Ever had an insult cut you so deep that it still stings years later?
Mine occurred in my early 20s – the day after I’d been dumped. It was a deserved break-up. I’d treated her terribly for months. As I went to unfriend her on Facebook, I spotted the following status:
“It’s funny when you see how ugly someone is on the inside, how ugly they become on the outside.”
Urgh. This hit home hard. Not only because I’d been a bad boyfriend, but also because these words were so shockingly true.
She’d described a sensation that happens to all of us when we truly hate someone. In her eyes, I was an ogre.
It hurt, but it also taught an important lesson about inner and outer beauty.
–The power of perception–
Have you browsed through photos of an ex and wondered what you were thinking, even though you used to be besotted? Or seen yourself in the mirror and cringed, despite being delighted with your appearance days earlier?
This is the brain’s reticular activating system (RAS) in action. It controls our selective focus, deciding what captures our attention and what remains as a background blur.
Studies suggest that this function is programmed to focus on whatever matches our inner belief system. If we believe someone is seriously awesome, our RAS searches for evidence to back that up. But when we don’t like someone, our brain focuses on their flaws.
This works for personalities and physical features. Yes, our brains actually perceive pictures of a partner differently depending on how we feel about them.
–Why inner beauty is important–
This theory explains why no mother thinks their son is ugly – or why so many husbands believe they have the hottest wife in the world.
It also explains why I fell for my ex in the first place. When I first set eyes on her, I thought she was nothing special. But then I spotted her dancing crazily on the nightclub table. Suddenly, she was the sexiest woman in the venue – and I had to have her. My perception flipped within minutes.
This phenomenon may be even more powerful with women. Sure, being physically attractive plays a part when they’re selecting a partner, but it’s in their DNA to find a good fit for raising a family. She wants a man that can be a fantastic role model for her children.
That’s why qualities like confidence, honesty and a strong character are arguably more important to her than being handsome.
M. Farouk Radwan, psychologist and founder of 2knowmyself.com, explains: “A man can choose his life partner in seconds after seeing her, but a woman usually needs more time to assess the man’s personality traits, as most women give them higher weight than looks.
“Of course, a woman would like to be with an attractive man, but to most women, looks won’t count that much, provided that the man looks acceptable and that he possesses the important personality traits they are looking for.”
–Why good-looking men get all the girls–
If this theory is true, why aren’t there tons of short, fat, bald dudes dating supermodels?
Sadly, most of these men are so caught up with their less-than-perfect appearance they can’t show the qualities that women are actually looking for. They don’t feel entitled to be confident, unstifled, daring, strong-willed ambitious etc.
Meanwhile, the tall strong sports athlete has no issue showing these attributes. Society gives these stereotypes permission to act like God’s gift to women. They’re expected to be bold, sociable, secure in their own skin, so it’s simple for them to be this way.
My advice for men and women who don’t meet society’s ideal standards of beauty? Stop complaining about being too tall, short, fat, skinny, black, white. It doesn’t matter. Do what you can to improve your body, fashion, nutrition – then work on your inner beauty.
Smile big, laugh often, become more sociable, be comfortable in your own skin. Give compliments, help others, find your passion, make bold decisions, follow your dreams. Live life to its fullest.
You’ll be amazed how this affects your dating life. Women will be falling at your feet. They’ll call you handsome, sexy etc regardless of what you actually look like.
It’s funny when they see how beautiful you are on the inside, how beautiful you become on the outside.
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Author: Joe Elvin
Joe Elvin is a freelance writer travelling the world living as a digital nomad. He is the author of 'The London Bucket List' and 'The Thrill Of The Chase'. He blogs about how escape your comfort zone, chase adventure and find the bravery to live your best life at www.joeelvin.com.