Beauty in the Workplace: How We Can Embrace, Not Fear, A Multi-Generational Workforce

Within minutes of me publishing last week’s post, The Role of Ugliness and the Need to Address the Topic Head On, I received a very interesting plea by one of the readers.  He urged me to address another appearance-related issue, ageism.  And he was quite passionate about it.  Within a few days of my post, he reached out again asking why I hadn’t yet written about it.

While one might be taken aback by such pushiness, I was actually pleased.  Selfishly, I was happy that he thinks I have something to say.  But more than that, I’m glad he cared, and that he was a “he.”  In case you didn’t see his comment on the post last week, here it is:

Great commentary, Abigail. This is an ‘old’ argument. Have we made progress?; probably. Have we went far enough?; Certainly not. I think the broader discussion has to do with ‘age’ – what is the underlying difference between ‘beauty’ & ‘age’ if it means one class is being treated as an outcast? Many older workers are now feeling the same level of discrimination that woman of all ages have felt for many, many years. Of course, certainly for vastly different reasons in many respects. But what about woman over 50? Now they’re judged on their looks and their abilities. Talk about shaming! We need to start raising the noise on this issue; isn’t 50 the new 30? If so, let’s be more inclusive for all races, genders & ages.

Needless to say, I agree with him.  And as a woman in the corporate world, especially in a very young industry, i.e., tech, I can relate to the fear of being “too old” in the not so distant future.  I may be able to speak in front of large crowds and have the confidence to put myself “out there” in social media but tell my age to may colleagues?  Now, that’s a different story :).  In all seriousness, I experienced a bit of a mid-life crisis last year about this very issue.  Would I lose my allure?  And what happens then?  Will people not want to work with me anymore?  As vain as it sounds, I recognize that we all bring a full package to our social and professional lives.  And that package includes youthfulness, style, attractiveness, in addition to all the other very important traits like intellect, integrity, a work ethic, EQ, and the list goes on.  So I totally understand what this reader was getting at.  There was a recent story by Carly Ledbetter in the Huffington Post all about this: Men are Getting Now More Than Ever.  These Plastic Surgeons Explain Why.

This topic reminds me of a story I wrote a few years back about how American woman and men fear looking older.   This fear is not just associated with sexual appeal but with a sense of currency in the office.  Here’s what I wrote back then:

According to an article by American Health and Beauty(“More Male Patients Seeking Cosmetic Procedures”), men are increasingly seeking facelifts, male breast reduction, Botox treatments and liposuction.  The reason given?  Major competition in the job market from younger, more energetic youths.

What’s even more depressing is the rise of eating disorders among the silver-haired set.  A recent New York Times article (“An Older Generation Falls Prey to Eating Disorders”) states that more and more women over the age of 50 are suffering from anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders.

So what do we?  We can be more diverse age-wise in our hiring practices.  And we can support older entrepreneurs who decided to pivot a bit later in their lives.   And I’m sure there are even more actions we can take.  In fact, comment on this story if you have some ideas!

But I actually think the changes need to come from within ourselves first.  If we are in fear of aging, we will inevitably project that onto others.  We all have to maintain ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually.  If we are to lose our sense of energy and positivity then we should expect people to not want to work or play with us.

I mentioned above that it was a man who reached out to me.  While I don’t want women or men to ever feel ashamed or unattractive, I’m actually somewhat pleased it was a man who commented.  For one thing, if both genders are experiencing this issue, the more likely the problem will be addressed.  In addition, I’m a big proponent of men taking special care of their physical health and appearance.  Unlike women who see doctors regularly from a young age and are used to tuning into their bodies, whether for procreation or disease-prevention reasons, men don’t really have a need to think about their bodies until later in life.  They may not understand or feel connected to their bodies in the same way women do.  But when we all make conscious effort to maintain our physical health, and, yes, our appearance, we understand our bodies better.    We are clued into them.  And frankly we respect them more.  If more men were to have a stronger “connection” with their bodies, I am convinced, they will not only be healthier for longer, but also be more aware of when they aren’t healthy.

No doubt I want to ensure that we give everyone a chance, no matter their religion, gender, appearance or age.  And we should fight against any discrimination that we face.  But I also think it’s up to all of us, individually, to ensure we feel healthy, happy and energetic.  Not only will we have that much more confidence, but we will undoubtedly inspire others to see how being older could even be better!

