Do Good Looks Matter?

"Alec Baldwin" by Mimi Stuart ©

Beauty and Vibrancy

It is important to take care of yourself and try to look your best. Letting your looks go or becoming unhealthy and sloppy is unappealing and disrespectful to yourself and those you love. On the other hand, when people focus exclusively on how they look in a vain effort to seek validation, they lose a certain vibrancy that comes from depth and self-confidence.

In today’s society of never-ending nips and tucks, we forget that the essence of beauty stems from a person’s inner vitality and depth. Vitality often results from leading a multi-dimensional life that involves pursuing one’s passions, being creative, having purpose, and carrying on meaningful relationships.


True beauty is reflected more by demeanor than by a person’s perfect features. In his autobiography, Alan Alda describes being backstage watching an actress play the part of a hideous woman. Alda thought the actress was perfect for the part—she was ugly, had thick fingers, no neck, and a pudgy nose. He was shocked when in the last act, she transformed into a beautiful woman–without any change in makeup. Her fingers and neck actually became slender and long, and her face suddenly looked regal. He realized that the most dramatic transformation comes from the way people hold themselves.


Attractiveness is also a reflection of how we view ourselves. I have a cousin who has a long scar down one side of his face from an accident. When he was a teenager, his father told him that he looked disfigured and pressured him to get plastic surgery.

Embarrassed by his scar, he decided to get the surgery. A few days beforehand, his sister in law—a British catwalk model whom he adored—caught sight of him looking in the mirror while covering the “damaged” side of his face with shaving cream to see how it would look if it were gone. When he told her about the impending surgery, she leaned toward him and whispered emphatically, “Don’t do it. It’s dreadfully sexy.” Her comment transformed the way he viewed his physical appearance, and needless to say, he kept the scar as an asset.

Why People Seek Beauty

Being admired for being attractive feels good. When something feels good, it’s easy to want more of it, whether it’s beauty, wealth, popularity, fame, food, or wine. A dentist once told me “You can never be too beautiful or too rich.” Yet, there is a point where too much focus on beauty (or anything else) tragically takes away from other important facets of your life.

Desperate efforts to look young or sexy sends the message that you have nothing to offer but your youth and beauty.

A person with perfect features and flawless skin who feels insecure and resentful radiates anxiety rather than beauty. When people start “running for their lives”—i.e., running to plastic surgeons biannually, the message they send is one of fear and insecurity. There will always be younger and more beautiful people, so why not appreciate and cultivate greater depth and breadth within ourselves?

How others view you does not lead to fulfillment.

Too much emphasis on our looks steals from us the enjoyment of many other pursuits—intellectual, athletic, and spiritual, for example. How we look has little to do with the fulfillment that comes from meaningful relationships, humor, and creativity, as well as from work, wisdom, solitude, and philanthropy.

Skin-deep beauty, particularly if manufactured, will only attract others who are not interested in much else. Lacking depth and substance, even the most gorgeous woman or handsome man will receive only superficial and short-term interest from others, usually from people looking for a hot evening, a trophy wife, or a cabana boy.


Imagine being extremely beautiful or handsome, and receiving endless adulation. Although the attention may feel good, it can also create increased dependency on other people’s opinion of how you appear.

This dependency develops into a tendency toward self-presentation, that is, presenting only the parts of yourself that will get a desired reaction. You become afraid of developing wrinkles—even smile wrinkles–or showing up without makeup. Your fear of losing admiration has the paradoxical impact of increasing fear of rejection about aspects of yourself that remain undisclosed—other interests and ideas.

Divorce: Why do some men leave their wives and often find someone younger?

Most men who leave their wives for a younger woman don’t do so because of the wife’s natural aging process. The real causes of divorce are more likely to be one of the following:

1. Couples become resentful from having repressed needs and desires for so long. Resentment erodes relationships.

2. Couples stop taking care of themselves, which shows a lack of self-respect and respect for the other. Taking care of oneself may include trying to look good and stay healthy, but is a far cry from obsessing over eliminating any signs of aging.

3. Lack of growth and change are also a quick road to dull relationships and looking elsewhere for fulfillment.

4. One partner becomes subservient, forfeiting his or her own interests and self-confidence. A woman, for example, may live in the shadow of her husband, becoming a housekeeper at the expense of her own interests. She becomes invisible and undesirable to her partner and unrecognizable to her friends. Sadly, she loses vitality and life force.

5. One partner has always been the unfaithful type or originally got married for superficial reasons.

If you do lose your mate to another person, it’s time to regain your identity by leading a fuller and more passionate life. By developing those aspects of your life that have been neglected, whether pursuing your interests, taking time for friends, philanthropy, or spirituality, developing financial skills, or taking care of your health, body, and yes, your looks, you will ultimately regain the life force and vitality we’re all born with.

The Artifices of Beauty

The interesting thing about beauty is that there isn’t one measure for it, even in one short lifetime. Styles of clothes change, as do the concepts of beauty. The emaciated look may be in now, but not historically so. In “Fiddler on the Roof,” one of the lines is “If I were a rich man, my wife would have a double chin.”

Historical excesses in forced or artificial beauty point to the transitory nature of our own current preferences: African or South American wooden plugs in ear lobes to stretch out the lobes; the old Chinese custom of binding little girls’ feet to keep them small; the Poof, made popular by Marie Antoinette, whose hairdresser piled pads and pomades to raise the hair three feet high—all come and gone.

Beauty care customs that are often viewed as “must-have” in their time can seem almost ludicrous by other cultures in a later era. But at the time, beauty products are endowed with the promise of helping us conform with current trends.


