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When standards do not matter

Is it possible to live comfortably, feeling like an unattractive person if your own appearance does not fit into the generally accepted beauty standards? Let’s try to look at this issue from the standpoint of psychoanalysis and existential psychology.

The concepts of “beautiful” and “ugly” accompany us from early childhood. At first, parents and others speak of our appearance, then society is accepted to plant their stereotypes. How to separate yours from the imposed and become free? Inviting the discussion of this topic Psychoanalyst Andrei Rossokhin and the existential psychologist Dmitry Leontyev, we expected that the representatives of these largely polar psychotherapeutic approaches would argue, but our experts suddenly agreed in many ways.

Psychologies: How a sense of its own attractiveness is formed?

Andrey Rossokhin: This knowledge always comes from parents – it is they who put in the child the basic concept of beauty, including their own. It is also important how we look at the child and how we hug him, how we communicate with him, as we see in our fantasies in a year, five, ten years.

Dmitry Leontyev: I would say that not only parents form their own attractiveness in the child, but also surrounding people in general. Their baby is always good for parents, but others can serve as an objective source of information. Many are familiar with this situation: everyone liked the child in the family, and suddenly he resorts from the garden or school in tears: “Mom, but I really am an ugly?”

Today’s mass culture is a visual culture based on external images, which are often in no way related to the internal content. There are, for example, some external signs that we easily read, but there is a certain inner feeling. We distinguish a person who loves himself-we primarily and consider him beautiful at a deep, subconscious level.

So, if a person is lucky with early experience, he will grow up a harmonious personality and will love himself. And the one who is less lucky is doomed to suffer until the end of his life?

Dmitry Leontyev: “Doomed” – too strong a word. There are different starting conditions: one is more lucky, and the others are less. This is not a final sentence at all, but only a certain initial direction of movement, a kind of track. If we are comfortable in it, we will be able to achieve the desired result (in this case, a harmonious perception of our own appearance) at the cost of relatively small efforts. If from childhood we have inspired a negative view of ourselves in order to overcome it, we will need significant internal work. It is naive to expect from the world of absolute justice and symmetry, but a person always has the possibility of choosing.

Andrey Rossokhin: I believe that it is important that the track is a type of road that limits the freedom of our development, self -perception and self -consideration. Parents, of course, convey their own values to the child, but the task of each adult is to process parental attitudes and create their own in their place. If my parents inspired me that I was ugly, I need to free myself from this and form my own image of myself. At the same time, if I have grown in the belief that no one is more beautiful than me, as I grow older, I can face no less problems. Open eyes and see themselves and people outside the tearing opposition “beautiful and ugly” – this means to feel attractive enough to love yourself.

“Beauty” and “attractiveness” – almost synonyms. But there is a certain subtle, almost elusive difference between them. How would you determine its essence?

Andrey Rossokhin: Beauty is

Dmitry Leontyev: I would like to add that the attitude to beauty as such in society is changing. A key aesthetic category – largely with the presentation of the philosopher Alexei Losev – becomes the concept of “expressive”. His idea is that the form expresses the true essence, shows what is actually, so the more expressive the object, the more attractive it. It is for this reason that the aesthetics of evil are sometimes so attractive. As for beauty, here we risk a trap of social stereotypes. External beauty is a formal criterion according to which we can compare us with other people. But imagine how joyless such a picture is: the slender ranks of the sexual macho are indistinguishable from each other, which behave equally because they focus on the same stereotypes;identical women reading the same female magazines. Inner beauty manifests itself when a person reveals his inner essence and begins to manifest himself in accordance with what he actually represents.

When beauty becomes important for a person?

Andrey Rossokhin: Then, when his father and mother first think about the future child, they begin to fantasize about him – from this minute, and not from the moment of birth or even conception, the formation of an attractive image of the child begins. Through the prism of this image, parents will see the born baby. This is what makes our children who have just been born so beautiful!

Dmitry Leontyev: I will allow myself to disagree: I can easily imagine a person for whom his beauty will never become important, who will never encounter the features of his appearance as a problem. This is primarily due to self -perception: if a person loves himself, he will consider himself beautiful just by default.

Attractiveness and inner beauty – similar things. How they relate to the phenomenon of the “ugly but charming” person?

Andrey Rossokhin: Beauty is a kind of iceberg, and physical beauty is at its top. If we are interested in this obvious, superficial layer, then when meeting with a person, we react precisely to his appearance. But there are other levels of the Iceberg, and we can open them for ourselves: for this you just need to know a person better, more serious to relate to his inner world. For example, someone can consider Lisa Minnelli or Barbara Streisand unattractive, but this will only mean that he did not watch a single film with their participation. Plunging into the world of these beautiful actresses, we fall under their charm and otherwise we see them. Another example is a state of love when an aged loved one remains as beautiful as during love.

Dmitry Leontyev: Certainly. External beauty is a picture, showcase. The one who is interested in a person as such tries to penetrate her, find out what is inside. And the one who attracts primarily the external is content with the picture, without attaching special importance to its internal content.