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Thinking outside of the box

30/April/2012
'The bottom line here is that we cannot generalise the fact'
Dr Michael Sinclair comments on the Sarah Brick Saga

Although this may be a phenomenon in society, the bottom line here is that we cannot generalise the fact (that some women may be threatened by another's beauty to the extent that they would ostracise her from their social group) to the whole of womankind; to do so would be insulting and unfounded - all women would not hold this view or behave this way towards other more attractive women. We are an intelligent species and most women would recognise that there is more to someone than just there looks and some may in fact be happy to be around other women who are more attractive and who may be confident with their own looks. To say that all women dislike other attractive women is an irrational view - and discounts those that are close friends or related to each other, or are confident and are not preoccupied with physical appearance or even those who may appreciate being around other attractive women to increase the chances of attracting men!

The truth is that there may be other contributing social and psychological factors (other than physical appearance) to a woman's perception that she is disliked and at times not included within a female social group.

For example a limiting social context within which a woman operates, mainly interacting with the same people each day may influence her view and perception of women in general. Further to this is that low self-esteem, low mood and other emotional problems can influence the way a woman thinks about herself, others' views of her and the world around her. When we feel this way, we tend to second-guess the worst in terms of our 'social rejection' from others, often discounting the contrary evidence for others' apparent 'rejection' of us and also often misinterpreting others' comments and actions as a 'rejection'. This way of thinking can lead to behaviours, like reassurance seeking, becoming 'pushy or clingy', stating arrogantly that your beauty is the reason you are disliked, checking and remaining hyper-vigilant to the next rejection, which could all alienate others further, leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy in the longer term.

In other words, others may begin to find these behaviours (rather than beauty), difficult to be around, leading them to withdraw socially and leaving the motivation for their 'rejection' (withdrawal) open to the further misinterpretation (as beauty) once again!

To remain engaged in negative thoughts about how others view you and to externalise the blame and sole reason for your problems (rejection/being disliked) onto others, says more about someone's one lack of self-esteem, depressive tendency and unhelpful ways of being, than it does about the world around them. This way of being and thinking only goes towards exacerbating the 'problem' (social rejection) further as they see it.

...But do women see other beautiful women as a threat to their husbands?

This is not true of all women in any sense. The reason for this may be linked to our evolutionary past - to our cave-dwelling ancestors. It's about an instinctive drive and tendency to survive and procreate. In primitive terms, our chances of survival and reproduction are understandably increased when we have others around us and particularly the opposite sex. Beauty may be one of the reasons that make a woman more attractive to potential mates and women may therefore compete with each other in terms of their looks. They may feel threatened by others that they perceive as more attractive than them, particularly if they lack self-confidence or esteem themselves. Further, this threat may be heightened in a culture or community where fewer potential mates are available or when divorce has become less taboo and more socially acceptable.

And... do women feel the need to ridicule someone who is prettier or slimmer than them?

Again, This is not true of all women in any sense. This may arise when we consider all of the above, a woman's lack of self-confidence and this instinctive 'survival of the fittest' drive. Therefore some may find that putting others down helps to alleviate and mange undesirable feelings of inferiority, low self-worth and helps them to feel safer in the face of threat or competition, albeit in the short term.

Confident women should be seen as an inspiration to others, but confidence is displayed by empathy, compassion and consideration of others as well as self-belief and more importantly the ability to sit with the inevitable discomfort of undesirable feelings that will arise in life, say when others do not like us or when others outperform us in some way. Under-confidence is displayed by trying to eradicate these undesirable feelings, or an overriding need to say 'I am beautiful!' or to relentlessly point out or remain preoccupied with the flaws, failings and insecurities of others.

And what about men?

Again, due to our ancestry past, the 'survival of the fittest' and the driven tendency to reproduce, men may have felt the need to compete with other men for the opposite sex. Traditionally this competition may have been judged in terms of wealth, success, status and standing in society, leading to the perceived ability to provide and protect. However, men are now less able to rely on these more traditional ways to gain status and define their role in society, say as the protector or money maker, as more women are gaining more equal status in society with more and more becoming financially independent themselves and holding equally high positions in the workforce, while more men are becoming stay at home dads etc. So as men try to redefine their status in society, more may be turning to their looks to gain greater social standing and attractiveness - this may be reinforced via the media and the role models, such as David Beckham etc, that men are encouraged to look up to. Men are shown that if they look a certain way they can gain more success, power and status in society and so men today may feel more threatened by another man's looks than they have felt historically.

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