The Beauty Effect


I guess we’ve all seen this picture by now. Chances are you  saw it, stared at it for a few moments with a silly smile, felt a tinge of sadness when you realized it’s a Syrian refugee (or so claimed the pages I came across), and then went back and looked at it again later on.

Now, there’s no denying the amount of pure beauty in that picture, and it’s not only the smile, the innocence or  the hope. It’s the  the eyes, the complexion, certainly not a face you see every day, so it’s quite understanble why it would get so much attention. Still, I couldn’t help but think: why should this picture be more moving than a picture of any given Syrian refugee, even those who look less hopeful and more famished?

I’ve always believed that humans are naturally shallow creatures. Of course, some people are less shallow than others because this is something you acquire through maturity and experience as you grow up and learn the real value of things and people. But no matter how deep one could be, beauty can have its spell-bounding effect on the human brain. I remember this study where they found out that men can’t think properly in the presence of a beautiful woman. Well, there’s a cave man inside every man, perhaps it’s the same with women, but obviously women are generally less visual than men.

But this is scary. To think that we could base our opinion of people or how much we are willing to sympathize with them on the way they look and how that affects our mental function. It takes some conscious effort but that conscious effort takes some conscious effort too.

Yesterday for example I was with my cousins in the mall. We were in the playing area as my cousin’s 2.5 year-old daughter was playing. Now, she is a truly adorable child, she looks like east-Asian kids, who are the cutest in my humble opinion. I was looking at her play when she was approached by another little girl. I always say that no kid is ugly, but when I looked at this girl I was ashamed of myself because the first thing that came to my mind was that she was. I shook the idea off immediately with that conscious effort I was talking about. I tried to look at that little girl for the little girl she is, who couldn’t care less for what she sees in the mirror, and it’s amazing how that changed everything. Now I was looking at  a little beautiful creature and smiling.

And then I thought: what if I had kids who weren’t exactly cute? Actually, I found that I couldn’t even think of that because I’ve always imagined that, if they should ever materialize, my kids would be quite adorable. I couldn’t even think of having kids who are anything but a sight for the sore eye. For some reason I’ve always imagined that if I had a girl she would have a petite frame with long, black curly hair, small delicate features, and, perhaps, big almond shaped eyes. Now I think, what if I had a girl who wasn’t beautiful at all according to normal shallow standards, would that affect how I feel about her or would it make me more protective of her, fearing that she would grow up feeling insecure about her looks and being hurt by others because of that?

Well, we can’t help the effect appearances leave on us I guess, but we can try to control it, for our own good. It takes some effort, a lot of maturity and wisdom to be able to see the beauty that hides beneath the surface, the one more time-resistant. I just hope this little’s girl angelic face won’t prove to be a curse in disguise for her, because beauty has a history of bringing out not only the best in human beings, but also the worst.