In the Eye of the Beholder


We have always heard the phrase – “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” But is it limited to the area of beauty? Or is there more than meets the eye?

Science has mentioned that chimpanzees are the closest relatives to humanity, with a match of almost 98.8% in terms of DNA. Yet, the difference between humans and our closest relative besides the obvious physical attributes, would be our ability to learn, write, perceive and rationalise things to the best of our knowledge using languages.

Aristotle noted the difference between humans and apes as our ability to be “rational”.

How is that affecting our daily lives?

The Social Norms

Beauty is one area that has evolved through the years. Just like how the animal kingdom have their own set of mating criteria and often fought to gain the rights to mate, humans also perceive beauty very differently. However, humans’ perception of beauty is mainly forged through culture and era we are in.

Vanessa Van Edwards, through her research of human interaction, body language and probably likability, have us looking at how beauty has transformed through history. We perceive a certain skin tone to be more healthy, a certain built to be considered strong, and certain features to be called beauty. We have beauty contests, fashion shows and manhunt to satisfy the humans’ perception in accordance to the various genre.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Indeed. But what is more troubling is how many of us will conform to the social norms. We may not see someone as fit for the “beauty” class of people; we may not see others as worthy of certain things; or we may not see others because we have been focusing on their external attributes.

Just like the story of the Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen (classics sure teach us a lot of lessons), you may just be in the wrong crowd.

Besides Beauty…

There’s a story associated with the characters of the classic Romance of the Three Kingdom of how Zhuge Liang was trying to tease the Buddhist monk Pujing during a conversation. When Zhuge Liang asked Pujing what he thinks of Zhuge Liang himself, he replied with compliments and praises. Zhuge Liang, trying to tease Pujing, replied saying he sees Pujing as “full of shit”.

Abbot Pujing simply replied – “That’s great! Because your perception of me is a reflection of yourself

In the eye of the beholder does not confine to the area of just beauty. Many things in life is truly in the eye of the beholder and the common denominator is understanding.

For years, I have seen people I know who are sincere, honest and good, being misunderstood because of how they are perceived by others. Some of them are eagerly interested in helping in ways they can but may not be the ways of how the others want it to be. They were then deemed as unhelpful, unfriendly or aloof. [Read: How to Start Having Meaningful, Loving Relationships]

If we were to know the person more, we may come to a different conclusion. Even that, we could have taken the responsibility to find out more, to understand more or to reframe. We simply do not have the patience to sit around longer, always quick enough to pass judgement. Of course, this is not entirely our fault since our brain is wired this way in the fight or flight mode. As said by Lisbeth Lipari, “perception is not always conscious and intentional; in fact, it is far more often also unconscious and habitual, and this often creates problems.”


What Makes Humans Humans?

With great power comes great responsibility” – Benjamin Parker in Spiderman (created by Stan Lee)

(Man, I love Stan Lee!)

Humans have been provided great power to differentiate ourselves from our closest relatives, the chimps or apes. Yet, we have also used the power to destroy lives, belittle animals and cause harm to mother nature. Be it for power or for personal gains, we have less defence against those who hold power, unless we are able to think critically.

In the current onslaught of technology and social media, we are geared more to react instantaneously from what we see (yes, that includes the “like” button). We are more susceptible to news or articles that drive us to a certain outcome. But ultimately, it is our own choice to act on our behaviour. It is in our power to know what should we question, what should be serving us. After all, the voice in us, is the one that drives us and that is why the language that we use in our daily self-talk will derive what we perceive from others. [Read: What are you Hearing Yourself Say?]

With great power comes great responsibility” – Let’s all use the power that we all have, one that allows us to minimise and stop judging, but rather for the communication of acceptance and growth, for others and for ourselves.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s