It speaks negatively to the world we live in when one of the fundamental questions a woman is asked is whether she’d rather have smarts or beauty. Of course, many people have an equal amount of both, and beauty is subjective. In real everyday life, such a question is practically moot, but in a more abstract sense, the society we live in frequently reduces it to a matter of one or the other.
According to Byrdie, beloved beauty brand Clinique examined this by partaking in a recent study with Nielson that asked over 8,000 women a series of questions surrounding beauty and happiness, including the age-old “brains vs. beauty” ultimatum. The study, called “The Truth About Happiness: What Women Want,” found a pleasantly surprising result — 79% of women polled would rather be smart than beautiful! Participants came from 15 countries around the world, and among American women, 84% favored smarts. Spanish women favored brains at the highest rate, with a whopping 90% of them choosing smarts over beauty. Also promising is the fact that womankind is feeling optimistic about breaking down sexism, as only one in three women reported believing that beautiful women aren’t well-respected.
Participants were also asked what they believed would make them more happy, and despite their assertion that brains are their highest priority, many women pointed to appearance-based changes and other external factors as potential keys to happiness. In a world that places such a high premium on outside appearance, it’s not surprising! No matter our personal values surrounding both looks and substance, appearing successful on the outside is a game many of us feel obligated to participate in.
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American woman suggested that weight loss and increased confidence would make them happier, and one happy-making factor nearly every nation and age group surveyed could agree on was making more money. After all, higher earning potential brings many other potential positives to our lives — security, stability, greater agency, home ownership, education, even access to high-quality beauty treatments and thus an improved appearance — and previous studies have found on varying levels that money can in fact buy happiness, though only to a certain extent.
Rather than a source of self-hatred or obligation (as this study may imply), beauty should be a source of fun, self-expression, creativity and empowerment (I tend to eyeroll at that word, but for once, it’s applicable in a positive way). Beauty is a way to flaunt all the wonderful things about us that already exist, both inside and out, rather than to “correct” any self-perceived flaws. As we say here at YouBeauty, beauty is a feeling! Here’s hoping that our society continues to reframe its views on appearance and to place just as strong (or stronger) of a value on brains as it does on looks.
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