I think if we were honest with ourselves, we would be forced to admit that few of us, if any, have not let our conscious perception of external "beauty" be shaped by the media. We are bombarded with scantily clad women in countless advertisements and even greeted by attractive men and women, who often leave little to the imagination, in bars and restaurants, sports events, and clothing stores.
We may parrot common phrases like "beauty lies within" or "we are all uniquely beautiful," but how many of us can genuinely get our minds to believe that? When push comes to shove, most of us still gawk at Victoria's Secret models, and get tingly feelings when Ryan Gosling appears on screen. And most of us still wish we looked like one or the other.
But what about what goes on beyond our conscious thoughts? Do our hearts and souls also subscribe to society's definition of beauty?
To put this to the test, Dove Portugal brought in a number of men for a unique social experiment. Participants were connected to a heart monitor and then shown images of "attractive" female models followed by a picture of a loved one.
External Beauty Truly Is Just Skin Deep
As the social experiment clearly portrayed, the effect that external "beauty" has on us does not penetrate past our mind. Seeing each subject's heart rate increase substantially when shown a woman he has come to know personally shows that true connection and love do go beyond physical appearance.
I also particularly loved how the effect was seen not only when the subjects were shown pictures of their romantic partner, but also their siblings, children, and extended family members.
While the social experiment certainly lacks diversity in a number of ways, the findings are still quite profound.
True Beauty Grows
As someone who has battled with self-consciousness relating to my appearance, I've spent a great deal of time wishing I physically better represented a stereotypical alpha male. While I have taken certain steps to bring myself closer to that ideal, such as regularly going to the gym, social experiments like this one remind me how silly and unnecessary it is to obsess over my appearance.
It's one thing to want to take care of my health and to also enjoy putting myself together for particular occasions, but it's another thing when worrying about my looks impacts how I feel daily.
I firmly believe that the more we work on our relationship with ourselves, and learn to love exactly who we are, the stronger our magnetic pull grows to attracting others into our lives.
Every romantic relationship I have ever been in was instigated when I least expected it and was instead focusing on my passions. Every time I've gone out looking to find a partner, putting major emphasis on my appearance as part of the process, I've struck out in connecting with a potential suitor.
Reflecting on my past relationships, I can also confidently say that my level of attraction to each partner steadily grew as I became closer to them — aligning directly with the findings presented in this video. I'm fairly confident that my heart rate would increase far more when shown a picture of my mom, my sister, or my niece than it would for, say, Hilary Duff (the woman my conscious mind has always found to be the most physically attractive in the world — random, I know).
Think About It
Take a moment and test this on yourself right now: Close your eyes and think about someone you don't know at all but find sexually attractive. What part of your body feels the most engaged when thoughts of this individual arise?
Then reflect on the people you actually have within your life. Does it engage the same areas? Or does it evoke feelings in a completely different way?
For me, thoughts of Hilary Duff, for example, will generally stay in my mind and can drift into fantasy, while thoughts of loved ones will engage my stomach and my heart, two areas of my body that, at least to me, suggest a far deeper love and connection.
If you currently have a partner in your life, it may be valuable to compare the feelings evoked by thoughts of them to those brought upon by thoughts of a model or celebrity. When it comes to helping your relationship it may sound counterintuitive, but it can in fact strengthen it by demonstrating the depth of what you share with your partner.