal health and associated looks. There would be less eating disorders (both over and under) and all associated illnesses(diabetes, kidney disease), less cancers (from putting chemicals in and on us), fewer feet problems (heels, flats). If we ate healthier we would need less stuff to put on us to make us look healthier! We’d just be a lot healthier – emotionally and physically.

    If looks didn’t matter, we would stop before we bought that diamond ring and wonder how much blood was shed in acquiring it. Africa would have been happier. We would have stopped before we bought that silk saree and wondered how many worms had to die in boiling water to get us this exquisite piece of art. If looks didn’t matter, we would have stopped before we wore that pearl earring and wondered how exactly this was made, where was it harvested. We would not have bought that coral necklace and the coral reefs off our shores would still have been vibrant. If looks did not matter, we would have stopped and thought about the mining practices for all the precious stones in our jewelry and wondered if we were not destroying something far more precious than these gems.

    If looks alone did not matter, not just us, but the whole planet may have been healthier. The whole world may have been a little less strife ridden. May be.

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  21. I agree that health ought to be one’s primary responsibility. But it is also true that no matter what, a little bit of beauty always helps. It does not have to be fairness, or slimness, or height or whatever, but there is something in some people that makes them attractive. Charisma? Perhaps personality? Confidence too, perhaps. I would say cultivating these things would be more to the point than aimless applications of the nth dose of figure altering pills.

    Btw, sunscreen is required for health reasons as well as beauty ones. I do not care about tanning, but I do apply sunscreen when I go out to avoid direct exposure to the rays.

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  22. I’m not beautiful, but that didn’t bother me at school/college/work place. I love checking out men and women who wear beautiful clothes/ look beautiful, though. Just like I check out cute puppies. It’s a beautiful, fresh sight and it attracts me. But I do not allow this to become a bias in relationships/professional set up. I have also not seen a lot of this bias in my professional/personal life.

    Same with high heels and beautifully colored hair, but I haven’t contemplated wearing any of them myself.

    I remember using this bias to my advantage in the time of groom searching via matrimony site. I flatly ignored anyone who insisted on a particular skin tone in a prospective bride.

    But I despise the in-your-face, “your worth depends on your skin color tone” theme based cream ads. Some actors take a stand to not endorse such products, but I think we have a long way to go here.

    I benefited a lot from studying in an old world school where students got the stamp of approval from its teachers only if you were a good person. Not marks, not good looks, not athletics, not extra curricular activities, but who you are. There was a heavy emphasis on Moral science and Catechism classes and somehow I think I have carried that stamp of approval strongly in my mind. IMO, I think that helped me and if anyone went the “she-is-too-dark” route, it didn’t upset me, because thanks to my school, I had a good sense of self-worth to begin with.

    And today, if I scold myself for my lack of will to continue with the gym regime, it’s because I associate “the perfect body” with “perfect health and stamina” . Another reason is that I’d like to be able to fit into my favorite old clothes. Beautiful, somehow, doesn’t feature in this list for me.

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  23. Disclaimer: I do like beauty as a work of art. I do think it looks wonderful when someone dresses well and even just looks beautiful. But the converse is not true. If someone is not currently well dressed/looking their best, I do not make judgements on their commitment to health, looks, laziness — whatever. I even like to dress up once in a while. Only on my terms. Only when I feel like it. Not to please someone else, not to conform to someone else’s idea of what looks good. Not to get ahead. And never at the cost of health or if it hurts someone/something else.

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  24. For me a fit body adds a lot to my confidence. I love swimming too and don’t care about darkening. But a toned body on which I can wear any clothes with ease is what I want.

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  25. I agree, looks matter because people around you are judging you by the way you look. Also if one is always complimented and treated in a certain way because of their beauty they get used to the special treatment. Sadly it can be taxing after a certain age when how much ever we try, youth and freshness on one’s face does not come back. Somewhere it also has to do with ones self esteem. If we are happy with ourselves, we might not really get affected by how others perceive us. But honestly in the age of yummy mummy’s we all want to look smart and young always. Sad but true.

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  26. Well ofcourse, there is so much pressure to look young than feel young now IHM. Even I have had my share of issues trying to look good and fit in. But as someone pointed out, if we din’t care how we looked, there would definitely be shortcuts to be healthy then. However, priorities change, and one does aim for a healthier body later on in life.

    I feel the insane TV ads contribute a lot to this absession to beauty too. But don’t people comment on what they see than check with the details. Sigh !

