Don’t be yourself, be pretty instead

Published: January 9, 2012
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We are merely haggling about the extent to which we are allowed to be fake. PHOTO: REUTERS

One cannot change what society considers beautiful. Neither can one berate it for being attracted to certain physical features, say a fair complexion. We can, however, change ourselves. If there is something about one’s body that nettles him or her consistently, why not change it?

It is inarguable that in an ideal world, inner beauty is more important than physical beauty. However, it should be realised that these two are not inversely related. A good-looking person is not ipso facto a black-hearted, Sauron-esque villain. There’s nothing wrong with being beautiful both inside and out, which is why I bluntly say:

Don’t be yourself, be pretty instead.

Those who have been piqued enough to scroll down and post a seething comment after reading this statement, let me assure you that I say these words for myself too. I am a horizontally-challenged, less-than-attractive guy (that’s the best I can sugar-coat ‘fat and ugly’), and given the opportunity, I wouldn’t mind making use of the wonders of modern science to make a few adjustments to my appearance.

Any person dissatisfied with the visual aspect of his or her being should be encouraged to accept oneself and not feel terribly self-conscious. For years, my friends and family have done the same thing for me. Unfortunately, that ghastly feeling I get whenever I am in a public gathering that I’m not as good-looking as the people around me, has not changed one iota.

Some of us choose to change ourselves so that we feel happy, while others like to torture themselves by pretending that the feeling does not exist.

“Hey, at least I am being natural! And all I really need is my mother’s love.”

The stark opposition to cosmetic surgery and beauty medication can quite often be explained through the cognitive dissonance theory, or the classic ‘grapes are sour’ state of mind.

“I can’t afford a nose job because my dad’s not rich like hers. Hmph! I don’t like this unnatural procedure anyway.”

Another thing that really stands out is the hypocrisy. Would you ever go to your cousin’s valima with an unwashed face in the spirit of looking natural? Does having a make-over or getting your hair styled, even if it’s nothing extravagant, not count as deviating from your ‘natural’ look? If it does, then it is not being fake that troubles us since we are all so in some way. We are merely haggling about the extent to which we are allowed to be fake. Some of us, who are more ambitious about looking pretty and have the resources to get expensive makeovers and surgeries, draw the line a little farther than an average person.

It is one thing to be obsessed with one’s physical beauty to the point where it becomes a serious threat to one’s health or finances, but it is quite different when you spend money to make yourself happy. Keeping this in mind, I repeat:

You don’t have to be yourself all the time. Be whatever you want to be.

Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • abdul moiz

    it’s upto women themselves.they fret and obsess of looking the prettiest all the time.most of the girls in my university had no ambitions of having careers,most though they came from educated,wll to do families, still made getting married the sole aim of their lives.until and unless women stop making marriage the sole goal in life,they will continue to value themselves according to how they look,how much they weigh.if they got their sense of acheivement by meeting targets at work,instead of how many kilos they had managed to lose,our society would have been better.
    sadly,in our society,even the well educated girls aim to become housewives instead of aiming for becoming bankers,engineers,surgeons etc.Recommend

  • hassan shami

    @abdul moiz:

    it’s much easier to freeload off your husband for your entire life,rather than work and contribute to society in a beneficial way.sitting at home is much easier,so their is no need for our women to work,we have a whole generation of well educated housewives,who put their education to work in directing their servants how better to do their dometic chores.Recommend

  • http://www.sapphirical.wordpress.com SaFire

    this is the first time i have seen a non-lawyer use the phrase, “ipso facto”. :)Recommend

  • Orya Shaw

    “Don’t be yourself, be pretty instead”, well first practice what you preach i.e., “Be pretty”, and then write whatever you want. You are a typical Pakistani mysogynist male, only this time we get a language change. Glad to know that your breed comes in english too now.Recommend

  • Ayesha Sultana

    This was the most irresponsible pieces I have ever read in one of the leading newsblogs. “Be pretty” and “stop being yourself”. You are talking about the traditions which have been perpetuated by the colonial patriarchal society which is half-baked religious/cultural/social disaster. And you have the nerve to delegate the blame to the rest of the population for what has become an increasing trend. Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    Orya.
    I recommend reading line 12 onwards.

    And note that the article is about both women and men. In fact, the word “woman” appears nowhere in the article. I even gave my own example to clarify that I’m talking about males and females who are interested in any kind of cosmetic enhancement. Yeah, guys get their hair styled too these days.

    Don’t just read the first paragraph, look at the picture, and decide to go straight to the comment section to blow off some steam!Recommend

  • Hira

    Faraz Talat u need to go for some major “ego-boosting, self confidence” building classes.Recommend

  • Sara Fatima

    I may sound a bit cheeky but to put it straight the writer has completely failed to prove his point. More precisely, Facts are engraved over views here! Cases differ, yes they do. Washing off face before going to some event is purely different from tightening skin or going through several cosmetic procedures just to look “pretty”. For what I have seen everyone tries their best to look beautiful..of sure, consuming what their pockets allow them to. My point is will the public acceptance really matter if you yourself ain’t satisfied with your existence!? So first gain all guts to walk the way you are rather masking up in artificiality for people may also found it to be ugly any way! Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    I just feel sad after reading this blog. Come on Faraz. :(

    I think the point you are trying to make is that if human beings find it acceptable to use makeup to enhance physical beauty, then why necessarily stop there? If cosmetic surgery is affordable to someone, why not go for it?

    I don’t know dude… I get what you are saying, but you have to draw the line somewhere right, lest you look like a grotesque mannequin.

