I spend a lot of time noticing things and then thinking about them. You might have guessed this if you’ve read any of my previous pieces.
What I don’t do, however, is feel the need immediately to share observations that I make of other people directly with those people. I either keep them to myself or come up with a way to make a humorous analysis out of them here in written form.
I’ve noticed that people have almost an incessant, insatiable compulsion to comment on others’ physical appearance. My recent experience has been with my own beard, which I only shaved off in the last week when it became too annoying and fiddly to maintain.
Whilst some were complimentary—one person even described it as ‘majestic’—others felt the need to tell me their negative opinions about it. About two weeks into growing it, one person said to me mockingly, ‘Oh I see that you’re sporting a three-day growth there, Martin’. Down the track, another remarked, ‘Yeah I don’t really like the beard at all but I suppose that it could grow on me’. Finally, one person even insisted that I had put on a significant amount of weight since getting married but then noticed the beard instead, which made my face look wider.
Not once did I draw attention to or request an assessment of my facial hair. I wasn’t even offended by the comments; what annoyed me was that they thought that I cared about what they had to say.
Putting it simply, I am fortunate to have good self-esteem. I’m aware of my strengths and weaknesses and I don’t let what others say bother me for a very long time, if at all. The issue here is that many others don’t have good self-esteem. Others struggle with a range of issues and self-doubt, much of which is exacerbated by various social networks that promote often unattainable, impossible ideals. Body image is a big one. If these commentators feel the need to share their opinions with someone like me, then they’re certainly doing it to others, and those others may not be able to take it.
The next time that you’re standing with a group of people and someone comments on another’s appearance or a choice that they have made, if you think that it’s harsh, unwarranted or just generally banal and stupid, make a point of counteracting it. You’ll probably make the recipient of that inane comment feel much better about themselves. The commentator may think twice next time.