I mentioned this a bit in an earlier post, but one of the most helpful things I ever did was to stop worrying if I were good-looking. Instead, I started to just assume I was average.
If people compliment my appearance, I thank them and leave it at that. No need to argue like I’m Jimmy Stewart lecturing an old-timey movie courtroom. I don’t really need other people to be in on my cognitive reframe for it to be something that’s helpful.
It’s come in handy so many times. Here’s one example: A few years back, I won a writing award and had a feature drawn up about me with an interview. The article also had a photograph in it, a selfie I snapped when I was working as a researcher. I was literally writing something at a computer and stopped to take a photo for professional stuff because I needed one.
Anyway, I look kind of nerdy and friendly in it. It’s not a glamour shot. Nothing like that. But I like the picture. So I’d submitted it when they did the feature on me and asked for a photo.
When they announced my feature on Twitter, the very first thing that happened was a random guy came forward to complain about how ugly I was.
I can remember a time when this would have really hurt my feelings. But interestingly, I found myself easily able to say, “He’s just upset because I’m being featured for something and I’m average looking. It’s not like I’m super famous, but I’m getting attention. And in his world view, the only women who are allowed to be even a little famous are supposed to be gorgeous. That’s what he’s upset about. I’ve violated his cultural expectations of fairness.”
And I’m Probably Right. I’m Probably Roughly Average.
Mathematically speaking, odds are quite good that I’m roughly average looking. Without getting stranded too far out in Stats Land, here’s why:
- I define average looking as any values that fall plus or minus one standard deviation from the mean.
- This statistical grouping would include people are precisely average (in this case, the mean vs mode or median because why get too complicated?).
- It would also include everyone who could be considered a little above or a little below average.
By the statistical definition of what a standard deviation is, this “roughly average” group would include two-thirds of all people. So all else being equal, there’s about a 67% chance that I’m roughly average looking.
And what do I lose if I’m wrong? Nothing. I take basic measures to be presentable and take care of myself, but I don’t stress over it. I tend to my appearance, but I don’t obsess.
And I don’t spend much time and energy worrying that I’m hideous. Because after I’ve done a reasonable amount, there’s no benefit to fretting over it anyway.
Honestly, being aggressively neutral about my appearance saves me an awful lot of hassle and frees up my mind to worry about working on other things. It helped me break a never-ending cycle of self-loathing.
I would never trade this for the way I used to be. My life got so much better when I stopped worrying if I were good-looking and just assumed I was average.