Face it: Looks Matter, But So Does Your Attitude

Face it Looks Matter, But So Does Your Attitude

I just spent nearly an hour chatting with New York psychologist Vivian Diller, author of  face it: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change, about aging, dating, beauty, attraction and the role looks and appearance play in our lives.

First thing the 59-year-old Ph.D. told me was her age, saying that it was important for mid-lifers like herself to be proud of their years of experience, rather than hide them. She went on to say (which I loved) that this doesn’t mean that looks aren’t important, because they are.

“Too many psychologists rely on the comforting adage that ‘it’s what’s inside that counts’ — which of course is true — but looks matter too especially in our youth and beauty obsessed culture.”

This is what she feels is the challenge; how can I enjoy my appearance without feeling that looks matter in the way the media has convinced us they do (as in you have to look 20 years younger to be attractive).

While we can pretend to ourselves that looks don’t impact our lives, there’s biological, sociological and economic evidence that they do — both personally and professionally. Dr. Diller cited research that shows that attractive people more easily secure jobs and make more money in today’s society.

“The advantages of beauty have been around for as long as we can remember and that fact is not likely going to change. While we can’t ignore it, we can come to grips with this reality by finding the proper balance between paying attention to our appearance and holding onto values that go beyond skin deep. Most important, as we age the playing field levels and the need for that balance becomes even more apparent.”

Dr. Diller says that while you grow up, your family has a huge influence (positive or negative) on how attractive you feel about yourself. For example, if you have a hypercritical mother or rejecting father, you may not feel very attractive (even if you have physical features that objectively are).

The great thing about normal development is that as you age and separate from your primary family, you can take charge over your experience of attractiveness: “You have the choice to view yourself more positively and surround yourself by caring people who treat you in a much more affirming way.

As you enter mid-life and your looks inevitably change (it happens to us all!), it’s especially important to provide a supportive internal voice that says, ‘you look great at 50, or 60 and so on.’ It’s not about comparing yourself to someone 20 years younger, but about looking the best you can for your age. ”