Beauty and the Beast

our natural tendency to groom

our natural tendency to groom

I’m as vain as the next gal.  I like healthy skin, a good haircut, a trim figure etc.  It’s important for me to look good and try to present a well-groomed, clean and attractive image.  The amount of money I pay for my hair each month embarrasses me.  But I also have a daily routine that, aside from soaking in my luxurious bubble bath each day, comprises about five minutes each morning and evening.  That’s my patience limit for grooming, and some might rightfully argue that I should do more.

I guess I don’t understand why anyone would want to do more.  Even 5 min, twice a day, seems like a lot.  Anything that you do every day adds up to real time over a year, as that 10 min/day translates to 60 hours per year. 60!  And all that money!  According to statistica.com, the US cosmetics market was more than $53 billion dollars in 2011.  Billion!  That amounts to approximately $150 per person in the US, including every man, woman and child.  You can buy a lot of raisin bran, or prenatal vitamins for that matter, for $150.

Yes, it’s important to be attractive, but at the risk of sounding like a plain girl’s rationalization, I wouldn’t go too far out of my way to be a beauty, a hottie, a fox – in the same way that I do not have on my To Do list to become rich, powerful or famous, or even to be liked, for that matter (I think my students will attest to that).  If any of those happen in the course of my endeavors, fine.  But they are not among my primary or even secondary goals.

My goals have more to do with making a meaningful contribution, having a positive impact on people, and having fulfilling, intimate relationships with friends and loved ones. In some ways, being too beautiful, rich, or famous can stand in the way of finding and creating intimacy.   You hear about all those famous, rich and/or beautiful people who feel utterly alone.  They are never sure if people are with them for who they are versus what they represent.

“She’s so lucky, she’s a star/But she cry, cry, cries in her lonely heart, thinking/If there’s nothing missing in my life/Then why do these tears come at night/Lost in an image, in a dream/But there’s no one there to wake her up.” – Britney Spears

I had a brief stint in a relationship (sort of) with someone who seemed to idolize me.  Fortunately, this has not been a recurring trend in my life.  Sure, it was flattering for about 5 minutes, but then, over time, it became apparent that he was more infatuated with my image, what I represented, rather than just me.  He wasn’t really interested in getting to know me, or understand me, and I knew in that instant that we could never be anything more than just friends.  At the most.

A girlfriend from high school, Monique, liked to talk about being “average above-average.” That’s my happy spot for many things.  I want to be reasonably attractive and modestly adept at most things.  I’m OK being disgracefully incompetent at others, but there’s a small number of things I want to really excel at.  My personal mission is to use active love to grow and improve the people and institutions I serve.  I’m not sure where department store cosmetics and manicures fit into that mission – I believe that money is better spent donated to nonprofit organizations that I support, or using that for personal or professional development for me or a family member.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t take care of ourselves and spend the time and money to look good.  Not at all.  In fact, having a well-groomed and polished image is for many people a prerequisite to professional success.  And some people just inexplicably enjoy grooming, probably like I enjoy shopping.  But I wonder if we sometimes cross that line where appearance becomes more important than the substance.  I think we’re selling ourselves short in that situation.  We each have so much more to offer the world than how we look.  That’s where the “money” is.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us”  – Marianne Williamson

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