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  27. What a thought-provoking post, IHM! I think being beautiful is to a large extent dependent on how comfortable you are with yourself or how good you feel about yourself. There are certain outfits which I love watching others wear but I personally am not comfortable wearing so even if anyone were to tell me that I will look good in them unless I have that confidence to carry them off I cant wear it and as a result I’ll not feel nice or beautiful. I have a cousin who is a bit plump. She has an excellent sense of dressing, she wears the trendiest of clothes. I really admire the way she carries herself off in all those stylish dresses. That confidence totally brings out the beauty in her.

    As for being healthy, I agree with Shilpa. With age I think we tend to correlate beauty with being healthy.

    Like

  28. I did a little experiment in college. I went a week without ever looking in a mirror. When I finally did look at myself I was surprised by how different the two images were, my idea of myself and what I look like and what I really looked like. (It wasn’t terrible, I was just unaware of how overgrown my eyebrows got and things like that). It was an interesting lesson. I think I could learn from that to care more about how I see myself rather than how I actually look.

    Like

      • if you have hair on legs / arms / underarms , cover up …its for men and women both … dont highlight your weak points and that would be fine …but i do get repulsed by women / men who make other suffer by their lack of basic sense ..like applying pungent oil on hair , cracks on feet and proudly sitting with feet on chair for the world to see etc etc ..there can be no excuse not to wear a washed / clean pair of dress and take bath and smell fresh ,at least in office.
        Health is important than skin color … and a genuine smile is ones best accessory .. be clean and comfortable and shocking ppl with red / green hair is fun ..not with a jungle of underarms ( upper lips too for that matter ).

        I hate getting tanned coz m fair and i look like a shade card if i get out in sun for few minutes and then i get burnt and my skin itches .. at the same time i have nothing against darker skin . people come in all shapes and sizes and shades …thats how God wanted it to be …and its way better than looking like exact clones of each other ..perfect or not 🙂

        and previous generation did not have to deal with harsh sun , stress , pollution and garbage we eat … and also going by Indian dresses saree and suits cover up ur flaws ..if u want to wear sexy western outfit , you got to be in shape or that just dont look good. If you can’t change your body , accept and change your wardrobe .

        Like

        • But satc, what are ‘flaws’ – if somebody has thin arms (Sushmita Sen worried about hers) or is not tall, a short neck, an hourglass figure/not an hourglass figure, but is perfectly healthy – should these still be seen as flaws? These trends tend to change with time… standards of beauty change with time…

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      • @satc,
        You say, “If you can’t change your body , accept and change your wardrobe .”

        This same wardrobe you speak of is worn by Western people of ALL shapes and sizes. No one gives it a second thought there. Why is it that in our country it is thought that only the blamelessly well-shaped are the ones who can wear it??

        In fact I have heard a different version of this in our country. The south Indians (of my generation and the previous) say salwar-kameez is not for the fat or the old. That it looks odd on them (Chee!), only sari gives that dignity and so much more blah blah on those lines.
        Excuse me, I have always wanted to tell these people and have told some of them too. Salwar kameez is the dress of a section of people and they wear it ALL their lives, whether young or old or fat or thin or grey or black. For them it is as the sari to you. It is only people who look at salwars as a fashion statement and believe only the young wear it, who are unable to adjust mentally to older people wearing it (like me, but of course now things are different)
        The matter of Western wear is similar. We see the young and well-shaped ones wearing it and so it hurts our eyes to see well endowed and fat people wear it. Nobody pauses to think that it is a dress worn by a whole population somewhere else where no one gives a second thought.
        For me it all boils down to one thing. It is our own fixed ideas that we are unable to shake off, that are the problem. Not the dress, not the size and shape of people.
        I disagree with anyone who says, such and such dress does not suit such and such sort of people. That is just a perception of the person who views, just a personal view and sometimes one that has been unconsciously drilled into our psyche.

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      • DG doesn’t shave legs or underarms for most of the times but she doesn’t stink either. Fully agree cracked heels and stained teeth and stinky breath are a great put off.
        Why do desis have aversion to exercise never found out. At Y there are hardly any desis at any hour. Yes, they do bring kids for swim lessons 🙂
        Why would someone like to be with someone with unhealthy life style?

        Hope you remember K:
        If you are pot bellied,

        If you are half or full bald,

        If you are married, If you have stained teeth,

        If your breath stinks, If you are an unhealthy eater,

        If you are an MCP, If you are a smoker

        Don’t even come anywhere near me…

        http://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/1079/

        DG

        Like

      • @sexandtheindiancities

        Fully agree with you about unshaved underarms being displayed and people stinking to glory. India is hot and sweaty, so methinks people can invest in some deodorant. And I disagree about Western wear and shape of bodies. I fully agree with shail in this matter. Dress is a choice we make, and has nothing to do with hygiene or beauty. We have to dress for ourself, not for others.

