Seeing the Beauty in Ugliness

Look at the image above and imagine that the seesaw represents a scale of beauty from 1 – 10.

On one end of the scale represents beauty and the other end of the scale represents ugliness.

We look at people everyday and box them into lots of classifications, one of them being the box of beauty. Of course beauty is subjective and one person you might find attractive will not seem attractive to me. However, there are more or less universal beautiful people, crossing borders, and cultures.

We’ve all played the game at school ‘what would you give them, out of ten, for looks?’.

Look at the image again, take away the labels of ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’ from the two figures, and what are you left with?

You are left with two figures sitting on ‘The scale of beauty’ however, since they have no labels we cannot call one more beautiful than the other or one more ugly than the other. – they just………….are!

Looking without labeling

Our lives revolve around the dualities of life: good and evil, white and black, beauty and ugliness, right and wrong, happy and sad and so on. What if we could look at life and just see what’s in front of us, without putting a label on it.

Try it. Walk down a busy street and just glance at people as they are walking past, you’ll notice you label people almost immediately: businessman, fat, skinny, gorgeous, camp, fashionable, handicapped and so on. That is just some of the labels we give. Try walking down the street and just seeing a person, it’s extremely difficult at first but with practice you will get to do it and turn of the little labelling machine you have in your head.

When the labeling machine is turned off you start to notice life in a different light and your life is a little more laid back. When you stop labeling others you will stop labeling yourself as well. You will become – just you!

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About Steven Aitchison

I am the creator of Change Your Thoughts (CYT) blog and love writing and speaking about personal development, it truly is my passion. There are over 500 articles on this site from myself and some great guest posters.
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Comments

  1. Nice post. Will surely come back.
    Who are we to scale others ????

  2. Steven, I’ve just came across this post (a bit later, since I am on vacation), am I am delighted, since I just finished a post on the problem of labeling myself just yesterday (it will come out tomorrow). I think the problem with labeling is a) that it is a natural process of our minds and b) that it focusses your mind to create more of what you see (whether you like it or not) and c) that you do it to yourself to – and that creates the biggest problems. But I think dropping is something that we can’t do every time – so we need to use it more consciously for our benefits and those of others. Excellent post!

  3. Hi Zeina, thanks for the questions. I have to admit as I said above, that stopping the labelling is very difficult as we are using adjectives all the time to label someone.

    If we try and switch the labelling off we get down to the nitty gritty we see a man or a woman, that’s an automatic cognitive function our brains take care off. However, if we leave it there and stop labelling further we begin to judge less, when we begin to judge less this carries over in our day to day living; we judge ourselves less, when we do this we have more connectedness to people, when we have this, we are in the flow of the energy as our minds don’t waste energy judging. When we are more connected to the energy our world literally changes as we see the world in a different light.

    Your reality at this very minute will not necessarily be the same reality you have in a few days time, simply because you are dropping in and out of the energy of the world all the time. The more time we are connected to the energy of the world we are less stressed, we have more creativity, we can see things clearer.

    It’s hard to explain. It’s like a professional athelete who is preparing for a race, they are totally in the energy of the world (the flow) and nothing distracts them, they are not judging people or the objects around them because their mind is in another reality.

    Hope that helps explain it a little more :)
    .-= Steven Aitchison´s last blog ..Set Your Mind Alight and Find Your passion =-.

    • Zeina Gabriel says:

      Hi Steven,
      Thanks a million for your quick answer. Things are definitely clearer now.
      Let us all stay in the energy of the world all the time.
      Take care.
      Zeina

  4. Zeina Gabriel says:

    Hi Steven,
    Thank you very much for your very interesting article. Honestly, I feel a little bit lost. People around me keep giving me advices and most of the time advices are contradictory. In this post, you are asking me, to “Try walking down the street and just seeing a person, it’s extremely difficult at first but with practice you will get to do it and turn of the little labelling machine you have in your head” ” When the labeling machine is turned off you start to notice life in a different light and your life is a little more laid back. When you stop labeling others you will stop labeling yourself as well. You will become – just you!” But when you look at a person there are certain things you can see, these things are called caracteristics or adjectives. And I believe that we use labels to make our life easier and to help us describe what we see. If we turn “the labeling machine” off, what are we going to see ? a person ? what is a person ? doesn’t he have caracterstics ? and what do you mean by ” starting to notice life in a different light”?
    Thanks again for the great post.
    Take care.
    Zeina

  5. This subject has so many layers (as revealed by the commenters) and yet when I first read the post I thought it was just merely about appearances.

    NLP utilizes this labeling thing we do and comes at it from the viewpoint of: as we label things anyway, why not do it in a beneficial way? Hence you are encouraged to label yourself as brave, happy, successful, confidant. And just as in our perception strangers become the flippant labels we give them upon first sight – until conversation with them proves us wrong (or right!) – we also can become those positive labels we choose.

