Remember the Greek myth of Narcissus, a vain and handsome young man who was punished by a goddess for rejecting the innocent love of another. Narcissus was made to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool and he wasted the rest of his life staring at his own image.
It’s easy to criticize our society’s obsession with beauty. We all know “beauty is only skin-deep” and people’s outward appearance sometimes does not reflect their inner goodness (or lack of it). We also know that the cover-up of the wrinkles of aging, with faces pulled tight from surgery or injections of tissue expanders into lips usually make movie stars appear even more artificial and unreal.
Naturally, we all want to make a good first impression. In the wild, it’s the bird with the most colorful feathers that successfully woos the most healthy and finest specimen of the opposite sex in order to advance the species. Looking good is important for getting a job, selling a product or even making a convincing argument. To dress and appear well groomed, and to look clean and healthy, provides the appearance that someone has their act together. It is human nature and practical to want to look nice.
Our epidemic of obesity, alongside society’s definition that thin is desirable, is a disheartening paradox. More troubling is that, short of radical and dangerous surgery, weight loss programs do not last. After five years, most programs and efforts show only one in 100 are able to keep weight off. We would be healthier if we emphasized eating right rather than weight loss.
Besides, what is true beauty? Does it really matter the measure of the waist, the turn of the nose, or the color of the hair? Are we most charmed by the impression of youth or that of experience; the look of innocence, or that of confidence; the appearance of cool, or that of compassion? Certainly, what seems beautiful today will be different tomorrow.
Looking nice can be important, but, in my opinion, it’s valuable to recognize that it is a golden heart and a healthy lifestyle which makes one beautiful. Exercising well, eating a balanced reasonable diet, connecting with and caring for friends and family and, finally, loving ourselves are the elements which bring on real and lasting beauty. Narcissus wasted his life above a calm pool looking at himself. We can do better.
Richard P. Holm