One look at a magazine stand (or one hour spent watching The Bachelor) and it's obvious how obsessed American society is with beauty. But looking good isn’t just about hoping to be the next Miss America. Research suggests attractive people also tend to be happier and wealthier than others Maxims or myths of beauty? A meta-analytic and theoretical review. Langlois, J.H., Kalakanis, L., Rubenstein, A.J., et. al. Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, Psychological Bulletin 2000 May;126(3):390-423..
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but there are certain characteristics almost everyone finds appealing. Scientists say most people judge attractiveness based at least partially on facial symmetry. For women, waist-to-hip ratio (apparently, the ideal waist is 70 percent as wide as the hips) also plays a big part in attractiveness. And people often equate those 36-24-36 measurements with virtue: Studies of adults and children have found we attribute more positive qualities to people who look like they just stepped out of J. Crew ad.
Other research suggests beauty is even beneficial in the workplace. One study found women who researchers considered more attractive than average made eight percent more money annually than average-looking women. Attractive men and women may even perform better in job interviews and receive more appealing job packages when they’re hired.
Between job success and getting smiles from strangers, it’s no wonder attractive people report being happier than everyone else. In one study, participants judged men and women based on attractiveness. The men and women didn’t know how they’d rated, but when researchers asked them about their happiness levels, those who’d scored in the top 15 percent looks-wise reported being ten percent happier than those in the bottom 10 percent.
Step Away From Sephora
However, a pretty face isn't the ultimate predictor of financial success or happiness. For one, the importance of being attractive may vary between different parts of the U.S. Some research suggests attractive women are more likely to have strong social connections and report positive well-being in urban areas, but not in rural areas. It’s possible that good looks are more important in cities because urban regions are more populated, so people can be pickier about whom they socialize with.
But, in any part of the world, beauty and attractiveness isn't really something we can control. (Too bad there’s no app for that.) Scientists think our perception of beauty depends largely on the shape of the face and body. So don’t blow that next paycheck at Sephora—artificial enhancements won’t necessarily make anyone more attractive, happier, or richer.
What you should focus on instead: building up that self-confidence. Research suggests people’s self-esteem has a lot to do with how attractive they feel. Men and women who think they’re attractive and sexually appealing are more likely to have higher self-esteem than those who feel like ugly Bobs and Bettys Women's perceived body image: relations with personal happiness. Stokes R., Frederick-Recascino C, University of Central Florida, P.O. Box 731194, Ormond Beach, FL, Jouranl of Women & Aging. 2003;15(1):17-29. Sex, body-esteem and self-esteem. Connors, J., Casey, P., Department of Psychology, Charles Sturt University, Australia. Psychological Reports., 2006 Jun;98(3):699-704.. (It’s not clear, however, whether feeling attractive makes people happy or being happy makes people think they’re attractive.) And trust us, we know that being as confident as Meghan Trainor is easier said than done, but we have a few ways to start: Try these tips to silence negative self-talk, steal these inspirational body-positive mantras, and find out how to stop beating yourself up, once and for all.