Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Question of Appearance

I was a good basketball player. I did not appear athletic though and was usually underestimated by my opponents. This increased my effectiveness. Matter of fact in many areas of my life I have seemed to be worse than I really am. There are those who believe you should put your best foot forward. I have always thought it was better to hold back a little and not reveal the level of your ability or strength until it was absolutely necessary.

How we present ourselves to the world and how we judge others are important to our happiness and success. We are constantly dealing with decisions that surround this issue. Would you rather go out with a women who appears beautiful because of knowledge of makeup and style or one that hides her beauty revealing it only in the most intimate moments? Would you rather be friends with someone who appears smart but is actually stupid or someone who appears stupid but is actually smart? Would you rather eat a meal that looks great but tastes terrible or a meal that looks plain but tastes great? Would you rather drive a car that is safe, reliable, comfortable, and economical or one that is cute, sexy, or flashy?

We are living in a society in which appearances have become more important than reality. What is important in America today is image. Billions of dollars are spent and counless time and energy are expended on creating the illusion of success, of wealth, of knowledge, of expertise, of competence, and of quality. We are constantly being bombarded by images created to convince us that a product, service, or idea is more than it actually is. Many of our lives are controlled by the desire to acquire the biggest, the best, the fastest, the most beautiful, the sleekest, the newest, the most advanced, or the hippest, when in fact the cost of acquisition of many of these things leaves us no time to enjoy them.

This is a serious matter. Our economy is strongly dependent on our continuing to desire products and services that are primarily geared to improving our appearance or image rather than enhancing our lives. If we were to wake up to the truth about what really makes us happy the consequences to many of the businesses that depend on marketing the sizzle rather than the steak would be dire.

It seems to me that we need to start making choices and reassess our priorities. There is a great freedom in not being dependent on appearance but striving for substance, humility, and sincerity. The starting point for gaining this freedom is not to be concerned about our own appearances but be more concerned about the quality of our lives and doing what really makes us happy.

We can free ourselves from the necessity to being liked or being accepted by not feeling pressured to always present ourselves in the most favorable light. We can hold back a little in showing others, especially those who we first meet, how smart or talented or successful we are. This requires real confidence and some consciousness. The consequences of this will change the world and make our lives much easier. I believe that if we don't do it willfully we will be forced to do it anyway.

1 comment:

  1. What I find most interesting about this topic is that many people can be aware, at least to some extent, of the external forces which influence our life decisions, but yet remain bound by those exact forces.
    I can reflect on different points in my life I have made decisions to break "more" free of this desire to please others or chase culturally reinforced expectations. For this to happen it often involved confronting my fears.
    At different periods in my life I have also found that reading Buddhist wisdom stories has helped me to remain grounded and not feel the need to show my hand until due time.