Does It Matter How You Look?


Face.2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the International Women’s Day has come and gone, I am reeling with this question just as much as I was before the day.  I was a speaker at Women in Chamber’s luncheon, I was interviewed by ABC local radio, and I was a guest contributor on ABC Open ‘s “What’s your Story?”  

I am suddenly pushed into a public arena that is far open and wide for my own comfort as I am not confident about my looks and dress sense.  These issues (like the photo in ABC Open’s story) rob me off my self-esteem slightly, well actually a lot.  I do say ‘Looks shouldn’t matter’ but I know they do for me even for a little while and I am sure they matter for majority of us.

I feel shy and nervous and inferior in new surroundings because I don’t have a perfect smile or my clothes are never suitable for the occasion.  Once my passion for life and practical understanding of people shines through I get back into my groove.  It is strange and I battle with that every day.  It goes to show saying these things is easy, actually following it through is the most difficult part.

I don’t believe there is a single person on this planet who is not happy about some aspect of how they look.  The feedback we get from each other when we first shake hands or make eye contact says a lot.   The unspoken words, the facial expressions, the body language –  creates a sense of self instantaneously.  In the presence of some people, one is not so self-conscious, where as in the presence of some other people, one feels uncomfortable instantaneously.  Are they perceived judgments by me or real thoughts of people that I can sense?

Acceptance is crucial to belonging. When we are thrown into new surroundings, unless we feel accepted instantly, we don’t feel comfortable.

There is no respect in judgment is there? When there is no Respect, there is no Acceptance and therefore no Love.

Respect only arises when we recognise and address the Love within.  Would that come with practice or spontaneously?

I am not raped, I don’t live in abject poverty, I am educated, I don’t have to struggle to establish my rightful presence, I don’t have fistula caused by genital mutilation, I don’t face a civil war, or guns or bombs on a daily basis, I live in a country where I can speak up and speak for, my freedom is not impeded, I don’t live in fear of survival, I don’t have to flee from every known comfort and surrounding to protect myself, I feel protected and I am protected, my family is safe,…..  When I enjoy so many privileges automatically, for which more than half the women population fight for on a daily basis, why am I concerned about how I look?

Concern about looks is a first world country’s artificially created dis-ease that keeps one self-centered and selfish.  If living in such comfortable surroundings that I expect to be my right to have, creates a broody artificial sense of insecurity and makes me a demanding consumer, how can I come to understand let alone respect the situation that I just described above faced by women and children around the world?

I poke my head out of my comfortable silo, cluck my tongue in sympathy, more laced with pity and throw a silent gratitude at the same time that I don’t have to face all that.  I then quickly bury my head into my silo and start looking inward and feel sorry for my lack of beautiful looks or wardrobe or the ideal body weight.

Would I honestly be able to stand face to face in front of a woman who is permanently disfigured because of acid thrown in her face to stop her from getting educated and see her beauty without cringing at the dis-figuration or feeling sorry for her state, whilst sighing with relief that I will never have to live like that?  Can I see her inner beauty shining through her burnt face or mangled body and treat her as equal?  Do women who suffer need my sympathy borne out of a supreme attitude?  How would Respect manifest in such a situation?

Our silent unspoken judgments of ourselves, of and by others, build layers of those silos and the more the layers, the less the inner light visible.  The silo itself can be a beautiful structure but if it is not lit from within, it will be lifeless.

Every time I think ‘I am not beautiful’, ‘I don’t photograph well’, ‘I don’t have good clothes’ etc.,  or ‘what is she wearing’, ‘look at her hair’ or ‘gosh! she is big’, or pass a complement that I mean exactly opposite of, (and there are people who do this constantly),  I am covering my inner light with layers of soot which thicken the walls of my silo.

We need to dismantle those dark sooty walls of negativity and judgment and let the inner light shine.

Sai Baba says – ‘You are three people – The One who You think You are, the One who Others think You are and the One that You Really Are”

So who is that real us – we are really Love inside.  We are a Love that underpins and manifests in our Thoughts as Truth, Feelings as Peace, Actions as Right Conduct and Understanding as Non-Violence.

I think I am not beautiful, others think I am inspirational. Both those statements are true, but who am I really?

Really –  I am, you are and we all are the light of Love that shines from within us.  How brightly that light shines depends on how much soot of negativity and judgments is covering it.

So does it matter how I look? No it doesn’t.  The only way I can live with that knowledge is if I draw strength from that inner light of Love rather than from opinions of myself by myself and others.

I don’t subscribe to the women’s magazines because they scream that looks do matter and at the same time run a token story of a mishap faced by a woman.  If we all collectively boycotted the media that constantly draws our attention to our inadequacies whether it be body weight or perfect smile, then our focus can be drawn onto who we actually are.

It is actually a great service if we all did that,  not just to us but to our future generations as well.  Let us take a pledge here that “Looks do not matter” and that “we will live in Love of ourselves and of each other”

Would you like to take that pledge?

Love to hear what you think – do looks matter to you?

Until next week

With Love and Respect

Padma Ayyagari

About Padma Ayyagari

I am a Human Values Activist, passionate about and trying to live steeped in Spirituality. I live with the knowledge that Love is the undercurrent of all human life. I believe in Unity of Faiths, Unity in diversity and try and live my life with unity in thought, word and deed. Helping others to lead a life of practical spirituality that will give peace of mind is my passion and life purpose.
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4 Responses to Does It Matter How You Look?

  1. Jean McVay says:

    Dear Padma: You speak the truth so eloquently, right to the heart of the matter. I know what you say (all of it) is so true. I truly appreciate that you are a voice speaking out for and to women. I, personally, need this reminder. Thank you.


  2. Kathryn says:

    Very well said, Padma. There is no pressure worse than that we put on ourselves to reach some unrealistic perfection.


  3. Ramakrishnan S says:

    Hi Padma,
    You have posed a question and answered it well in clear words. Looks do matter for those who lack confidence and self respect. Looks are external and what really matters is your internal characteristics. One does not need to be handsome to be charismatic !! Thanks


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