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  29. I love the way you handled this topic. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that beholder should be ourselves Imho. Everytime we succumb to an outside idea of beauty we are shunning a part of ourselves. I watch some of the beauties that the Media tout as Beauties and think..Hmm…wonder how they will look if they had to live for 6 months in some remote place without any beauty salons or cosmetics at their disposal? Theres taking care of ourselves and then there is obsession with how we look , its a fine line.

    My observation says that the most beautiful/handsome people are the ones who are accepting of who and how they are, they tend to exude confidence, poise and comfort. Their size and shape is less important compared to their personalities. They are very easy on our senses.

    Like

    • Very well said Mysoul. I too think, “beautiful/handsome people are the ones who are accepting of who and how they are, they tend to exude confidence, poise and comfort”

      Like

    • @Mysoul,
      DG hasn’t steped in a salon in ages, but she exercises regularly and every time she works out she feels million dollar. 🙂 The days she slouches she feels ugly as what ever. Guess serotonin and dopamine works for her…
      Handsome is that handsome does…

      Peace,
      Desi Girl

      Like

  30. I discovered something quite early on in life. Beauty comes from the way a person carries himself/herself. No cosmetics or accessories, not the best and costliest of clothes can give anyone the attraction that comes from a person being comfortable with oneself. The person may be tall, short, fat, thin, dark, fair bald, gray or whatever. But that ability that the person has to carry off whatever they are in, imparts a beauty that nothing else can give. In that sense, we only have to have the courage and confidence to be ourselves and we will look attractive to others. My perceptions of what beauty is is very different from what’s flaunted on tv and magazines. A open smile, an unselfconscious demeanor, a sparkle in the eye… these make a person of either sex seem attractive to me.
    I admit of course that there exists for all, the pressure to conform to some set standards of beauty which standards actually change from time to time, place to place.
    I think both men and women are going to feel totally free if we never had to give a thought to how we looked. But will it really come to that?? I think we are wired to make ourselves look good. The only thing is we should be able to guard against is that the looking good not rule or ruin our life.
    I loved Agnija’s comment on how Nature will benefit if looks did not matter. 🙂

    Like

  31. If it is not the pressure to look good (good: defined by what majority people think as good looking..stereotypical), it is the pressure to do good in careers, achieve particular things by particular age, get married, earn money, buy a house… I think there is pressure (even though not explicit) to “fit in” in each and every thing. It is upto us to make a conscious effort to break the moulds and do what we actually like.
    There are moulds everywhere, arent there? Tall-dark-handsome men are drooled over. Do majority people who drool over them really drool because they like them, or because the other majority like them? I remember, in college I had a crush on this geeky guy. Very intelligent, wiry slim, with specs and far from the mould of TDH..and my friend used to be really surprised that I like that guy. Later, I told this guy (who is now one of my closest friends) about my crush and he said that I must have lost my mind or something.
    So, the point I am trying to make is, “ideally” different things should appeal to different people, and “ideally” for each and every individual the idea of beauty should be different. But then when one person goes and starts defining beauty, thats when the moulds are formed and stereotypes strengthened.

    For me, beauty lies in the whole personality and not just external appearance. Beautiful does not mean good looking, it means charming and appealing and impactful. This is one of the reasons I dont find actors and actresses beautiful. (ah well, except colin firth ;-)) .. It is their whole way of talking, their sense of humor, intelligence, innocence, down-to-earthness and being unaware of ones’ appearance that appeals to me. Then even if that person if dressed up in rags with un-clear skin and totally unconventional in terms of the ‘beauty’ mould, I would still find that person beautiful.

    Like

  32. I am guilty of taking minutes off my work time to comment here!!
    BUT I gotta say this.
    It is commonly believed that looks present the first impression of a person, object or even a place…looks matter ‘cuz one often makes a long lasting impression with their first one but having lived in India, China, HongKong and the US and having closely studied the living style/habits of the workforce in each of these places, I have come to believe attitude is ‘the’ most important attribute that goes towards making a long lasting impression for anyone.

    Having a great attitude comes from being aware and extremely confident of ‘who I am and what I can do’. Just knowing that can make one feel so good, that regardless of how tall or short, how fair or dark, how fat or skinny one is…they look ‘their’ BEST at all times wherever they are, whatever they do!

    What should matter is to feel ‘my’ BEST than to look ‘the’ BEST , the good thing is with that attitude I end up looking my best anyway.

    I feel its extremely necessary to feel good about ourselves, our lives, our work, our home and looking good is just a part of feeling good.

