Relying on your looks, on your physical attractiveness, is a strategy. It is a strategy deployed to produce advantage. This is a true excessity. Because of the very transient nature of physical attractiveness, it can diminish over time and through circumstance. This is because physical attractiveness, while a universal concept, has an individual component to it. That which is attractive today may not be so tomorrow, and that which is attractive to one may not be so to another. Looks and physical attractiveness are notoriously shifting sands, even in the best of times.
Getting by on your looks, however, is a timeworn strategy. It usually starts in childhood when you begin to perceive that people, generally adults, will make exceptions for you because of the way you look. You discover that you are “cute” and that this is advantageous. As you mature, you begin to realize this “cuteness” can morph into something more powerful — physical attractiveness — especially to members of the opposite sex.
Left unchecked, this reliance on physical attributes to provide security to your world can backfire into a variety of excessities, all designed to enhance and preserve physical appearance. This tendency is made even more desperate by the inescapable truth of age.
We don’t want to feel good about aging; we want to reverse it. This is where the excessities of antiaging, creating a resonance coupling of irrepressible forces. Because we are a society that venerates youth and not age, physical attractiveness is seen as the unique property of the young. If there is someone who is attractive later in life, the caveat is always that she looks great “for her age.”
The quest for eternal youth has potential for creating a craving for excessity. If you doubt that, just watch Saturday afternoon or late-night television, and notice how many times you see something advertised as the next “gotta have” miracle to slow the progression of aging. From topical products to clothing, from nutritional supplements to surgical procedures, from exercise equipment to weight-loss formulas, there is a new “gotta have” touted almost every commercial break.
Grabbing onto youth is powerful and it can seem as if youth is needed in order to feel secure. It transcends gender, sweeping up men and women alike. However, men tend to want to stay younger in order to feel virile, whereas women tend to want to stay young in order to feel physically attractive.
As a culture, we’ve gotten pretty creative coming up with ways to stay healthy longer and to mask our age. The reality, however, is that we age. Youth is a golden moment in time that does not last. Youthfulness is not a reliable, long-term strategy for security.
Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 39 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.