Physical attraction. No, I’m not just talking about in a dating/relationship way, rather in a societal aspect for how we approach (or are approached by) someone. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we are judging others based on how they look to some degree. It can be from the way they physically look, to the way they behave themselves or even how they dress. On the surface, it’s perfectly natural because that is one facet to determine if someone is a good fit for us; again I speak beyond the boundary of romantic relationships.
However, while we are humans who take physical (looks, behavior, possessions etc.), mental (intelligence, goals, etc.) and soulful (personality, interests, etc.) attractions into account, there are some who will focus more specifically into one or a few things. Again, completely understandable, but with every attraction there is a bar that we would like to be met. For some, it’s that the person has good humor, is caring, have some common interests and perhaps good hygiene to be drawn towards spending time with. Yet there are those who’s bars are a bit higher than others. You might know some of those people in your life or come across them on your ventures. The one’s who want someone to be making great money, dress really well, has a great body and doesn’t have an IQ of 10. This seems more geared toward physical attraction, which you’d be correct.
In this modern era of technology where everything can be seen, so has our personal image become more prominent. Some feel we have to look good no matter the context, whether pertaining to the group we roll with or just our self image. It can be for a social media post, a profile pic on a dating site, an article written about our accomplishments, or appearing on a podcast or video. Any bad image is undesirable whether it’s for a date, a job interview, or even to our friends and family. Put your best foot forward, they always say! Even businesses are all about images, as they want to always show a positive picture to you to gain favor. It’s many of those same businesses that push out the idea of how we should look and act, whether in a picture-perfect group of friends or whom we’re dating/in a relationship with. This can add to our views already on physical attraction that’s being shaped by our environment.
One night during my Youtube binge-exploring, I came across a video series called The Undateables. While I get the idea behind it, about people who struggle with dating, I disagree with the labeling and marketing of it. It makes it sound like the people in this series are not worthy of dating and finding someone just because they come off as different. Those differences can vary from being shy or highly anxious, having hyperhydrosis or Tourette Syndrome, or some other feature that might be disabling.
So seeing something like the word “undateable” and other media presentations suggesting how better (or easier) life can be when you’re physically perfect can affect one’s confidence. Other shows like The Bachelor, Love Island, and other reality shows typically only have what they consider attractive-looking people that also play part in this message of attractiveness. Confidence, though, can take on different forms. On one hand, we can be utterly nervous giving a presentation in front of a class, while on the other we can be assertive when on a volleyball court. We might shiver when we’re in a group of people talking stocks and bonds, but feel at home at a Harry Potter trivia event. Those situations where we feel uncomfortable or confident apply directly to our social relationships and physical attraction.
As mentioned above, physical attraction goes beyond intimacy. It appears even when we try to make friends or simply talk to people. The confidence we have approaching others, and talking with them, stems from the confidence we have in ourselves. For some, it’s things like wearing our sweatpants and nerdy glasses, or having a bad hair day, that can deter us from being fully confident. Those things can be adjusted easily. But what about those who cannot do that? What if you’re missing a limb or have a severe speech impediment?
The thought of seeing someone constantly being distracted by something about us, like a pimple or swelling, can bring down a person’s confidence. Imagine what it was, at one point in time, for someone who might be missing a hand or leg, has vitiligo, or maybe has moderate burn scars. It can be nervous to approach someone, thinking maybe they’ll think they’re odd-looking or would not stop staring. Perhaps they don’t want to be asked so many questions about it, and just be treated like any other human being. But there are those out there who are having the confidence, and showing the world that just because they are physically different in some way that doesn’t make one any less worthy of being a friend or partner.
For folks like Kristie Sita and YouTube channels such as SBSK, they are highlighting what daily living is like for those with a disability (whether physical or mental). It’s important to also look at mental disabilities, of course in general, but in this post’s context because it leads to how we project ourselves to others. Everything is connected: mind, body, and soul. So it’s very encouraging to see influencers such as them dedicated to spreading knowledge and providing a window into their life. And also instilling confidence in others, who can relate, so they can be happy and develop relationships no matter the situation.
SBSK, for example, it is noticeable in many videos where Chris (the host) asks them what it takes to be their friend. The overall response was: just come up and say ‘Hi’. That little answer feels so powerful, because that’s all it truly takes to meet people and build relationships with; including those with physical and mental disabilities. Yet for many, it might be difficult one reason or another to approach someone who’s different. For the person who’s hesitant to approach, it could be fear of the unknown that it wouldn’t work out so well. Maybe they feel they can’t do what they love, like being outdoors and active, because the other person is overweight. Or they’d feel embarrassed to be seen out in public with someone who has a face full of piercings/tattoos or very crooked teeth.
Not everyone is like that, of course, as plenty of you are more accepting of others’ differences. But there are those who don’t befriend or date out of hesitancy or embarrassment. And sadly yes, there are people who can be as shallow as ever; wanting their own Beautiful People club whether friends or dating. Since we’re on dating, yes, physical attraction is probably more prevalent than it is with friends/acquaintances. With all social relationships, we’re quick to judge based on initial appearances to gauge if we’d get along well. It goes a bit further in romantic relationships due to the intimacy factor and finding them desirable in that way. It varies for everyone, but people have their preferences.
