If you’re pretty, you’re pretty; but the only way to be beautiful is to be loving.
Otherwise, it’s just “congratulations about your face". - John Mayer
I will never forget the time I first saw the following study. The data that validated what I had instinctively known since long before I began my professional career: the way I presented physically in the workplace didn't just matter. It was what mattered most.
(*I promise this post is not a pity party for attractive girls, but rather an observation about the "superpower" of beauty in our culture. Stay with me.*)
|It's not just the workplace. Here's another fun one for you.|
By the time this was published I had already been a professional for about 15 years and didn't need a bunch of percentages to tell me what I already knew: it was easier for me to be seen (and heard) when the people in the room liked what they were looking at.
The study and discussion of physical attractiveness is not a new one. Conversations have been ongoing since we first saw our reflection in the lake while kneeling to get a drink of water.
- What is beauty (and how this definition varies by geography and over time)?
- How does physical attractiveness change the way you move in the world?
- What are the perceived advantages to beauty (economic/professional/romantic)?
- What are we willing to do to maintain our beauty?
As a woman over the age of 40 I listen carefully as my gorgeous, accomplished, talented peers discuss the task of beauty "maintenance".
The things we are willing are to do and the money we are willing to spend in the way of exercise (memberships and equipment), procedures (injections/surgery/treatments) diet (collagen powders/supplements/oils etc), cosmetics (endless), and various tools (think a crazy wand you rub all over yourself to smooth out the cellulite) all to keep our so-called superpower alive and well.
All this got me thinking about something I read in Malcolm Gladwell's book The Outliers about the 10,000 hour rule. The (*debated) rule states the following:
The key to success in any field, is simply a matter of practicing a specific task that can be accomplished with 20 hours of work a week for 10 years.
Gladwell argues this is how we become an expert. It's no wonder then, that after spending our 20's and 30's perfecting the art of being attractive, that by the time we reach 40 we have really hit our stride. We have become experts in the field of our physical appearance. We have logged enough hours on everything from our false eyelashes to the tips of our pedicured toes (and everything in between...ahem) to reach full pro status.
I'm challenging myself (and you if you'd like...no pressure) to consider the following:
What else could we have done with that time instead, and what areas of ourselves have gone underdeveloped as a result?
We might have studied religion, world history or the origin of language. We could have learned to play a stringed instrument or speak Mandarin.
But speaking Mandarin doesn't encourage the guy in front of you at the checkout to let you go in front of him...
...and playing viola won't get you out of a speeding ticket.
We can't control the way the world around us works, but we can control the way we react to it. So here's what I'm thinking.
Let's start normalizing the topic of looks and the role they play in our lives. Let's take the conversations from a whispering kitchen full of women out into the open. Let's start treating the way we look as what it is, just another great thing in a long list of great things about us. We know it is true that once you recognize something and allow yourself to be vulnerable to it you take the power back. The thing no longer holds the ball...you do.
So let's recognize the role of beauty in our lives, honor it, and then put it right back in our toolbox of gifts where it belongs:
Somewhere in between being a strong speller and the fastest runner in your class.
Somewhere between being good at Excel and having a green thumb.
When we remind our girls (and ourselves) that our superpowers are not singular we redistribute the beauty from our faces into every facet of our being. That kind of beauty changes the way we move in the world, the way we love ourselves and enhances our capacity to love others. That kind of beauty shifts the energy in everything we create and everything we do.
That kind of beauty lasts.
xo - juli