A really interesting examination of beauty, our relationship to ourselves, and perception. And some beautiful words about ‘Lydia’ from Toronto based blog ‘Beautiful Song of The Week’:
This blog spends a lot of time discussing beauty, but rarely in the context of physical beauty. (I think the closest we got was back in week 248, but that was more of a book recommendation than a meditation on good looks.)
So let’s dive right in.
There’s a strange paradox in the way most people perceive their own physical attractiveness. On the one hand, study after study shows that many of us are at least somewhat unhappy with the way we look. And yes, this may apply equally to men and women. We seem to want just slightly better than we have: ten pounds lighter, teeth just a bit whiter, hair just a bit cooler.
But at the same time, we have a tendency to overestimate our own good looks – regardless of what Dove says. It’s a strange phenomenon known to psychologists as ‘self-enhancement,’ and it leads us to all kinds of inaccurate estimations: we think we’re better drivers than most people, more intelligent than most people, work harder than most people…we overvalue ourselves and undervalue others. Including how good-looking we are.
This contradiction – I’m better-looking than average, but I need to be better – is a bizarre negative loop, where confidence feeds insecurity and happiness is perpetually just out of reach.
So what might a healthier mindset look like?
One of the things I’ve learned in writing this blog is that the more you look for beauty, the easier it is to find, and the more you realize that it comes in many types. “Pretty” is only one type. There’s also quirky, and stark, and moody and powerful. For me, it’s become less about how beautiful a song is, and more about how a song is beautiful.
Is it possible to apply that same idea to self-perception? To recognize that it’s less about how beautiful you are, and more about how you are beautiful?
I don’t know. Part of me thinks that’s a bit too clever to be true. But I’m sure that as far as musical beauty goes, we need the quirky and the stark and the moody and the powerful. So whatever your beautiful is, we probably need it too.
What makes this a beautiful song:
1. Jamie Doe’s voice: calm and confident.
2. The guitar part: delicate and detailed.
3. The video: an elderly man makes some tea, then applies heavy makeup and dresses in drag. It’s not so much a statement about what it means to be beautiful, but more a series of questions about all the assumptions we make with regards to beauty; assumptions about age, gender, cosmetics, sexuality. The drag queen in the video goes by the name Lavinia Co-op, and the video is compelling because of her demeanour during the whole thing- calm, confident, delicate, detailed. In other words, she is beautiful in the same way the song itself is beautiful.
Recommended listening activity:
Picking out a piece of fruit based on what you imagine its personality would be like if it were a person.