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VzzBzz's avatar

If you were raised on the belief, "looks don't count": did you buy into it?

Asked by VzzBzz (2784points) April 7th, 2009

Some families tell their children this, tell them not to put much emphasis on their physical appearance, that only a foolish person would spend effort on the flesh rather than the brain and the heart but is that belief misleading or naive more than well intentioned?

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20 Answers

Mr_M's avatar

I was not raised to think that way. We were raised to watch our weight. Constantly.

aneedleinthehayy's avatar

My parents kind of did this. They were more big on respect, not lying, and if you have sex you will get pregnant and die. And I definately bought into all of those.
I think that maybe they could have had an influence on my carefree and individualistic appearance…

Nimis's avatar

I wasn’t raised on the belief that “looks don’t count”.
Then again, I wasn’t raised on the belief that they do either.
It was just never that much of an issue one way or the other.

There was definitely an emphasis on education and intellect.
But not presented as a dichotomy of looks versus intellect.

And while I like it that way, it’d be hard to raise kids that way now.
The issue is much more ubiquitous than it was before.

aprilsimnel's avatar

It was said, but not meant. Actions showed that appearances were everything. I was not allowed to leave the house with a hair out of place and I was harangued to watch what I ate because men worth marrying “don’t marry fat women.”

GAMBIT's avatar

I must say I was physically attracted to my wife when I first met her but the only reason I asked for her hand in marriage was because she was a kind hearted person and someone I wanted to spend my life with. As far as my personal appearance I did try to look my best when I was dating and I dress professionally for work. I’m not the best looker but my wife doesn’t mind.

Dr_C's avatar

There was always a strong emphasis on education at our house… Intellectual pursuits being nurtured alongside physical achievement in sports and outdoor activities which to a smaller degree helped us maintain a healthy lifestyle and like @Mr_M said maintain weight control. My mother and sister are both very very beautiful women and have never placed a high premium on physical beauty (easy for them huh?)... as for me.. well that’s for someone else to decide. My fiancee likes me and that’s good enough for me.

asmonet's avatar

I think my mother’s message was everyone is beautiful, we were especially beautiful and we shouldn’t listen to the world judging others or us. But, she would fuss over our weight sometimes. I think out of worry not judgment. As with Nimis, the emphasis was more on smarts.

I grew up thinking it didn’t matter… over the years I realized while it mattered to some, they weren’t the ones I would choose to associate with.

KatawaGrey's avatar

My mother was never the type to emphasize or de-emphasize looks. She basically raised me on the notion that I will get judged by my looks, but it’s up to me to do what I will with that knowledge. I didn’t start shaving my legs or wearing makeup until much later than other girls and any specific insecurities about the way I look aren’t from my mother. I never considered myself beautiful and instead of my mother spouting that motherly, “Oh but you’re so gorgeous!” crap, she sat me down and said, “Kate, you are still growing. When you’re done, you are going to be gorgeous.” And she never told me there was anything wrong with the way I look. I think that’s a good way to go about it. Telling kids that looks don’t matter is silly. Looks do matter, and kids need to know that. However, what they also need to know is that looks don’t matter nearly as much as some people think.

squirbel's avatar

When we were raised, we were told that appearances are important – but externally, and outside the family – we shouldn’t judge someone just because of their looks. Now – it seemed paradoxical to me at the time. I learned that the message was that our looks are important – but don’t make us better people inherently. It just throws the viewer a curve-ball. :)

So [even though your question is leading] the point is that it is all a matter of a presentation. ”Looks do not matter” has two facets – the one that applies to personal appearance, hygiene, and athleticism; and the one that applies to the internal person. If you say that looks don’t matter for the first, I believe that is wrong. If you say that looks don’t matter for the latter, I believe that is right.

zephyr826's avatar

My father may have taken the statement to the extreme. As a reaction to his sister’s “beauty queen” persona, and her attitude of entitlement that came with it (at least according to her younger brother) he decided that his daughters would never be taught to focus on their looks, which are superficial and don’t last. His heart was in the right place, but it was a little hard to grow up with. His only comments regarding my appearance were, “Are you wearing that?” and “Why would you do something like that to your hair?”
I’m 26 and he has never once, not even on my wedding day, told me I look nice.
I love him dearly, but it has taken years to get over that hurt, which I’m sure he doesn’t even realize he caused.

KalWest's avatar

Great question. I wasn’t raised to believe looks don’t count – my mother’s favorite expression of all time was “don’t judge a book by its cover.” And – as horrifically corny and trite as this is going to sound – her second favorite expression was “Everyone’s beautiful in their own way.” That said – I’ve always been concerned about how I look. Not to the degree of cosmetic surgery – but in terms of being in shape and not having wax in my ears lol

cak's avatar

It’s funny – it depends on the year you ask. My mom went through a phase where we were labeled. The women in my family were competitive. We all pretty much looked the same – well to varying levels, but we had the same “look” – height was the big variance – you were either short or tall. We moved on who was the smartest, who was the most athletic…who was thinner. This went on for years. One year my mom stopped the madness. We started being individuals and stopped being labeled as one or the other – we could be both – or dare I say – more than two things!

