How beauty can be a curse

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Victorian parents were fond of saying, Handsome is as handsome does.

 

They tried their best to prevent their children from becoming vain and self-absorbed.  Duty and virtue were more important than appearance.  Rewards and punishments were awarded on basis of performance, with no special privileges for those who happened to be particularly comely.

Our society has swung to the other extreme in its emphasis on beauty.  Beauty is a commodity that must be serviced by cosmetics, beauty rituals, diets, exercise equipment, and even surgery.  The beautiful live in constant awareness that their beauty will not endure forever.  When age gives them a face like a dried apple, what will happen to their self-esteem?  When society encourages young people to build their self-worth on their appearance, they are truly cursed because their value is determined by something they cannot control.  Age, accidents, or disease can take away that beautiful face and body, without mercy.

When beauty is over-valued, beautiful people can not be sure whether they are esteemed for who they are, or for the accident of their appearance.

 

This creates such insecurity that a single pimple is a major disaster.  What greater curse can there be than wondering whether ones spouses love will endure after the bloom and vigor of youth are gone?  Is the relationship based on true love, or nothing more than the acquisition of a trophy to be paraded in front of others?

On the flip side, beauty often attracts vindictiveness from those envious people who feel put down by the very existence of someone more attractive than themselves.  They will project all kinds of character defects on the unfortunate beauty.  A kind and loving person may be accused of being selfish, conceited, and just plain nasty, just because s/he is exceptionally good-looking.  This type of destructive punishment can turn life into hell.

A beautiful face and body may open up career opportunities, but it can also be an invitation to exploitation.   In his Satires, the ancient Roman poet Juvenal said that parents should be grateful if their girls were humpbacked, because they would not attract unwanted attention and become playthings for nobility.  Not much has changed since then.

Obsession with personal beauty defies common sense.  A good friend with a physical deformity is worth far more than a beautiful betrayer.  A generous, devoted mother will give her children a good start in life no matter how she looks.  Anyone who has come to believe that being beautiful is all that is required for success in life and relationships is truly cursed.

For a healthy, balanced person, the advantages of beauty probably outweigh the disadvantages.  However, for the person who is lacking a sense of perspective, societys obsession with beauty can inflict intolerable stress and ravage self-worth.  To break the curse, we must recover our understanding that true beauty is internal, not external.

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