As part of the Great No.1 Debate, we ask: Does appearance really matter?Studies reveal that our appearance can impact on how others perceive us, but does what you look like really matter?
I would love to say that appearances don’t matter and none of us are bothered what anyone else thinks, but it simply isn’t true. If appearance didn’t matter to me – and I’m not claiming to be Miss World, but I do want to be the best I can be – I would have saved a fortune on hair dye, slimming clubs, new clothes, gym membership, make-up and moisturiser over the years. Looking good makes me feel good, and who doesn’t want that?
Would you show up to a job interview dressed in your oldest clothes, with no make-up and your hair unwashed? No. Why? That’s easy – because you would like to get the job and you want to make a good impression on your potential employer. You care about what they think about your appearance – in fact, it’s something that could count in your favour or be marked against you. And let’s not forget that being well groomed and dressed gives you confidence, something you definitely want more of in an interview situation!
As I have aged I must admit to caring less about what people think of me. Comments that I would have lost sleep over in the past – “Not sure about those jeans with your hips” or “That lip colour is a bit bright, isn’t it?” – no longer bother me. But I still wouldn’t turn up on a night out in an old T-shirt. I like to make an effort for my friends – safe in the knowledge that they’ll have done the same for me. Why shouldn’t they make an effort? I’ve made an effort for them.
There are, of course, obvious exceptions to this. I’m not expecting anyone to go out dressed to the nines with hair and make-up done if they’re feeling ill or just returning from the gym. Let’s be sensible here. There is a big difference between pulling on any old thing when you feel ill and have to nip out and not caring how you look every single day.
My job might have something to do with my opinion. If I’m representing the magazine and interviewing someone or attending an event, I know I am expected to make an effort. I am, after all, doing a job and it’s only right that I show the person I’m interviewing that I am a professional. What other people think of me in those circumstances is important – this is my career and I take it seriously. Showing up in an old dressing gown and slippers could potentially put my job that I love at risk!
Does caring what others think show a lack of self-confidence? I don’t think so. Caring what my family and friends thought of me made me knuckle down at university and pass my exams, so I looked upon it as a positive thing, not a negative. As long as you’re not worrying what others think of you 24/7, why not let that thought spur you on sometimes?
Am I giving these people power over me? No. I care what the people who care about me think, I’m old enough not to be bothered what others think. I suppose that personality comes into the equation here. If I was wracked by self-doubt, it would be awful to feel as if everyone else was judging me. But life shapes each of us individually and I am strong enough to live my life the way I want to – with my hair combed, my make-up on and my clothes neat and tidy!
- Moira is a magazine journalist for MyWeekly.co.uk
We use appearance to project all sorts of details about ourselves.
Visiting a spa with friends recently on a Hen Do confirmed that many of us have concerns about what others think – but we shouldn’t.
Before getting ready most of us had made apologies for aspects of our bodies.
‘Don’t look at my legs’/ ‘I’m so huge at the moment. I just eat and eat’/ ‘My hair is going to look crazy in this heat’. Each complimenting someone while putting themselves down.
My fears of what others might think were mainly linked to my belly. I found myself pregnant with triplets at the age of 36. Wonderful. Frightening. Definitely not an experience for anyone who puts too much emphasis on perfect bodies.
My belly swelled to an enormous size. Stretch marks rippled over it. A C-section scar marks how my three boys were brought into the world. My belly hangs off the front of me like a saggy, wrinkled 150-year old a**e! What stops me from thinking these marks of pregnancy are not wonderful to show? Who comes up with the all the rules on appearance?
I worked in international cultural relations for many years and when you travel and work with people around the world you realise that everywhere people are being sold products to enable them to look different to how they are.
It would seem that nowhere in the world is the message: Be yourself. Enjoy how nature designed you to look.
The great thing about having kids is, of course, realising that there are many things far more important than appearance and what others think of us.
Have you noticed when young kids decide if they like someone or not?
It is not about appearance. They like a person who makes them giggle, someone who is kind when they need soothing words, who makes them feel safe and special.
What happens as we grow up that makes us focus on appearance and what others think of us? Other peoples’ rules happen, crowding in on us from multiple angles: school, media, parents, friends and unexpected comments thrown our way in streets, bars, our work (both negative and positive). All of them telling you that you could be better, more loved, more successful – if only you wore these clothes/did your hair this way/got some muscle definition.
Each whisper layers upon the last until there is a mighty roar which leave us in no doubt: you will be judged. And you will be judged on your appearance. I say ‘let them judge’.
Remember the kid in you who didn’t bother about what size, or what people wore and instead focussed on if someone was fun, or kind, or made them feel safe and special.
I am now a personal development and life coach and it is always such a joy to watch people let go of concerns about what other people think. It frees up so much energy to focus instead on what feels good and gives a sense if purpose.
While the ladies on the Hen Do felt their bodies weren’t perfect it didn’t stop them enjoying their day.
Don’t let what other people think stop you.