    Personally I see nothing wrong per se with labels as it’s an innate human short cut that’s going nowhere any time soon. The thing is probably to remain open minded about accepting that your initial label is temporary and might be wrong and in turn make self-labeling beneficial to oneself, not detrimental.

    PS I also think it’s quite laid back to allow our cognitive skills to do what they do naturally, but work with them, rather than work against them by switching them off….I should know – I’m a hippy! ; )

    • nice, Coach Rosie. I have to agree this way is much better :) Thanks.

    • Hi Rosie, thanks for joining in the conversation. Labelling in a positive way is a great way to get rid of negative thoughts about ourselves and reinforces the aspects of ourselves we wish to strengthen.

      I believe, as you said, that we are not going to stop labelling, and using it in a more positive way is the way forward. However, by trying to switch the labelling off, after some practice, we should naturally come to a state whereby we do start to work with our labelling and use it in a positive way.

      Good to see you here again.

  6. Steven, I’ve just came across this post (a bit later, since I am on vacation), am I am delighted, since I just finished a post on the problem of labeling myself just yesterday (it will come out tomorrow). I think the problem with labeling is a) that it is a natural process of our minds and b) that it focusses your mind to create more of what you see (whether you like it or not) and c) that you do it to yourself to – and that creates the biggest problems. But I think dropping is something that we can’t do every time – so we need to use it more consciously for our benefits and those of others. Excellent post!
    .-= Patrick´s last blog ..What Butterflies and Mountains can teach you about Self-Respect =-.

    • Hi Patrick, thanks for stopping by. I think it would be almost impossible to stop labelling, so being more conscious is also a great idea. Looking forward to your post on this subject.

  7. This is true, but I think it works the other way round – when you stop labeling yourself and accept yourself completely and unconditionally, you will stop labeling others.

  8. I guess that whatever ‘our version’ of beautiful and ugly is; firstly it’s ‘subjective’ and secondly socially constructed so that cultural norms develop between close knit groups. There might of course be some evolutionary psychological thing at work that is connected with our biology to ‘favour’ things which we then label as beautiful (the things we wish to approach) and dislike things which we then label as ‘ugly’ (the things we wish to avoid). Both ‘Beautiful’ and ‘Ugly’ are heuristics, useful short cuts for most of the time. They fail however when a deeper sense of what is beautiful is required. Familiarity often makes things more beautiful (as well as the capacity to create contempt). And I guess this hints at the duality in everything, presumably there is ugliness in beauty as well as the other way around?
    .-= Paul Johnston´s last blog ..Is Selling The New Marketing? =-.

    • Hi Paul, some great points you make here. Like you say, labelling beauty and ugliness is a form of heuristics and it helps us form immediate reactions to people. Also your point about familiarity making things more beautiful is a great point. So it is with people. I have found that when I have spoken to someone in the past and found them to be ‘ugly’, the more I got to know them the more attractive they became, and vice versa.

      Thanks for visiting Paul and leaving a comment, I appreciate it.

  9. Beautiful post as always Steven. I always see this problem in myself as well. I know it’s bad, but it sure takes a lot of practice to get rid of the habit of labeling. Well that was a few months ago. As of now, I see people as just people. And I love people :)
    .-= Karlil´s last blog ..Why I Wish I Were Dead And How To Overcome Suicidal Ideation =-.

    • Hi Nik, I didn’t mean it was a bad thing, it’s part of human nature. I meant it would be good to practice getting past labelling as an automatic rule and try and learn not to label as much. I am glad you see people as they are and it’s certainly a great way of looking at the world.

  10. The most beautiful flowers grow out of the ugliest stuff…manure!! LOL! I LOVE to keep a wide open mind and I see beauty in the oddest places and often under the most painful or ugly circumstance. In terms of people I rarely notice external physical beauty. It means little to me. What I DO feel is a person’s energy and that is what makes me respond to them as if they are beautiful or ugly.
    .-= Robin Easton´s last blog ..Are We Eradicating Soul? =-.

    • Ah! Grasshopper, you are one of the enlightened ones, you have climbed further up the self actualization pyramid than most :) I think that’s great that you do this Robin and it’s what sets you part.

  11. I think an interesting twist to the concept you present would be to let the labeling happen, but to also accept it in a more neutral or positive way. You can reflect on what the positive aspects of that label are despite how negative it may initially seem. Someone who is physically “ugly” may have a beautiful personality, and someone who is handicapped may have a very well developed mind based on the physical challenges that they’ve encountered.
    .-= Vin – NaturalBias´s last blog ..13 Ridiculous Food Labels that Might Be Fooling You =-.

  12. This is a fascinating subject!

    My own take on it is that labels are actually pretty useful for helping us navigate the world and people in it. Categorising is one way we can make sense of the world and create a little order out of chaos. But as with all useful things, how we use them is important (the worn cliche of the knife used to cut or kill comes to mind).