My dad, complete opposite. He made it clear, early on, whatever you have on the outside is only the outside. What you carry on the inside, is what matters. That was usually followed by, “Now, go mow the lawn.” He was right. You can be drop dead gorgeous, but if you are empty inside, it doesn’t matter. Personally, I’d rather stick with my dad’s school of thought, it’s served me well in life.

figbash's avatar

‘Looks don’t matter’ was something my parents drilled into our heads over and over again and they always strongly encouraged us to focus on our studies, hobbies and any weird interests we had.

In our teen years when my sister and I used to put celebs and the the most popular girls in school on pedestals, my parents would discuss this with us at length and warn us that good looks were not necessarily a sign of intelligence or character and in most cases were only beneficial in the short term. I remember my mom meeting and then scoffing at some of the most beautiful girls in school and college and stating that beauty does not necessarily make an interesting or noteworthy life. We were skeptical and couldn’t quite see how it would play out over time.

As we got older, we’ve found everything they’ve said about it to be completely true time and time again. Both of us had high-school friends who were model-gorgeous, and we watched them become even more self-absorbed and narcissistic as the years went on. Then as their looks started to fade, we watched them become more desperate to hold onto them.

It’s interesting to talk to my parents about it now, too.

wundayatta's avatar

I was raised to believe it was what was beneath the surface that counted, not how you look. Maybe I believed that and maybe I didn’t. When it came time to be interested in girls, I knew I thought they’d never be attracted to me for my looks, and therefore, I felt I’d never be popular.

I don’t think my parents evey told me, in a serious way, what they thought of my looks. They would say, “aren’t you handsome in that!” A least, my Mom would. It sounded to me the same as when other people said, “My, how you’ve grown.” It was just something people said, but I didn’t believe it meant anything real.

Now, I know that the science says that truism isn’t as true as we thought. There are apparently many studies showing that beautiful people, on average, are more intelligent. Of course, that totally blew my mind, because it turned everything I believed on it’s head.

I thought, I may not be good looking, but at least I am smart. Now, even that isn’t true. The beautiful people are likely to be smarter than me, anyway.

I can’t say anything about @figbash‘s story, since I never had any beautiful friends in high school. I hung with the weird, strange-looking, geeky crowd, and never had a date, unless you count a walk in the snow, whence came my first kiss with a woman who turned out to be a lesbian. This was in the days before geeks were chic. Anyway, I wasn’t the kind of geek who dealt with inventions that could make money. I was a liberal politics geek, and you don’t make money working for causes.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@daloon I don’t think it is that beautiful people are smarter. But they have more opportunities in life that thus make them smarter. Because “beautiful people” are given more opportunities in life and the not so beautiful are often rejected in favor of someone better looking. This would probably skew such tests. Similar to standardized testing and class differences.

wundayatta's avatar

@RedPowerLady: you could be right. The causal mechanism has not been determined, as far as I know. Another alternative explanation is that it is hard to know a person’s intelligence without some outward sign of it, and evolution has resulted in this system where beauty is associated with brains. It could be just an issue of competition. The smartest people are the most successful, and they are attracted to beautiful people, and after a while brains and intelligence are found together much more often than ordinary looks and intelligence.

VzzBzz's avatar

Here’s a tangent question:
Who do you think says, “looks don’t count” more often- average looking people or those generally viewed as “beautiful”?

Personally, I think it’s the beautiful ones who say it more because they’ve not been made to feel ugly or “less than” or told by people they trust that they’d better bone up on a bunch of other skills because their looks sure won’t get them far.

cak's avatar

@VzzBzz – No, actually, I’m the case where I was told to be good at something else. Even though (through no work of my own) was born with a certain set of looks, it wasn’t enough for the women in the family – so what. You happen to look like your Great-Grandma – she’s beautiful – so now what. Do more. You better be good at something else.

So no, looks aren’t always the free pass. They aren’t always the golden key and they aren’t ticket to feeling great. You still have to learn how to become a human and treat people the right way. You still have to learn that looks might get you in the door, but you better damn well be able to back it up. If they get you in the door, there are people hoping you fall flat on your ass. Looks fade. Better have something behind it to make you a good person.

VzzBzz's avatar

@cak: I like what you say about a person’s good looks getting them in the door but that they’d better have the rest of the package to back themselves; could be any number or kinds of doors, the one to a heart for instance.

cak's avatar

@VzzBzz – Ok, I’m on one side of the fence and I’m thinking about this a little bit more – Blondesjon just posted something on the other question – I think everyone should read it. It’s very smart.

Pretty, beautiful, ordinary or ugly, you better have something behind your looks. I’m not going to defend myself based on my appearance. I’ll defend the person that I am. I won’t feel bad because I feel certain ways, because I can be a confident person. I’m not always confident. I’m human.

We are what we are. We all have choices. We all come into the world the same damn way. What happens in childhood happens. What we do as we get older is our own choice. It’s not our parent’s choice, it’s ours. At some point, you gotta let go. Damn, you can’t live your life according to the past, forever.

We all have to be able to back up our words with action. Not just pretty people or rich people or pretty and rich. Middle class people, like me, have to do it too.

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