Friday, December 30, 2011

On Beauty, Personality and the Influence of Confidence

Beautiful Angelina Jolie in elegant dress with make-up

Although I fully subscribe to the idea of beauty being in the eyes of the beholder, there are still cases where beauty cannot be seen, no matter how hard you look, and how permissive and easygoing the beholder may be. There are people who are simply not beautiful, not by any classical or modern standards.

Of course, the question may arise what exactly is beauty, and we might get into a discussion of geometrical proportions, including symmetry, shapes and sizes. And many may cry out how beauty is relative and subjective, and I fully agree with you, but notwithstanding all that, we do, more often than not, agree on what is deemed beautiful and by exclusion what is not.

So what if you happen to score low on the beauty level? So what if you are not certified to be among the sexiest men and women alive? Exactly, don't despair. You still have a go at beauty because there is still the matter of personality.

Personality is another shady area though. The main problem of personality is that it is often not immediately visible. It is not apparent to the eye, but rather revealed over time. This fact puts personality at a serious disadvantage. Beauty is in your face, but personality involves some digging. You can see beauty as a mask while personality is what looms underneath.

So what does it mean when we say that someone has a good personality? It may be tied to ethical principles, somebody who is honest and upright; it could also be judged on affective grounds, such as caring and loving predispositions, or even other characteristics, such as being responsible, intelligent, easygoing, fun and creative. The absence of (a good) personality would be shallowness, vanity, excessive pride and so on. 

In other words, having a companion who scores high on the looks department but is bankrupt on personality by having shallow convictions and beliefs and by offering merely empty platitudes will not constitute the best “catch,” however much at first glance or on a superficial level this may seem a fact.

Hence personality can rescue beauty or make up for a lack of it. In fact, I must confess that I have had crushes in the past (I stress the word past because I am currently happily married) where the person in mind would have generally failed beauty contests. Yet in such cases, what amazes me about these women is their confidence.

These people are aware that they are not exactly good-looking but they manage to shine with confidence which immerses them with a light that somehow transcends beauty itself. In fact, even an average-looking person with confidence on her side can wipe out the competition of pretty much anyone. 
Strangely enough, for beautiful people confidence actually detracts instead of adding to their looks. If you are blessed with looks what would add to your beauty is a moderately timid stance. This is because everyone already knows you are beautiful and if you exude confidence on that respect you will end up appearing cocky. It's when people say that she is beautiful and she knows it!

Let me explain this point by giving examples of movie stardom. Recently, Jennifer Aniston has been named the sexiest woman alive beating out Madonna and arch-rival Angelina. We would think that Angelina may be more interesting or exotic in her looks, but Jennifer comes off as a little shy in comparison, which adds to her overall appeal. I am not claiming that Angelina is shallow or anything like that, but that the confidence that she exudes may eventually work against her. Another ideal would be Nicole Kidman who manages to balance her beauty with her personality. Again I have never had the fortune to have met any of these ladies so I can only speak about appearances, of how they appear to me.

Let us look at an example where looks were replaced by confidence. I must say that I do not find Zooey Deschanel attractive by any classical standards. Yet she has managed to win over people's heart through her personality, at least judging by her movies. She seems to be witty, exuberant, yet at the same time both complex and confident. My knowledge of her is based mainly on (or rather limited to) the movie 500 days of Summer. There were moments where I did not really see why the male protagonist was so infatuated and captivated by someone who was not that beautiful after all, but again she, to put it in an overused expression, made up for it in the personality department.

So there you have it. An analysis of beauty, personality with the variable of confidence thrown in for good measure. Feel free to completely agree or disagree with me. Yet one thing that strikes me often is that yes, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but this also means that it is hard for us to gauge our own looks because we are willy-nilly biased and also caught up in a world of appearances and media frenzying.

Beauty can be at the same time defined as cultural or dependent on society and media. What constitutes beauty, more so for women, has changed over the years. While plump women used to be considered the ideal body image in the past, we are nowadays often bombarded with images of super-skinny, borderline anorexic women. Despite these fluctuations of taste and fashion, I believe that there is a core tacit agreement on the notion of beauty, even though it cannot be set in stone nor clearly defined or outlined.


Clarissa said...

"Recently, Jennifer Aniston has been named the sexiest woman alive beating out Madonna and arch-rival Angelina. "

- This speaks to nothing but a hugely problematic and repressed nature of sexuality in the US. People are intimidated by aggressive, adult female sexuality and choose girlish, slightly gauche, boy-like kind of femininity as sexy.

Arashmania said...

I do agree with you. I am aware that when discussing the concept of beauty there are various pitfalls. First off, are we talking about the Platonic ideal or do we include sex appeal? Does sexy equate with beautiful? What about sensuality?

As to repressed sexuality, I am working on another post about sex and religion and another about gender and culture where I hope to shed some light -- or create more confusion -- on those topics.

Thank you for your comment, Clarissa!

John Myste said...

Aniston beating Angelina is a huge problem! What's wrong with people?!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Clarrisa.
Interesting that you find Nicole Kidman attractive - I find the personality she chooses to project (who knows what her real personality is) to be very cold and it actually, for me, matches her overly Botoxed face. Not her fault she's used Botox - as a successful Hollywood actress over the age of 12, she has to.
I think intelligence is sexy as hell. I have long been attracted to less than conventionally good looking men because they are smart smart.
- Karen