All of the hype about Susan Boyle got me to thinking. If you aren’t aware who Susan Boyle is, she was recently a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent and created quite a stir on many blogs, as well as becoming a You Tube sensation. The reason was that when the 47 year old woman first walked out on stage to sing, the audience snickered at her schoolmarmish appearance. She told the judges that she was a church volunteer from Scotland who lives with her cat and has never been kissed. Before the music even started, the judges and audience had already judged her, but once the music began and she sang the first few notes, she changed their opinion rather quickly. That initial image, often considered to be a stereotype, led me to write this blog.
It is so interesting to me how we, as a society, focus on what someone looks like, as well as other surface attributes, and I cannot help but make a correlation between the survival-of-the fittest mindset our primitive ancestors lived by. These ancestors chose their mates unconsciously based on appearance with the assumption that if they were to mate with who appeared to be a healthy individual, their offspring would then also be healthy. For them, healthy meant being the most attractive, most physically fit or the strongest.
In the case of Susan Boyle, we could wonder what she was thinking when dressing so plainly for such a glamorous event. Maybe, though, she did wear her best dress. We really don’t know and the audience’s reaction made me feel sad. This woman’s voice is amazing, but it is important to note that it seems part of the audience’s strong reaction was based on what they expected due to her dowdy appearance. What came out of her mouth was a gifted voice that sounded as though it had an incredible amount of training.
Still, throughout history to today, society’s strong opinions are often based on external appearances. So what keeps us stuck in this historical mindset? We have certainly progressed from the days of the cave man, or have we? It looks to me that we are a people influenced by surface appearances while wanting to impress others with a façade that may or may not be honest. Is our car good enough for our image? What about our house? Are our clothes fashionable enough? We place more value on how impressive our things are rather than their necessity or reliability. If we only consider the surface “values,” quite likely we are not going to find our true happiness. No matter how flawless the plastic surgery may be or impressive the shiny, new car is, at the end of the day it cannot give us a feeling of deep fulfillment. Sure, it’s nice to have beauty, fame and money, but those things do not equal happiness and will not matter when we are on our death bed.
At the same time, we want to look our best and do the best we can with what we have. This includes educating ourselves and doing our emotional and spiritual work, along with other inward and outward improvements. This broader and deeper thinking leads us to achieving the ultimate goal to finding our happiness, success, peace and contentment. But we are still human and that is why we stereotype and often jump to inaccurate conclusions. We forget we have the brain faculty that can actually challenge the ways we categorize. For example, people who have wrinkles are considered old and useless. Blonds are not terribly bright. Homeless people are uneducated. Depending on how we were raised, what our socio-economic status is, what educational levels we have reached, we can all fill in the blanks with something from our preconceived notions.
So how can we rid ourselves of these judgments or stereotypic-thinking? We start by challenging them. What we witnessed in Susan Boyle is true beauty. True beauty is in all of us. It is our essence shining through whatever we do. It might be hidden from view at times, but it is there. Besides all the aforementioned contrasting elements, we were touched by her talent while her clean radiant presence opened all of our hearts and minds. It’s a lesson we should hold close
Dr. Jennifer Howard is a licensed psychotherapist, healer, author, relationship counselor, and professional speaker with more than 20 years of experience in helping people make changes in their lives. She’s created a personal development plan and assists people in personal development and spiritual growth through her lectures, workshops, and her upcoming book, Changes That Last. She has offices in Huntington, Long Island, NY, and New York City, is a leading expert on spirituality and psychology, and is a former faculty of the graduate program of A Society of Souls. Dr. Howard has been frequently seen as an expert and featured guest on national television shows including, The Maury Povich Show, Turning Point, America’s Talking, Rolanda, Charles Perez, Les Brown and others.
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