Updated: Sep 21
As an avid user of Instagram, some of the people I follow include female influencers. One day, as I was scrolling through my feed, I wondered how these women were getting so many followers and product endorsements. “Maybe they’re charming or smart,” I thought. There are several reasons that could possibly answer this question, but one thing that first comes to mind is their beauty. Consequently, this made me ponder on the advantages that one obtains from being beautiful. Personally, I have accepted the belief that I am not very beautiful, at least in the conventional sense that society often defines. I have been described by my peers in other ways: confident, sociable, imaginative, and a good storyteller to name a few but never handsome. I admit that I sometimes wonder how it must be like to be conventionally attractive, so when I first heard about the term pretty privilege, my interest was only piqued further. It was something that I had never heard of before as people do not really talk about it that much. Urban Dictionary defines pretty privilege as ”Someone who gets clout, opportunities, and becomes more successful in life because of how attractive they are.” I believe that being beautiful definitely has its advantages, and it can certainly feel unfair when people who look good are treated better in certain situations as compared to average-looking people.
We live in a world full of different opportunities that appeal to a wide variety of people. It is a lot easier to land a career now than ever before, with new industries as well as technological advancements such as the internet. However, it appears that beautiful people have some sort of an upper hand in the job market; a study by Maestripieri et al. (2017) found that physically attractive individuals are more likely to get interviewed for jobs and hired, advance faster in their careers, and receive better pay. I feel that this is unfair because getting a job should be based on one’s skills and abilities, and not about how one looks on the outside. There may be others who are more qualified for the job, albeit not as attractive. With social media influencers, they get paid thousands of dollars for endorsements and receive much more attention than their less attractive counterparts, all without having to work as hard. This irks me because there are people out there who work very hard, yet they do not really have the time to see their family and friends, and do not get paid as much. On the other hand, these beautiful people get higher pay just because they look better. Human bias cannot be completely eliminated when hiring individuals, but I am hoping that employers will find a way to minimize this and reward employees according to how hard they work rather than their appearance.
From an evolutionary standpoint, we humans tend to pick mates that have desirable traits as we would want to produce offspring that can survive better. It turns out that people tend to think that those who are more physically attractive carry the most desirable genes are a lot healthier and more hygienic. A good example of beauty being associated with good health is women who have wider hips are perceived as better for childbirth than women with narrow hips (Lents, 2017). This preconception, of course, is not true as there are a lot of less attractive people who carry good genes. At the same time, there are pretty people who carry undesirable genes that can give the next generation of offspring biological disadvantages, such as genetically-inherited diseases.
Trust is something that is incredibly valuable to humans, and it can sometimes be very difficult to trust someone because we feel that the person may be lying or perhaps they sound a little unconfident. Attractive people have an advantage in this area, as they are actually perceived as more trustworthy because of their looks (Zhao et al., 2015). This particularly applies to attractive strangers; the better they look, the more likely we are to believe what they say. We tend to feel good around pretty people as they have some sort of angelic aura that says “Everything will be alright.” The problem with this is that we should build trust based on how well we know a person rather than appearance. If anything, trusting someone based on their looks is not always a good idea as there may be unscrupulous beauties who use their good looks to trick people and take advantage of them. As they say, “The Devil doesn’t come in horns, he comes in everything you’ve ever wanted.”
At the end of the day, I think that there is so much more to an individual than just being beautiful. One can be smart, talented, compassionate, helpful—the list goes on. It is not the fault of these beautiful men and women for winning the genetic lottery. Rather than hating on these beautiful people, let us appreciate each other for our true selves. Whether average or gorgeous, we are all equal and deserve a good life. If everyone in the world were beautiful in the conventional sense, people would be more boring since we would all end up looking pretty much the same. I hope this helps anyone who is struggling with their appearance. As cliche as it sounds, remember that it is the inside that counts. Our imperfections make us who we are. As Marilyn Monroe once said: “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”
Lents, N. (2017). The Relationship Between Waist-Hip Ratio and Fertility. Psychology Today. Retrieved on February 13, 2021 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/beastly-behavior/201706/the-relationship-between-waist-hip-ratio-and-fertility
Maestripieri, D., Henry, A., & Nickels, N. (2017). Explaining financial and prosocial biases in favor of attractive people: Interdisciplinary perspectives from economics, social psychology, and evolutionary psychology. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 40, E19. doi:10.1017/S0140525X16000340
Zhao, N., Zhou, M., Shi, Y., & Zhang, J. (2015). Face attractiveness in building trust: Evidence from measurement of implicit and explicit responses. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 43(5), 855-866. doi:10.2224/sbp.2015.43.5.855