    Clothes, accessories, hairdo’s, makeup, shoes, a fancier car or a house etc. etc. are temporary, easy, quick ways of making one ‘feel’ good so they ‘think’ they look good. Its like covering up a zit with makeup. Today’s world being so materially driven looks for fast, quick and easy solutions to everything.

    To truly understand the question asked in this post, one should visit rural India. Its amazing how some ladies without access to clean water, leave alone cleansers and other facial products look strikingly beautiful just through their eyes and their smile.

    Actually none of the other features on our face reveals anything about us…other than our eyes and smile. Our attitude reveals the rest.

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    • About rural Indian women, don’t they age too soon? My cook, then seventeen, was shocked that her mother at 35, a mother of five daughters and one son, once almost burnt while asleep, fighting to stop her husband from marrying another woman, was only two years older than Aishwarya Rai, who at 33 had just married a younger man.

      Like

      • You are right, working under harsh environment, being under the sun without protection, lack of care, bearing children every year or so, lack of proper nutrition and a lot of frowning, constant worries, tension, frustration over daily battles…causes them to age early most probably.
        I have been to rural Kashmir and although people are naturally beautiful there I seriously couldn’t imagine how some of the older women still looked so vibrant as they claimed they had not touched a store bought cream ever, they barely took a bath ‘cuz it would be freezing for months. One of them was one of my MIL’s sister, in her late 60’s. She would laugh at me whenever I demanded to know what it was that had retained her beauty even at that age. Her husband, then in his 70’s one day gave me the answer…he said to me its the smile in her eyes that makes her entire face glow!! I will never forget how his own eyes glittered when he said that.
        If there is anything called ‘beauty’ its in the eyes…no matter how wrinkled one gets…and if there is anything that keeps it alive its the love we have within ourselves.
        I guess one who learns to make the best of his/her given conditions at any given time and doesn’t compromise on ‘seeing the world with a smile’ , gets to retain ageless beauty.

        Like

      • J, totally agree. It is in the eyes. I instinctively like people whose eyes smile. If the eyes don’t convey that certain something (an openness, zest for life, an inner sparkle??), I am wary of those people.

        Like

  33. If looking good and dressing up makes *you* happy, I’d say there’s no harm. Doing it for someone else? Na.

    A lot of times, when you are well-dressed it lends a spring to your step and you feel more confident. That is what makes you look beautiful, not the clothes you are wearing.

    Coming back to your question, yes life would indeed be different if looks didn’t matter. It would save us a lot of money for starters!

    Like

    • This reminds me of the time the uniform of army nurses was changed from the white frock to the regular olive green trousers and shirt (now it has changed again). Lot of people, men and women were of the opinion that the ‘fat’ women with paunches should get into shape. “Chee, they look awful in the uniform!”
      Much as I agree everyone should exercise and try to be in shape, what I don’t understand is why no one said ‘Chee!” of the men in uniform who had greater paunches and also fatter behinds! How come it is okay to be a fat man in trousers but a fat women becomes “Chee!”

      Like

    • IHM i never meant Jeans …they hide all flaws just fine .. i meant super sexy body hugging skin showing dresses ..may be i was talking of myself i love them and now when i have few extra pounds don’t wear them the way i like to …they don’t look that flattering . I never said western women look very attractive wearing all those cloths just because they are western ….and so do men … its good to be conscious about your body type and take care to dress up accordingly , comfort will also come from that .. when we know we look decent we are comfortable and confident .
      while men have limited options of hiding their flaws unless we allow lungis to work) , women have more options … a litle heavy bottom and bit of tummy totally go unnoticed in a salwar or saree or jeans top but make a perfect dress look not so good( i dont think anyone is ugly).. and my point is why wear something to look not so good .

      chubby arms , short legs , wide hips , we all have problem areas ..why not give it some thought and dress appropriately

      Like

  34. Intersting!!
    I wonder how the world would be if everybody stopped worrying about their looks!
    Many people would lose their jobs and there’s a risk of the world becoming ugly!! 🙂
    I was thinking of going and getting my hair straightened today but after reading this post, i am having second thoughts. 😦
    Good looks may lead you to the door but to be able to gain entry, you need more than just looks.Like a beautiful packaging is useless unless the contents match up to their name.

    Obsession with beauty should not be confused with personal grooming and hygiene.
    Unshaven underarms, bad body odour, other unhealthy habits would not only invoke aversion in others but also have unhealthy implications on the person himself.

    Getting hair straightened may not make me any prettier but it may generate some interest for me when i look into the mirror or may even make my family ( and some friends) give me a second glance. 🙂

    Like

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