Though most people will not admit it, vanity affects our decisions on a multitude of levels. It’s like that black sheep brother you have, that nobody ever wants to talk about.
Many studies have shown that people naturally, subliminally even have a natural tendency to ‘like’ people that they term to be better looking. Studies have even gone so far as to suggest that a certain look is desirable among men and women. We each perceive a particular quality among both sexes as being particularly less or more attractive.
Attractive men and women — and taller for that matter — have been shown in numerous studies to make more money, are deemed more trustworthy/honest by their peers and have been shown to be more persuasive. This may be why many people view ‘being attractive’ as some kind of dark magic publicly, yet privately most people wish they were a little lighter, their (insert body part here) was a little different or that they were a little more symmetrical.
In a political forum, the better looking candidate actually has a natural advantage over the older or least favourable looking candidate.
Though much is debatable, there are definitely certain things we have learned are important in being considered beautiful or better looking:
Symmetry is important to the concept of beauty and that’s exactly why a prime decision at bodybuilding shows is based on that of symmetry.
We also tend to be more attracted to individuals who have complementary features, those complementary features are that which will give our offspring even better overall features.
Hip-to-waist ratios in women seem to be important while shoulder-to-waist ratios in men seem to be important.
Men tend to rate women as being of ‘higher attractiveness’ when they have long legs, large breasts, are shorter than them, have good posture and are younger than them.
Women on the other hand tend to rate men as a being of ‘higher attractiveness’ when they are taller, have a V-shaped torso, have larger genitalia, are mildly hairy and stand with tall erect posture.
*Please note, these are not ‘rules’ and different cultures seem to experience slightly different ‘optimal traits.’
Most of these observations are assumed to be evolutionarily associated with virility, fertility or general healthiness of a potential mate and the likelihood of good offspring. This may be why many evolutionary biologists believe that our beauty as a species continues to expand as we naturally take on mates that will continue our genetic betterment into new generations.
I’d be the first to argue that our concept of vanity has changed significantly over the years.
There was a time in our history where large hips meant good child bearing, a thick torso meant you were well fed and white skin was the sign of someone who didn’t have to labour in the sun all day. Everything we know of today is subject to change in the coming generations.
Today, tanned beach bodies, tiny waist lines, run way models, and other marvels of genetic evolution cloud our thinking. These genetic marvels make up the bulk of what we see in advertisements, fitness ads and unfortunately for many the genetically gifted is all we pay attention to at the gym. Not to mention the process that most models go through before a shoot — it consists of a really restricted diet, diuretics, salt tablets, and fairly extreme dehydration.
When used in marketing for manipulation — and we all know what advertisers are doing, let’s be honest — it’s not hard to see why we have such a negative attitude towards vanity. Yet to some degree we are all vain.
In spite of all this, vanity is not necessarily the problem with our society. In truth, vanity needs to be understood more fully. Something needs to be done about this love-hate relationship.
I think everyone needs to understand their own look and think hard about what they can control and what they can’t control.
What they can control may include their weight, their body composition, what they eat, or how they exercise, within reason.
What they can’t control, might be what every ailments they may have to live with (thyroid regulation, celiac’s, digestion issues, etc…), injuries, symmetry issues and genetic set-backs like height, eye colour, or the size of your nose or ears. Even these issues are entirely self-dependent though.
Self-esteem issues of young adolescents aside, vanity can be embraced as a tool by most adults. It can give a deeper meaning to a healthy fitness program, from which individuals can strive to find their own personal best. Vanity can be manipulated in an attempt to find what works best for you. Personal vanity can easily be used as your game day or end resolve instead of that marathon, bodybuilding show or Crossfit qualifier.
Sign up for a longer 6 or 12 month training program today and use Vanity as your outcome goal.
Take pictures* when you start, and document the way, finish with your own personal photo shoot.
Book a photoshoot when you start and make the commitment to look your best for it. You’ll have those photos for a lifetime and the process will be well worth the effort.
Give yourself permission to use Vanity as a reason to get into the gym this year on a regular basis. It may not be the only reason, but at least there is a strong emotional reason ‘why’ you are going through with all the training and nutrition changes, if not just for your health.
*If aesthetics is the goal than you need a measure of aesthetics, what better way to document changes in your appearance than with photographs? Do it in the smallest amount of clothing you can tolerate covering vital areas, like a bathing suit or underwear.
This is perhaps the best example of a qualitative measure of change in regards to weight-loss.