Appearance Matters More Than You Think

China has long been credited for the term ‘saving face’. In Eastern cultures, in particular, preserving one’s dignity is paramount and an extremely important part of everyday life and business conduct.  Chinese politicians are, however, putting a new spin on this age-old phrase.

There is a reported surge of government officials having various forms of plastic surgery of the face. It is credited to the fact that such officials have to appear more regularly in public, including television, and they want to make sure their face appears strong and attractive. An appearance which indicates confidence and leadership.  The most common procedures being done are blepharoplasty, injectable treatments like Botox, and facial reshaping.

Despite being a communist country, the Chinese people have turned plastic surgery into a multibillion dollar-a-year industry which is growing briskly. While this may be interesting to you, you may be asking what does any of this have to do with the price of tea in China?

The similarity between the United States and China, like most every other country in the world, is that one’s appearance counts albeit for selecting a mate or getting a job…and getting ahead in that job. The importance of one’s physical appearance for career promotion and advancement is certainly influenced by the type of job  one has. Fashion models are expected to be lean attractive and weight appropriate.. Professional athletes  are expected to be muscular and fit. Business executives should be well groomed and coiffed.

But even in jobs where one’s appearance doesn’t seem to be essential, it still is. Attractive and well groomed will usually make more money and be promoted more often than those who are not. It is well known that taller businessmen have a better chance to get a job and be promoted than those who are more height challenged. The same applies to weight.  Is this fair? Of course not. But as the contemporary saying goes…it is what it is.

In Gordon Patzer’s very insightful book,  Looks: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined (2008),  this bias in favor of attractiveness is called ‘lookism’. In the book, he discusses and reviews the evidence between physical attractiveness and body type and vocational success. Patzer claims that the influence of looks go way beyond the workplace, including school and home. While looks aren’t exclusively the key to success and status, they are far more important than most people suspect or want to believe.

The recent and ongoing recession of the past few years has seen a dearth of new patient interested in improving their appearance for work purposes (or so they say) and they are often quite upfront about it. They openly admit they fear job competition and displacement from younger, less experienced candidates.   Professionals today want to project an image of good health and success, and good looks are one important part of that package.

Wanting to be attractive, or even more so (just ask any model) is universal. Most people, however, want to look and feel better…not morph into another person. Today’s extreme plastic surgery examples are outside of the bell curve and do not represent the norm. Contemporary plastic surgery offers a lot of smaller and more ‘lifestyle-oriented’ procedures that really can help one ‘save face’.  From Botox to little ‘nips and tucks’ here and there, much can be done to keep one looking fresh and vibrant…and maybe just a tad more attractive too.

Dr. Barry Eppley