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head (to use another cliche!) by saying “What if we could look at life and just see what’s in front of us, without putting a label on it?” When I label someone I stop being curious about them. Looking beyond the labels to find who is behind them is a wonderful way to live. It doesn’t mean eliminating labels, but does mean becoming aware of when we label and using the label to help us, rather than get in the way of discovering about the person (including ourselves).

    Thanks for the post!
    .-= Ian | Quantum Learning´s last blog ..A world of deals and exchanges =-.

    • Hi Ian, without doubt, labels are useful in our life and I would say necessary for our survival. For example, when we are young we label fire as dangerous, we label dogs as potentially harmful, we label Barney as, well, a slightly unstable man in a purple suit :) They all go to help us find our way in the world. However when it comes to labelling people it doesn’t really help us all that much. I admit, it’s hard not to label, it is good trying though.
      .-= Steven Aitchison´s last blog ..Seeing the Beauty in Ugliness =-.

  13. Awesome post Steve. This ending of duality is definitely something that has been on my mind for quite some time. Its understandable that it is challenging given that our minds want to categorize everything. Maybe creating a new category would help. That which IS, is sacred. So start moving everything in to that category slowly.
    .-= Justin- AlittleBetter.net´s last blog ..How to Find Your Own Voice in the Crowd =-.

  14. The labels that you give a person say more about yourself than about them and every time you judge someone a little bit of your soul withers
    .-= Faramarz ´s last blog ..Hyperventilation and Successful Breathing =-.

  15. Hey Steven, I love this post. Our world nowadays is all about labeling each other, from a poor looking person or a rich looking person, to a young looking person or an old looking person, to a black person or a white person.

    We look at each other’s appearances and give an immediate definition of them, when we know absolute nothing about them. These things can be anything from the financial status, the age, or the color of a person. We all have a universal feeling of looking at these appearances, such as one would probably walk up to a rich man wearing a suit and ask him for directions rather than walk up to a bum who is wearing shaggy, torn clothes.

    But sometimes the rich man will have no idea what’s going on, while the bum knows the answer. Beauty doesn’t always have to be defined by our outside appearance, it can be defined by who we are on the inside as well.
    .-= Tristan Lee´s last blog ..A Conscious Decision =-.

    • Hi Tristan, you’re absolutely right out beauty does come from within, and because it is within it is harder to show. That’s why we dress up, to attempt to show the inside on the outside, doesn’t always work though.

  16. Hi Miche, nice to see you here. Thanks for visiting and commenting.
    .-= Steven Aitchison´s last blog ..29 Great TED Talks to Engage Your Brain =-.

  17. Words are funny things like that.

    Yes, they’re social constructs that help us communicate, but then again they often serve to separate us in more ways then they unite us. Great use of the graphic to deconstruct it all!
    .-= Miche | Serenity Hacker´s last blog ..Lighten Up: You’re Really Just a Bozo, Anyway! =-.

  18. I understand where you’re coming from, Steven, but I have to respectfully disagree.

    To some extent, I think labeling is a natural and inevitable response from our brains. What matters isn’t the label that we instinctively stick on people – it’s the labels that we allow to persist.

    I think that a lot of people feel guilty about labeling other people (and themselves), and try to fix the problem by refusing to acknowledge any sort of labels at all. But that’s counterproductive. Gut-reaction labels exist whether we admit them or not; it’s just something our brains are programmed to do. Glossing over the issue only allows harmful labels to fester unchecked beneath the surface. Instead of trying to do away with labels altogether, why not acknowledge the fact that we label people, then turn our focus on preserving the good labels and changing the bad ones?
    .-= Jeffrey Tang´s last blog ..Balancing Online and Offline =-.

    • Hi Jeffrey thanks for your comments and I am glad you disagree with me.

      You say to preserve the good labels, however, were you to preserve the good labels it would mean turning off the bad labels and since a bad label is just another level of a good label then it would mean turning labels off altogether.

  19. Love this post and it is so right Steven. When we turn the labels off anything, they simply become “things”. The objectivity of “good” or “bad” or “ugly” or “beautiful” cease to exist at that point.

    Now if people could just work on their SELF labeling (like, “I’m no good”, etc.) happiness would most likely abound by all. :)

    Great post!

    Dayne
    .-= Dayne | TheHappySelf.com´s last blog ..How to Stop Procrastination…Now, Not Later. =-.

  20. love this one. It might that the stress is more or less related to that as well.
    .-= windmaomao´s last blog ..As real as crap =-.

    • Hi windMM, That’s strange, as I was writing the post I thought about adding a section on depression and stress and asking if we didn’t label depression how we would we deal with it?

      • hehe :)

        when things need to be done, label are assigned as “hard” and “easy” right away. If “hard”, or “easy” found out to be “hard”, I then struggle for deciding if I should continue. It’s a pain.

        but on the other side, if we don’t label anything, then sometimes you can be stupid not knowing something apparent, ex. pick the hardest work ever and not realizing it. I guess the ability of labeling is helpful for us to survive better, but most of time we should just put it in hibernate mode and be happy :)
        .-= windmaomao´s last blog ..As real as crap =-.