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Why it’s ‘pretty ugly’ if you’re an attractive woman.

This month, we’re delighted to welcome international speaker, trainer, coach and author Seán Brickell. Inspired by a recent conversation with The Red Tree CEO Stirling Murray, Seán writes about the omnipresent ideal of physical perfection within the beauty industry and how beauty brands need to embrace the psychological as well as the physical aspects of beauty to penetrate a deeply saturated and disillusioned consumer audience.

The girl at the train station had bucked teeth, unhelpful facial blemishes and lank hair. She was also unremarkably dressed.

And yet she walked and acted like she was the warmest and most beautiful woman in the world.

She had a warmth, positive energy and elegant passion about her.

This made her so eye-catching.

It also made her attractive and intriguing.

And yet one of the great ironies is that so many women who are considered to be head-turningly beautiful and physically attractive are some of the unhappiest and, alas, in too many cases, some of the most screwed-up people you’ll meet.

Some new research may give us some answers.

“She’s not pretty and she’s not ugly. She’s just pretty ugly!”

So joked the inter-war Hollywood comic actor and professional moustache wearing wise cracker Groucho Marx when describing a female character in one of the Marx Brothers films.

The same can be said for the pressure women still today feel to look great.

The situation is “pretty ugly” out there.

Because we’re bombarded by beauty and physical perfection – even when it hasn’t been airbrushed in a magazine – it’s very easy to think we fall short and that we can never live in the hallowed world of the models and others who are presented as paragons of physical delight.

Not only do they not always stay like that, but what they have to go through to maintain their camera lens look is as challenging as it is restricting.

One supermodel I interviewed for my book on confidence told me she took 52 vitamin tablets a day!

But, above all, the thing that makes people attractive is how they feel about themselves.

In certain glossy and other magazines of a similar neurosis-inducing ilk, as well as tabloid newspapers, we are invariably drenched in often unattainable sights and thoughts of female beauty, poise and wondrous lifestyles.

It’s a very clever way of making the often unrealistic appear realistic.

And once the initial excitement of the potential for personal perfection has dissipated and the feverishly worshipped image of the new you has been diluted by the perceived reality of your bottom, breasts or other bits which you feel don’t quite measure up (even though, in reality, you probably have nothing to worry about), it’s very easy to feel less confident about yourself.

If they continue to focus on the “skin deep” attractiveness of women, the beauty industry is missing a trick.

Piling on the makeup, moisturizer and even bum tightening cream isn’t going to penetrate women’s psyches enough.

The industry needs to focus, in a complementary way, on the inner as well as the outer feel of women, in particular.

It needs to blend the psychological with the physical, whether it’s offering special or even free coaching, training and tips on how to nourish not just people’s bodies, but also their minds.

The effect is going to be much more powerful for the customers…and, as a result, those in the beauty industry who provide these add-on services.

Comparison can corrode confidence as quickly as you can flick through rows of glossy magazine pages.

Now, some research by Professor Carrie Paechter, from Goldsmiths College in London, may give us some answers to this. And it starts from a young age.

“Plain Janes” are often happier at school than the girls who seem most popular and attractive, according to the academic.

Sociable and successful pupils often have the worst problems.

“There is a lot of pressure to be top of the social group, but often girls who are popular aren’t well liked. They’re feared because they’re dominant,” says Professor Paechter.

Although popular pupils may appear to be part of tight-knit friendship groups, girls who are part of these cliques often turn on each other, as is demonstrated in high school films such as Mean Girls.

“One group we studied at a school was very dominant and they kept constant surveillance on each other, checking they had their socks rolled down in the exact way and that their hair was done properly,” says Professor Paechter.

“There was pressure to be beautiful all the time or you were letting the group down. One of the girls was whispered about because her ponytail wasn’t how it should be, and it took her all day to realise what was wrong, then she was mortified.

“Girls further down the pecking order don’t notice how their socks should be. If you’re being picked on that’s awful, but if you’re just ordinary you can have a decent time at school, keeping out of it.”

The terms of the group can change overnight, adds the professor.

Those in the clique closely scrutinise each other and exclude those who do not fit in.

The girls who seem most socially successful can therefore be most at risk of developing emotional or psychological problems.

Although research has found that the more attractive a woman is, the more successful she tends to be – not just socially and emotionally, but also professionally and financially – this boon can also be a burden.

The physical can only get you so far.

The psychological can get you even further.

What made the bucked toothed woman so beguiling was not so much her physical attitude, but her psychological approach.

What makes someone attractive and certainly sexy is more about the spirit than the skin.

It’s the same professionally, socially, emotionally and in other areas of your life.

So, no matter how you feel you look today, what is about your spirit, your character and your attitude that will make you eye-catchingly attractive…

And maybe open up a new opportunity?!

Seán Brickell
Creator of the Lice Impact confidence & communication system

The Red Tree is the UK’s leading international beauty brand consultancy and a powerhouse of ideas, insight and inspiration. For an informal discussion on how we might help you, please contact us.

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