In reality, true beauty is without artifice. Your character eventually shines through any amount of make up or plastic surgery. The way you treat others is remembered always, no matter how flawless your complexion.

I’m all for continuing to do things that will preserve or enhance what nature has given us—that may include having work done for some. But the key lies in choosing a positive attitude about life rather than allowing desperation to take over. Knowing and accepting our aging process liberates us to pursue our life through our own lens, not someone else’s.

Acceptance and confidence in yourself can sustain passion in a relationship better than liposuction and restilin. With each year, the inner self expresses itself more strongly in each line and wrinkle. It becomes impossible to hide your true self. Each person has his or her own individual passions and life experiences that are often best reflected in those very wrinkles we abhor. If we choose to have the expression of our life erased, what does that say about ourselves? Modified or not, the face becomes the true mirror of the soul.

What do you want it to reflect?

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Aging Gracefully: ‘I can’t do what I used to do. I hate getting old.’”

Recommended References:

Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts, by Regena Thomashauer (2003).

Why Men Marry Bitches: A Woman’s Guide to Winning Her Man’s Heart, by Sherry Argov.

Beauty Junkies, by Alex Kuczynski, Doubleday, NY (2006).

13 thoughts on “Do Good Looks Matter?

  1. kunal johari

    Yes, I think it matter when you compare physical, But “No” if you compare with a good person
    > At initial stage her beauty looks good, But for long run it not matter always, Remember – when there is new it looks good.
    > Beauty always mater for good physical relation, Yes, I am talking about sex. Weather a girl or boy one may Hesitate to make physical relationship with ugly or bad looking partner. But any one can understand and solve the matter and live life happily, After all we are human being and human being help another human being…. and understanding and co-ordination with partner is important in marriage life only that is matter for success marriage life.
    > What one can much do if he/she got a most beautiful partner – “One can not always attract, always watch, always sex, always pamper with partner for hole life ….. So beauty always don’t matter. But the fact that is if your partner is sweet so they can live happy…..
    > Person those who are good human being with beauty Its plus point for those person, But it a scientific rule of the nature is that human mind not stay with one only…. We have to live in society

  2. Anonynous

    Dear Alison,

    In regards to your concluding statement of ‘ the face becomes the true mirror of the soul.’, does that generally apply to arbitrary facial expressions or the inherent nature of an individual (e.g. kind, caring vs. mean….)? On a deeper level, don’t we as human beings wear ‘masks’ in correspondence to each and every unique situation? Lastly, if attitude is such a vital component of beauty, then would unfavorable attitudes have an indelible impact on one’s perceived beauty towards others (e.g. mistreatment, misunderstanding, and so forth..)? True beauty is resilient isn’t it?

    Thank you for your beautiful perspectives!



    1. Alison Post author

      Thank you.

      Yes, we do wear masks. As we mature, hopefully we identify less with the masks we wear (the “persona” in Jungian terms.) A persona is necessary, but we become more multifacted and less rigidly identified with the mask we have learned to wear to interact with the world.

      If someone is generally kind and caring or wise and thoughtful, those attributes will shine through over the long term. Unhappiness, resentment and bitterness also show through and change the face over time. Anger, brutality and contempt will wipe out any good looks, and so with greed, small-mindedness, and envy.



  3. Micheal

    I am a 32 old Nigerian American single who have lived in the States for 9 years. As a conventional wisdom and African cultures and tradition demand, African parents (Igbos in eastern Nigeria, for example) do not only want to organize an arranged marriage and to ensure their young men marry beautiful, gorgeous women but also ensure they marry from certain tribes or state, within the five states in the south-east region.

    This epistle has solidified my conviction that beauty is in the heart, character, humility and perseverance not physical appearance that would eventually fade anyway. I just want to say thank you for this immeasurable article, which confirms what I have always believed that I should follow my heart wholeheartedly, however working to accommodate my parents ‘ preference, with regard to marriage.

    1. Alison Post author

      There could be some biological component that causes men to be more attracted to smooth skin, etc, for reproducing. But human beings are much more than biological beings. I think finding a younger woman is often a matter of insecurity, a fear of getting older, and a desire to prove that one is still potent and youthful. The younger woman may look up to the older man for his knowledge, experience, and financial security, and this could feed his ego.

      I haven’t re-read my article in a while, but I do believe that people prefer looking at attractive people over unattractive people. However, I believe that more interesting people with vitality prefer interesting people with vitality over simply good-looking people. It’s nice to take care of yourself and take care of your health, skin, posture, etc, but I find it perhaps more important to take care of what makes you come alive and sparkle in life–to be a good person, who’s actively involved in living, having relationships, thinking, etc. Moreover, I think you can take care of your mind and your body simultaneously. But we do have to let go of a one-sided grasping onto one’s fleeting youth at the expense of all the rest life has to offer.

  4. Matt

    There is no doubt highly attractive people meet less resistance in getting a date or an entry level job. But much of this success is age related. We’re all cuter when we’re young. So people are not so much attracted to the person but the age. We cant stop ourselves from aging. We all get a brief amount of youth then its time to move on. Leo DiCaprio and Brian Austin Green were a super studs, top of the mountain in the nineties. Today they are still handsome men but you take celebrity out of the equation they wont get every young girl they may desire. But on other hand age has a way of bringing out some strong inner beauty. And I happen to thing ladies over 40 are radiant and gorgeous and ten times more comfortable to be around than when they were in their drama queen 20s.

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  7. Beauty Skin

    Hey,great stuff you got here,I read it and i found one part that could really help me in my try to create an article for my site,it’s a problem if i quote you in my article???
    Wait reply from you.


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