And those preferences can sometimes be unfair. Has there ever been a time where you’re out and see that attractive person you’re dying to get to know? And then you see another person, to which you’re like “meh” because maybe they’re not as tall, have too many tattoos or doesn’t have facial hair? While it’s okay to have preferences, it’s important to keep in mind that that’s all it is; a preference. It should not be a requirement, though it can certainly feel like it when you hear people describing their ideal match. It can be unfair, because there are amazing people with unique qualities being tossed aside for perhaps something they had no control over.
For men and women, it can be their height as some prefer much taller men or they want a shorter woman. Another significant one can be weight, as so many deal with weight issues either being over/under-weight that might be due to metabolism. Maybe you were born with huge ears, webbed toes, or a scratchy voice. For women, it might include not having big breasts or a round backside. Whereas men might struggle with not being muscular, having six-pack abs, or being bald. A lot of what was mentioned lies within our genetics and, whether you’re a man or woman, there are many who can understand the struggles.
Kevin Bull, who has alopecia for his entire body, advocates for others who also go through it; including children. Just think about those kids, and how they must feel as they grow up. Think about when they want to start dating, and the confidence level they may have. It can be emotionally painful to shower and see a lot of hair strands in your hands and in the shower drain. And then to hear media and people nearby talk about being more attracted to someone with a full head of glorious hair. It’s similar with weight, as many struggle feeling confident in their own skin.
Maybe it’s metabolism that’s too fast or slow. Perhaps it’s Prader-Willi syndrome. You could be dealing with anorexia or bulimia, or lost a lot of weight and left with sagging skin. Or it might be a muffin top belly, or male gynecomastia (male breasts) that impacts confidence and not feeling physically attractive. From around age 5 to 23, I was quite chubby myself. Having to endure middle school and high school feeling unattractive, I didn’t go to prom my Senior year. Along the way, though, from high school to university and beyond I learned more about my personality and how well I connected with others. Personality-wise, I was confident to approach, befriend, and laugh with others. But physical attractiveness was lacking because of what I saw in the mirror, as well as what I saw in the media and from people around me eye-balling the physically fit ones walking by.
While I did lose quite a bit of weight, one door may have opened only for another to slowly start closing. And one day soon, like Kevin Bull and a high percentage of other men, I’ll be rocking a similar look but with a beard. With physical attractiveness, though entirely subjective, it comes from genetics or way of life. In terms of way of life, call back to when I mentioned those who love tattoos or piercings. Tongue-splitting anyone? Or a boxer who has cauliflower ears from the punches they receive. However, another product of this technologically-advanced world we live in is that we can change the way we look. From the highly common braces for our teeth, to hair transplants, or to rhinoplasty there are numerous ways that people can alter their appearance.
Sometimes it can be health related, like repairing a cleft lip or dental procedures, while others are more cosmetic; liposuction and breast implants. It’s entirely dependent on the person, themselves, and what makes them happy. Emphasis being on them, because no one should ever change who they are for someone else (although some do it for another). If they can’t appreciate you as you are now, personality and all, then would one alteration make such a huge difference? Some might get a face-lift procedure, for example, to feel more physically attractive in the dating world. It’s not so much they’re doing it for their intended date, rather it’s so they feel more happy and confident in themselves to go out and approach or be approached by others. But not everything can be repaired by surgery.
Take time and think those who can’t change the way they look, including the ones mentioned above. Maybe you know a person in your life, or someone passing by that comes to mind. Think about someone who lives daily with a stoma bag on their abdomen, has albinism, is permanently blind or deaf, or someone bound to a wheelchair. Whatever the physical difference is, think about what it might be like for them; not just daily living but making friends, doing friend activities and dating. While some might prioritize the way someone looks, there are others who look at the inside of human beings; their heart and soul.
Rowdy Burton and Cole & Charisma, along with Squirmy & Grubs above, are some other people that show not only what life is like, but what great friends they’d be while also highlighting finding love (and what it looks like) when being physically different; such as interabled couples. Truly is another YouTube channel that often shows couples who look quite different, including big age gaps, and add to the point of physical attraction.
The point of this post is not to shame those who might prioritize looks over personality, nor encourage people to change to fit in. Rather, it’s to reflect within on what we see and find desirable both in friends and partners; people in general, really. Many have preferences, like having active friends or a date with a good smile, and that’s okay! It’s when it’s a “requirement” that can become an issue and leave out wonderful people you might actually get along really well with. Not everyone will look like Jason Mamoa or Scarlett Johansson. I actually think of Mamoa’s Superbowl commercial this year where he “took off” his muscles and hair at home. How many people would still be attracted to him despite knowing what a great guy he is?
We all come in different shapes and sizes, but we’re all still human. And we offer different views and experiences that can enrich our lives. Even if you have a preference, try and be open to others. Don’t be hesitant or cast off approaching or being approached by someone you’re not physically drawn to at first. Just because they have big gauges in their ears, or they don’t have a hand, or they’re autistic does not mean they won’t be incredible friends for you. Just because they’re blind, they’re not a certain race, going bald, or have a lisp does not mean they won’t be great partners for you or won’t be a good parent for a future family; if that’s your goal. Nobody is perfect, and we all appear different. Look at someone holistically, not just physically, and you might discover someone incredible. It’s not difficult, as it can all start just by saying ‘Hi’ to someone. . .