    As for being ‘horizontally’ challenged, you are a good looking cat. Your facial structure suggests symmetry.

    Why not work out and lose weight? It is easier said than done, but I’ve done it, as have countless others. Good luck.

    You know, satisfaction of your looks should come from the inside, not judgment from others. Again, easier said than done I guess. Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    Sara,

    The point is not to appease the public, but to do what makes you feel better about yourself.

    What I’m protesting is this silly notion that there’s something awfully sacred about staying natural. If there’s something about your physical appearance that bothers you personally, and that changing it would make you happy, then go ahead!

    I know a friend who says she would love to have a rhinoplasty, but is afraid her friends are going to make fun of her and call her fake. Isn’t this kind of social pressure worth criticizing too?Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    Noman,

    There are two kinds of social pressures. One that forces you to change yourself against your will. And another that forces you to stay the way you are, no matter how uncomfortable you feel about it.

    Neither are desirable. A person should be able to do what makes him/her happy. Neither you nor I can delineate this “line” that you speak of. Let’s leave that to each individual to draw according to how much he/she can afford, and how much change he/she personally desires.Recommend

  • Omer

    Priorities over logic!
    But hey.. If one can afford and its safe then why not.Recommend

  • Maria

    its an interesting view coming from a man’s side. But as they say u have to put urself in somebdy’s shoes bfr speaking on thier behalf. So i dnt agree with ur view n m sure most of the women wont either. it doesnt mean dat if u lack in something thn u shall change it. Its like going for a brain transplant if u are dumb :p
    secondly women dnt need to get themselves beautified but we need to change da mindset of our pppl. N we have to start from grassroot level. From our homes. For making ppl understand that beauty iis nt only da physical appearence of someone , there is much more to it. Recommend

  • Maria

    its an interesting comment coming from a man’s side. But u have to put urself in women’s shoes for doing dat. N as a woman i disagree with ur view.
    Firstly, does it seem rational to u if a person lacks in something,he/she must get it changed?! Then y not go for a brain transplant if u are dat dumb.
    Secondly, its nt like women want to get themslves beautified by anymeans only cox they r less pretty than da rest, its cox of da mentality dat prevails in society. We need to change da mindset of ppl n for dat we have to start at da grass root level,from our homes. From our own kids. Recommend

  • http://habloid.wordpress.com Habiba Younis

    cool down people, the author here didnt write a post themed around a mad run for acquiring superficial beauty. it just outlines the fact that how we most of the times delude ourselves, chanting the same ‘inner beauty’ lines over and over again while deep down not everyone is being honest to themselves. The point isnt necessarily about running for costly botox or liposuction but about our own sight-of how we view our own selves. Instead of getting philosophical lets face it, we all like being our best. and let me clear it, i dont judge people by their looks, neither their fats,nor by which style brand they are wearing. For me myself, my confidence lies in the conviction that i can think for myself. But even then, while attending important events or gathering I wont prefer going in shaggy condition with disheveled hair. Its just a personal preference in grooming, nothing more nothing less. yes about limits everyone has his/her own justified view. You want to look good. Good. You dont want to look good. Good. Just be honest of the core reason-at least to yourself.Recommend

  • Waqas.

    More than just looking good at our cousin’s Valima or perhaps getting a make-over for New Year’s, I believe one could always aim for a change that’s more substantial and longer-lasting than that which lasts for that particular event. That said, I agree very much with the writer- where he’s talking about the rampant hypocrisy, and how we perceive and react to criticism about our physical appearance, especially when it comes from ‘within’. If there is a flaw (for lack of a better word) that one can work on, say by a few hours of weekly exercise, or perhaps even a sunscreen to avoid a miserable tan, then there’s nothing so grotesquely superficial about working on it. I don’t know about the rhinoplasty though, as I’m talking about change that’s more accessible and doable for the majority. For instance weight loss, good skin care, some attention to one’s hair. Why do we ignore the health benefits of the aforementioned things? Perhaps the only thing I would like to change here is the very title itself, that’s sparking such negative comments: ‘Don’t be yourself, be pretty.’ The article is meant to make us think about why we don’t go that little distance to feel better about ourselves when more often than not, we can! It’s just the title that comes across as sensational, and perhaps even misleading to an otherwise decent article.Recommend

  • Sok Kwu Wan

    Perhaps you cannot singlehandedly change what society considers to be beautiful, but you do have full control of how large a role this will play in your life. Some people will go the whole way with cosmetic surgery; others will just do what is strictly necessary. The choice is ultimately yours. Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    Maria,

    Once again, the argument is for both men and women.

    And no, it’s not necessary to change oneself. But if you really want to, you can. Not because other people want you to, but because you want it yourself. You shouldn’t be afraid to do something good for yourself out of fear that people might call you “fake”. That kind of social pressure is equally reprehensible.

    In short, a person should have the freedom to change as well as to stay the same, without either choice incurring society’s judgement.Recommend

  • maham bilal

    I think I kind of get what you are trying to say faraz. If a person has money to afford such drastic procedures and change themselves that’s their own problem. We all have flaws that we would like to change and that’s a basic human trait. So what if Heidi Montag got multiple plastic surgeries. It was her choice to change herself the only thing I find wrong is the fact that she had all those surgeries and went a bit too far which brought her to a point of almost death but she did it for herself did she tell anyone else to get the surgery done? I don’t think so. The author didn’t say he supported plastic surgery just that he thought it was okay as its one’s own right to do what they want to do with their face. What I fail to understand is why people would ask you to take ego-boosting, self confidence building classes? Hey at least you had the guts to speak what came to your mind. Bold and Confident that’s what I would call you.Recommend