Friday, October 31, 2008

What is Ugly?

How do we define beauty or ugliness? Is it a universal standard or does it vary from culture to culture? Is it a point of view? Is it in the eye of the beholder? Or is it related to specific body features? Does "ugly" involve a disfigurement? How is beauty/ugliness related to one's weight or body shape?

Reading the lead article of the New York Times Style section on Thursday (10/30/08) "Move Over, My Pretty, Ugly Is Here," got me thinking.

You see, not only am I tall, and apparently a nerd, but for looks, let's say it's quite not a winning hand. Not that I'd be considered hideous, just a bit homely.

But luckily I can make up in brains what I may lack in looks. And now that I’m living in the neighborhood of middle age, I'm finally over the low self-esteem born in adolescence, when you know exactly where you stand in the pecking order of attractiveness.

Still, I must say I chose MyBlogLog over, say Facebook, because I wanted to be known for my words and thoughts, and not for what I may look like. That's also why I chose a cute avatar to represent my inner self-confidence and put a better face foward.

As I think back to adolescence it was like a domino effect of social segregation. From an early age, the more attractive tend to become the more popular, gaining more friends and social skills. The less attractive, especially if they're shy (like me), tend to fade to the background in social settings, less likely to reach out and make friends. Isolation can lead to depression and doubts about self-worth. Lack of confidence keeps you from putting your best face forward.

This effects both girls and boys. And it can take years to overcome it.

For me, having success in my profession helped a lot. In engineering, appearance and personality are generally less important; what matters to the boss is if you what you're doing and get the job done efficiently. In fact, as I think of all the competent engineers I know, there are both men and women who span the range of body shapes and appearances -- and they generally get along with each other.

The TV show "Ugly Betty" has brought the issue of appearance to prime time. The title character is also a bit homely, yet it doesn't hold her back. She too finds success at work which raises her self-esteem. And there is a related campaign to improve the self image and self confidence particularly of adolescent girls by de-emphasizing appearance.

Amazingly, even people we might find attractive have been through tough times when they were teased about their looks. Sometimes it was cultural. Someone who might have been considered unattractive in her native country, may be consider quite attractive in another culture.

On the other hand, love can overcome other aspects of appearance. The beloved is always seen as attractive. To a mother, her child is alway precious, even is she/he is a bit homely. And as couples grow old together, their appearance change with the addition of wrinkles and weight, or the loss of hair, but, through the eyes of love, they may still see each other as attractive and desirable.

It really seems that appearance is really a matter of viewpoint. Beauty and ugliness are really in the eyes of the beholder.

Now can you find a somewhat homely, aging blogger in the lineup below?


bebepink said...

when I was younger, I was very insecure with my looks and even up to my adult years. Only when I came to the US, everything changed.
I posted a similar post like this about my "ugliness" in my own country.

pinaykeypoint said...

Gee, I was absorbed by your posts :)

Your 2 blogs is totally different and this blog really amuses me esp this post. Physical beauty deteriorate faster than our brains so be thankful that God gave you a beautiful mind dear :)