Beauty & Happiness? Beauty & Guilt?

21 Apr

post secret

I opened post secret last night for a study break and ran into this photo half way down the page.  My initial reaction was repulsion at the shallow sentiment, but after reading The Bluest Eye I’m going to play devil’s advocate.  First off I want to acknowledge that there are two worlds: the ideal world, and the real world.  In the ideal world one’s physical appearance would not influence the way one interacts with the world and its inhabitants.  However, we do not live in the ideal world, we live in a world where our ability to obtain friends, partners, good grades, and jobs, and our general navigation of the world is influenced by our appearance.  Now circling back to this post card expressing a parent’s wish for their children I can’t help thinking that the underlying wish here is for the children’s happiness.  After reading Toni Morrison’s depictions of Pecola and the ways in which her life is shattered by her ugliness, I find myself reexamine the correlation between happiness and beauty.  Throughout the book Pecola meets with abuse from adults, peers, and family.  Pecola is forced into killing a dog, mercilessly harassed by a young boy in her class, and her own mother Mrs. Breedlove redirects her motherly affection towards a beautiful blond white girl instead of her own daughter.  While The Bluest Eye is admittedly a work of fiction, the story provokes a pertinent question: how strong is the correlation between beauty and happiness?

Within this class we have acknowledged that beauty has the power to open many doors, but we haven’t attempted to answer the question of how important it really is in our society and what it is worth.  Post Secret is a community art project whose purpose is to provide a safe space for airing dirty laundry in a creative, anonymous way.  As a post secret submission the statement above clearly expresses an undertone of guilt, which brings me to my second question: should we feel guilty for wanting to be beautiful, considering the scientifically proven advantages of being aesthetically pleasing?  Given the scores of advantages that psychologists have proved “beautiful” people receive in their lives, why do we still feel guilty for admitting that we want to be beautiful too?


Posted by on April 21, 2013 in Uncategorized


3 responses to “Beauty & Happiness? Beauty & Guilt?

  1. Nikki

    April 29, 2013 at 12:12 am

    I think a lot of the guilt is for the relative priorities. I mean, yes, I would like to have children who were beautiful and smart. But if I somehow could choose only one characteristic, among the people I know, actively choosing for my children to be beautiful and stupid rather than ugly and intelligent would definitely be a low-status decision. Intelligence is supposed to be more important than attractiveness, although we have seen how important beauty is. Furthermore, the writer seems embarrassed not at hoping to avoid “ugly” children but merely “awkward and lame” – reiterating the connection between beauty and high status, but also not seeming, at worst, to banish them to a fate of ugliness if she could somehow choose smart children.

    • Nikki

      April 29, 2013 at 12:13 am

      Also, the second I posted that I realized that I had applied female pronouns to the writer without any knowledge. I think that’s interesting, if not ideal.

  2. eondich

    May 12, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    I agree- most of the people I know would say that intelligence should be more important than attractiveness and would be in an ideal world. This discussion does make me wonder, though, whether it’s possible to change people’s priorities about traits like beauty and intelligence, how much that subtle psychological stuff is cultural and how much of it is hardwired into the human brain. I think that’s the point of developing the guilt- we think that maybe if we make people aware that the way they’re thinking and acting is less than ideal, they’ll strive to change.


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