I’ve been told by various people that being attractive is both a “blessing and a curse.” I would venture that some people—men and women—would blast that statement, saying that having good looks could never be a curse. Truth be told, physical attractiveness and desirability may be a curse to some, but it has the propensity to make life easier— acceptance in childhood, employment, companionship… the list is endless. But despite the advantages of being one of The Pretty Ones (let's call them TPOs for this discussion), being attractive can also bring challenges... even emotional damage that might have long-term personal consequences.
Shallow or not, mentally measuring others according to their beauty is what society does, at all socio-economic levels. And whether it’s happening consciously or subconsciously—as a first impression or as a long-term evaluation—it is happening. Men who are attracted to women purely on physical attraction are trying to find a desirable mate based on primal instincts. Women act on their primal urges looking for the dominant Alpha Male—evaluating the physical aptitude, influence and power of potential mates in order to find the strongest of the species. And both men and women assess others of their same gender, sizing up their competition in a effort to stay at the front of the pack.
I recently conducted a survey with 500 self-identified TPOs (250 women, 250 men) to uncover thoughts and trends around what being attractive has (or hasn't) done for them through their lives. These people represented all age groups (18-28: 39%; 29-54: 48%, 55+: 13%), ethic backgrounds, and romantic statuses, and their responses were fascinating, ranging from empowered to arrogant. Beauty-plus-arrogance certainly fosters society’s opinion that being attractive automatically equates to asshole/bitch... but for most, it was confidence that exuded from their pores, not conceit.
After the first hundred interviews, it became clear that these pretty people were divided into two camps: those that embraced their physical beauty (either confident or conceited), and those that communicated about their physical attributes—sometimes embarrassment, sometimes anger, sometimes frustration. Of the men interviewed, nearly all of them—94 percent—fell in to the confident camp, as they had found that being attractive helped their careers (not just modeling and/or active, but in the professional or blue collar world, as well), assisted them in finding a significant other. (Both gay and straight respondents said this, as well as single men who had multiple "significant others" on a weekly basis.) Women, however, were more divided, with a significant percentage (53 percent) representing those who are uncomfortable with their attractiveness. And despite the fact that these women emanated from a variety ethnic backgrounds and economic backgrounds, nearly all reported the same issues with being attractive:
• Told they were pretty. Many we're told how beautiful they were since early childhood... But that's all they were ever told. No matter what their other talents—arts, music, scholastics, whatever—they were told constantly how their looks would "help them get a man" or that they "should be a model". Now in their adult years, they don't want to hear how pretty they are or how built their bodies look. They want to be talked with not ogled.
• Put in the “bitch” category. Many stated that they were perceived as a bitch by both men and women. If they were confident and self-assured—in their demeanor as well as their looks—both men and women acted threatened, and would discard them as "one of those bitches"... and this would happen before they opened their mouths to speak, so there was no way for people to know.
• Untouchable. These women stated that they had a very hard time making and keeping female friends, as other women were fast to assume that there would be a competition for men. And men were either intimidated, assumed they would be high-maintenance, or were sure that they already had a boyfriend or husband. As such, men wouldn't even approach them.
• Not intelligent. The most comment lament was that people automatically assumed they weren't intelligent—that their beauty equated to a lack of smarts.
• Easy Marks. And when it comes to attractive women, many times it is the Alpha Male—with primal instincts and DNA driving his desire. He isn't intimidated by beauty, but he has ulterior motives. However, most often a “romance” with an Alpha Male is short-lived, and he moves on after he has his fill. These women reported that they felt used by men on a consistent basis.
In short, physical attractiveness can come with a price. Most men seem to have no issues with this, so my advice falls toward the ladies:
• Maintain your self-esteem. As challenging as it can be, keep perspective. Two main things drive people who hate on you: fear and insecurity. Don’t sacrifice who you are and where you are going to placate the man in your life.
• Make men work for your affections. Men who aren't intimidated will view your beauty as a challenge... and attempt to dominate you. Don’t give in. Make him work to get with you, and then keep the bar high.
Watch your friendships. Be careful who you let in to your world, and how fast. Jealousy is a big motivator.
• Remember that you are not alone in these challenges. Women are faced with these challenges everyday—from Alyssa Milano to Drew Barrymore (just to name two quickly). Keep your wits about you, and never settle for second-best.