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an open letter to the superficial people

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Image via

Dearest Superficial People,

I find it really strange that you notice superficial things about people. No actually, I find it really strange that you notice superficial things about people and insist on pointing them out. It annoys me most that you behave as if your level of superficiality ought to be shared by everyone around you. News flash: it usually is not.

Over the years I’ve witnessed and even occasionally been on the receiving end of some of your really superficial “acknowledgments” and I’d really love it if you could stop acknowledging superficial things about me and other people. Sometimes I find the words to politely tell you that it wasn’t a nice thing to say, often when I’m not on the receiving end of your unwanted commentary. Sometimes I’m sarcastic and hope that I wrangle back the power through the awkwardness. But often I just try and subtly change the subject because I don’t really like confrontation. I do want you to know, though, that comments like ‘your eyebrows don’t really match’, ‘wow I didn’t know you had cellulite!’, ‘you really need to wax’ and ‘why have you gained so much weight?’ are rude and offensive and even if just for a moment, often make someone feel bad.

I don’t think it’s just about feeling bad but it’s about placing doubt in somebody’s mind as to their own awesomeness – even people who don’t place that much emphasis on their exterior can sometimes feel down about how they do or don’t look. It just seems really unfair that because you don’t feel particularly great about yourself that you should make somebody else feel worse.

It’s fine to notice that someone is looking particularly well. It’s also fine to notice, but often best not to acknowledge, that someone is not looking their finest – unless of course you intend on offering practical assistance to that person. For example, if Dina has recently given birth and you can see that Dina is looking particularly exhausted, you might acknowledge that and offer to bring around a vegetarian lasagna, or take care of her new daughter Rose, for a couple of hours so she can take a nap. But pointing out the superficial ‘you look awful’ without offering anything is mean spirited and the reason people have mother-in-laws. (I kid.)

I think I find you most annoying because I don’t see your “off-hand” remarks as innocent or just a matter of being frank. I see them as an attempt to make yourself feel better by making other people feel bad. It upsets me greatly that the strength of your own self-esteem is so dependent on the weakness of another. It’s often hard to believe, but not everything is a competition.

Certainly competition is healthy but I really don’t see the benefit of proving how subjectively unattractive one person is for a temporary, if immediate, ego boost. I guess that’s really the crux of it all. I just see this as a massaging of your ego and it makes me uncomfortable. Uncomfortable because I hate bearing witness to that moment of embarrassment that follows a superficial stab.

You do yourself a great injustice by allowing your self-worth to be so intricately linked to other people. By doing this you suggest that your value is so limited. In essence you’re saying I can only feel good when someone else feels bad and that’s completely perverse. Not to mention totally damaging, psychologically. I just feel that you should probably be conscious of this.

You should also be conscious of the fact that you’re probably just buying into a really consumerist culture that uses our insecurities to sell us more crap we really don’t need. And why would you want to do that?

I suppose we’re all a bit shallow but I think it’s important not to be so superficial that you cannot see beyond the external. Because remember high school? That was a terrible time for most of us. It’s kind of the reason I decided never to go back there. Ever.

Anyhow, I’d really love it if we could all be kinder to one another and leave that which benefits nobody, unsaid.

With love,

Mehal x

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2 thoughts on “an open letter to the superficial people

  1. the worst are the ones that seem like compliments but are actually insults, like ” oh your hair is looking much better now!” grrr I really like the suggestion about acting upon observations. I think it often hinges on intention – there is quite a difference between simply making a negative observation to inflict hurt it cause discomfort, and doing so in the process of offering really important support. thanks for sharing this letter

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