I’ve spent a lot of time hating myself. This last two weeks I’ve finally asked, why?
What is there to hate about myself? Well, I can tell you.
I was under this strange, as it seems now, belief that my life was determined. What I mean by this is that because I had particular genetics, I was going to have the universe ‘treat’ me in a certain way.
I’ll give you a couple examples I struggled with for a long time.
The first example is one of attractiveness. When I was focusing on negative things about life, and worrying that I was just a discarded nobody who’d never measure up, I attracted a LOT of, at the time, painful ideas to myself. I would look at magazines, such as the pop psychology or pop science kind, and inevitably, in EVERY single issue there was something that I could latch on to and then obsess about for weeks on end. One of the common threads in these issues was attractiveness.
The idea here is that people are objectively attractive in certain ways. And, because it’s objective, there is a sliding scale of attractiveness that you will fit into, seeing as how you have little control over your appearance (besides of course, washing and dressing nice). This is, perhaps, all well and good, but then you have the ramifications of this idea.
I read somewhere that a ‘more attractive’ male will get higher paying jobs and raises more than a ‘less attractive’ male. Or for instance, fat people are generally paid less than similar non-fat people. Now, before I poopoo on this I want to say that there is a grain of truth in these findings. They are not without their reality, but they aren’t the whole picture.
The truth of the matter is, attractiveness is a human value, and being a human, individualistic value, comes in many forms. My problem with attractiveness finally hit a peak one day when I was talking to my oldest brother Ninja at my childhood home where I was living. He commented that not all of us are attractive and intelligent enough to ‘make it’, or that’s how I read what he was saying (obviously, how I interpreted it wasn’t necessarily how he meant it… but could be, I don’t know.) I went into such a fit of anxiety and apoplexy that I eventually was hiding from my father in the basement under a table in the back in the dark.
He found me and laughed, “What are you doing under there?” It was nice to see him laugh.
He then schooled me on attractiveness, and that discussion became the cornerstone of my attitude and philosophy that ever so slowly changed how I was living and seeing the world.
First off, we talked about ‘studies’. The first thing is that many of these ‘studies’ are exaggerated and mis-represented nearly all the time in the ‘pop’ media. The second thing is that many of these ‘studies’ operate on volunteers and don’t necessarily measure the full population. How many studies out there have primarily focused on college students who need a little extra money? Maybe I’m wrong, but it made sense. He pointed out that ‘ugly’ people who are rich aren’t exactly jumping at the opportunity to be in the limelight of public opinion.
Second off, we talked about what attractiveness was. Attraction is, I dare to say it, relative in the sense that it is agent-oriented. I borrowed this term from the teachings of Objectivism by Ayn Rand. I don’t know if she explicitly called it agent-oriented value, or if that was in later writing by Peikoff or Tara Smith, but the idea is that something isn’t inherently valuable in and of itself. A material object, or a person is not inherently good, or inherently bad. It is not inherently anything other than the quantitative characteristics that make up what it is. Something is only valuable, and I know I’m over-simplifying, if an agent, one of us, decides it’s valuable to us. Your spouse is valuable to you because you appreciate who he is, what he stands for, what he does, the values he has. However, somebody who doesn’t like your spouse will not find him valuable at all. Trust me, I know.
So, to bring it around, what I find physically attractive, others will often not find attractive. Sure, we can talk about what ‘society’ finds attractive, but my father pointed out in so many words, that I am codifying ‘society’ as something concrete, something with a will of its own. He reminded me of something I already knew, that society was an abstraction, and did not ‘exist’ with a will of its own, only the wills of the individuals that make it up. Take for example ‘chubby-chasers’ to get a bit crass. They find obesity attractive, for whatever reasons they have, whereas I do not. Or many women will find a beard attractive, while someone like Ayn Rand thinks they show someone who has something to hide. Some girl some where is standing in a bar looking at a guy with his pants halfway down his legs (“pants on the ground!”) and is thinking, “Oh, he’s my man!”
Another thing he pointed out is that many times attraction is not about the physical, but often times the experiential (the mental, or spiritual if you will). For example, he asked me if Mick Jagger (that’s how I remember) was attractive. I said, “No.” He said, is ZZ Top (or someone like that) was attractive. I said, “Not really.” He came back with this: how many women out there, or guys even, would probably jump into bed with David Bowie, Mick Jagger, or any number of other famous people who aren’t ‘conventionally’ attractive simply because of who they are, what they represent, what they’ve done, or how they act. I said, “A lot.”
He rests his point. Attractiveness is also a socially determined thing. Someone is often times MORE attractive if more people FIND him attractive. Physical looks, and behavior sometimes have nothing to do with it, they just might be popular because they know a lot of people.
I finally understood.
Since this discussion I have realized that there is no ‘objective’ reality for things that are ‘subjectively measured’. I know many many people will disagree with me, and in part they are right. If you set up a code, or a system of measurement, you can determine who is more ‘objectively’ attractive. Symmetry, eye color, hair color, cheek bones, etc. on a purely statistical basis. But… who cares? It’s what YOU find attractive that’s important. Isn’t that what individualism is about?
And when I realized that it the only things that really mattered were the individuals involved in a situation; if somebody gave a better job to somebody who was more ‘attractive’ than to someone who was less attractive and more qualified, that was THEIR problem. That maybe even, these articles could serve a better purpose in helping someone realize what they’ve been doing so they can stop doing it. I felt better.
There are an almost limitless number of people out there, more being born all the time, and in that sense, limitless number of concepts of ‘attraction’. Someone short-sighted, or for any other personal reason, may turn you down because you’re not ‘conventionally attractive’, but at the same time, someone may also find you to be God’s gift to man.
I’ve applied this to various areas of my life, more successfully at times than others, and it’s really helped me.
I’m going to write about more of these aspects, such as intelligence, as I go along, but I thought the cornerstone for me (attractiveness) was a good place to start.