What is the Definition of Beauty Anyway?

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This question has been asked for eons.  One of the most accepted answers for what we deem beautiful is a scientific or evolutionary one.  We are attracted to certain people, especially faces, that seem, well, normal, i.e., symmetrical and free of abnormalities. The simple reason?  To survive as a species, we seek indicators of health in our mates.  The thinking is if our mates look healthy then they ARE healthy.  And this would mean our offspring would be too.

Of course cultural norms play role too.  And our feelings about people can affect our perception of their beauty.  But so much of our instinctual reaction to people has a lot to do with the ingrained need to procreate.

But photographer Rick Guidotti is flipping our beauty definitions on their head.  Based on this CNN story, Guidotti, a man who used to snap shots of high fashion and beauty icons, was inspired by a girl with albinism that he saw at a bus stop. While most of would probably NOT consider her beautiful, he did.  At that moment he decided to totally change his career.  He left his glam world and dedicated himself to understanding, embracing and capturing physical, genetic differences.  Guidotti recently launched his documentary “On Beauty” which shares the many beautiful faces with such differences e.g., birth marks and albinism.

No question, the open-mindedness of this project offers a wonderful perspective for society.  Who is to say what is beauty?  Can’t we all be beautiful?

But can our hard-wiring change?  Can we believe deep down that these physical differences can be a thing of beauty vs a sign of health concerns?

If you take a step back, however, so many of us hook up with our mates, DESPITE, their health risks.  Someone may carry a recessive gene for Tay Sachs or she may marry into a family with a history of depression.  Do we ignore these concerns, of course not.  But the beauty we find in one another helps us overcome these concerns and find a way to thrive.

So Guidotti isn’t celebrating something that defies nature.  Just the opposite. He’s showcasing something that’s also quite primal: the instinct to empathize, cherish and love others…no matter what.  So maybe we ARE hard-wired to love ALL sorts of beauty!

 

Pic of the Week: Large Beauty of Display … But Does Celebrating It Mean We Endorse It?

Full-beauty-ProjectNewsweek recently published a story about an array of stunning photos by Yossi Loloi called The Full Beauty Project: Big Women Bare All.  The Italian photographer began this project in 2006 to challenge accepted views around beauty, sexuality and femininity.  The pictures are certainly gorgeous and I’m inspired by how brave and empowered these women appear.  While I appreciate all forms of beauty, I question how far we should go to advocate for such extreme weight gain.  Any physician would gasp in horror at such bodies, not because of how they look, but because they fear for these women’s lives.  And yet, maybe if we celebrate such beauty, these women will indeed appreciate their own bodies more and find ways to stay as healthy as possible.
Thoughts?
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Week in Review: 10/14-11/20

On the road AGAIN but we still couldn’t stop ourselves from “talking beauty.”  Here’s a taste of what we discussed:

Want to rid yourselves of all that bad energy from the office? Have a read…Weekend Observations: Purify Me Baby!

Beauty surrounds us … even while waiting in line at the airport Pic of the Week: Beauty Can Creep Up Anywhere

Another reason beauty matters so much: it may actually make us healthier, especially when combined with tech. Beauty & Tech: Why This Marriage Matters So Much 

Hot-off-the presses beauty-in-culture reading More to Love: Additions to the Reading List

Enjoy being home this weekend…I know I do

Beauty & Tech: Why This Marriage Matters So Much

 

“The marriage of beauty and technology changes us. It leads us to transcendent moment of magic and innovation.”

This is a quote from a fascinating article in Forbes by John Nosta, It’s Healthy when Beauty and Technology Collide.  There’s no question that we’re often more attracted to technology that isn’t merely functional, but beautiful too.  That’s we love gorgeous cars, iPhones and even vacuum cleaners! (Well, maybe just the Dyson ones).

But this attraction to beautiful technology doesn’t just have commercial implications, i.e., greater consumption, but may actually make us healthier.

How so?  If you’re following so much of the new tech being developed, a lot of it is health related, e.g., Nike Fuel Band which tracks your daily activities.  But because these technologies are looking and feeling beautiful, they inspire us to not just buy more of them but USE them more often!

And, obviously, the more we use them, the more  we are a. aware of our health and b. likely to take care of ourselves (jog, eat more veggies, breathe deeper…you get the idea).

Yes, beauty does matter.