Can we see people beyond their looks? By Aisha M Auyo
Perhaps the only group of people that see us beyond our looks are the blind. They judge us based on our character and attitude, and with time, our intellect and intelligence.
Often I get judged based on my looks and it pisses me off. It took time and patience and convincing to come to terms with the reality that people will always judge one by his looks. One thing I want us to ponder is, our looks have absolutely nothing to do with our intelligence and demeanour.
Personality psychologists have argued that physical appearance is a major factor in the development of personality, because people form opinions by what they see in a person physically, and respond to that person accordingly. In turn, people tend to fulfill the expectations they believe others have for them.
For example, short people being too aggressive, or tend to demand too much respect, or tall people being foolish. And In our society, it’s believed that rich people are bad people, and they are going to hell, while poor people are good people. They use to say, “Kuci anan, muci a can”. Meaning “You enjoy this life, and we the poor will enjoy the hearafter”.
Other common myths that align personality with looks are: slim girls tend to be arrogant and lack patience, while the chubby girls are easy going and humble. Looking good and dressing well automatically makes you arrogant, or driving an expensive car is show off.
Please let’s study people before we pass judgement, as people’s behaviour evolve with time, education and experiences, (These are what make and shape us) regardless of their physical traits. Let’s also not allow people’s expectations and or comment shape our thinking. I know it’s easier said than done, but can we try?
I can remember some years back when I went to write a Senior Secondary School entrance aptitude test for my cousin. After greeting the panels, one of them said, “Miss, I hope you have something to bring to the table beside your fine looks. I was 13 years then, and his rhetorical question sent a doubt in my mind, that I may not pass the exams. It took a whole convincing of myself by myself that if I couldn’t do it, I wouldn’t be illegally adopted as a mercenary for someone else, implying that if I had allowed his comment get me, I might probably fail the exams. This is an example of how people’s expectation shape our thinking.)
After the general exams, we were to go for another test, this time one by one with the examiners. I was given a mathematics exercise to solve, fraction and square root. God helped me solve that equation in less than a minute, and the judges were awed. It happened that I was the first one to solve that particular question since they started the test that very day. That man asked me again, which school are you attending? To him, it must be the school that is good, not me.
A similar incidence happened recently, during my PhD coursework. I was doing statistics tutorials for my cluster, and obviously, the news spread that a tutorial was going on, and some group of women decided to join. As they entered the class and saw me at the board with a marker, one of the women said, “so there’s a brain inside that fine face”.
I retorted, my brain is finer than my face, in my mind of course, as this woman is old enough to be my mom. But this time around I didn’t let her statement intimidate me. All thanks to age and experience. I just pretended not to hear and continued with the class: If I’d allowed that get through me and said what came to my mind aloud, it’d prove that slim ladies are arrogant.
I know these cases should sound like compliments, but they’re an insult. Why do people believe that beauty and brains are mutually exclusive? What does our look have to do with our brain? My best friend, the best in mathematics in our class is one of the most beautiful people I’ve met. She’s a civil engineer now. My other bestie, a tall, fair and beautiful Fulani lady is a medical doctor now. I have also met short people who are soft-hearted and humble. I’ve met rich people who are down-to-earth simple and have a kind heart. I’ve met not so good looking people who are also not so brilliant but have strength in kindness, empathy, and excellent marketing skills.
Each person has strengths, so also weaknesses. A blind person may have super powers that a person with eyes mayn’t. I’ve seen handicapped people do things with their only leg or hand that’s humanly impossible.
This debate of physical traits and how they manifest in our personality is something beyond human comprehension, for it’s an interplay of genetics, life experiences, grit, tenacity, and will power. This unending nature-nurture debate could only be laid to rest if we agree that these matters are beyond us.