Honest Abe, Chris Gardner, and Talia the Makeup Artist

So I think by now we’ve established that there is a definite beauty bias in our society. For a quick recap: beautiful people are paid more, receive better grades from teachers, are more likely to get a job, are more likely to get a loan, are less likely to be convicted by a jury, and are perceived as kinder and smarter than unattractive people. Also, they get more dates (bostonglobe.com).

We’ve also established that this bias is not going away anytime soon. The beauty bias has been going on since Queen Esther, Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, and so on. It’s pretty much here to stay.

So maybe you’ve been thinking that you are an unattractive-looking person who is suffering from this disadvantage, and you’re understandably frustrated. Where is the justice? You can study harder to get better grades. You can workout and eat better to get healthier. But there is nothing that you can do to change the features that you were born with. So what do you do?

You forget it and concentrate on your advantages and your strengths. Wait, I have advantages and strengths? Yes, you do. What’s the difference? Advantages are things you were born with or born into: beauty, money, a loving family, a good community, parents who push you, teachers who challenge you, good friends, etc. Talents are things that you are naturally born with and continue to develop over time.

First, everyone has disadvantages and advantages in life. Maybe you were born into a reckless family that you feel like has set you up for a lifetime of failure. Maybe you feel like your looks have set you up for a lifetime of disappointment. On the other hand, maybe you were born into an awesome, supportive community that you feel has set you up for success. Or maybe you were born into a wealthy family that has allowed you to attend college without collecting debt.

Second, everyone has strengths and weaknesses. I don’t think I need to explain this one, but basically some people can sing, some can write, some can throw a ball, etc. No one can do everything. Period. No exceptions.

This requires a visual representation. Let’s look at a chart because you know how much I like graphs.

As you can see in this chart there are 3 girls: Macie, Becky, and Alice. Now look down their charts. Does one person have all the advantages? No. Does one person have all the talents? No.

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Everyone and I mean everyone like literally every single person on this earth has advantages and disadvantages, and strengths and weaknesses. If you see someone you think is perfect then you haven’t spent enough time with them. You haven’t seen their home life or you haven’t seen them try to play a sport or you haven’t seen their grade reports.

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” -Steven Furtick

For example, if you saw “Macie” at school you would see a beautiful girl who could sing, play soccer, write pretty well, and was the smartest person in Chemistry class. But, what you don’t see is that she has never been very funny, she can’t draw even though she wants to, her family isn’t supportive of her singing or academic abilities, she doesn’t have very much money, she has struggled with asthma and diabetes her whole life, and she just lost her best friend to cancer. This is why you never know someone until you know someone, you know? Don’t judge people based on what you see because you don’t know 99% of what they have been through, are going through, and will go through.

So maybe you don’t have a great family, but you somehow found an awesome group of friends. That is a HUGE blessing, advantage, whatever you want to call it. A lot of people would say they don’t have close friends.

Maybe you can’t draw, sing, dance, or act to save your life, but you can finish a math test before anyone has flipped that first page. That is a strength. You are blessed with an awesome strength that a lot of people spend hours studying to acquire.

Like the Spiderman quote, it’s not about what kinds or how many advantages and talents you were given, it’s what you do with them. So don’t waste your advantages and strengths by concentrating on your disadvantages and weaknesses.

The happiest of people do not have the best of everything. They make the best of everything they have. 

It’s not about what you have, it’s about what you do with what you have. Check it out:

1) Chris Gardner’s (The Pursuit of Happyness) “childhood was marked by poverty, domestic violence, alcoholism, sexual abuse and family illiteracy.” Did he use that as an excuse to give up? Did he say, “I’ve been dealt a bad hand. Everyone successful was born into a rich family with connections.” No.

He worked hard to become a trainee at Dean Witter Reynolds. Was he done? Nope. He and his son became homeless for a year while he worked harder than most people have ever worked in their lives in order to get noticed. After a year, it finally worked. He went to work for Bear Stearns & Co. But, that whole time he never told anyone that he was going to the soup kitchen, sleeping in the park, sleeping in locked bathrooms, etc.  (chrisgardnermedia.com)

He didn’t let himself use his disadvantages as an excuse to do nothing or to pout.

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2. Abraham Lincoln was described as the ugliest man some people had ever seen. Did he become insecure and hide in his bedroom? No. He did the opposite. He went out into the middle of the public eye and gave possibly the greatest speech in all of history. Can you imagine if he had become a recluse just because he wasn’t physically pleasing to the eye? Would slavery still have been abolished in 1865?

Oh, and by the way have you seen the motivational poster that tells about Lincoln’s perseverance:

“He failed in business in ’31. He was defeated for state legislator in ’32. He tried another business in ’33. It failed. His fiancée died in ’35. He had a nervous breakdown in ’36. In ’43 he ran for congress and was defeated. He tried again in ’48 and was defeated again. He tried running for the Senate in ’55. He lost. The next year he ran for Vice President and lost. In ’59 he ran for the Senate again and was defeated. In 1860, the man who signed his name A. Lincoln, was elected the 16th President of the United States. The difference between history’s boldest accomplishments and its most staggering failures is often, simply, the diligent will to persevere.” (successories.com).

What a man. Also, yesterday I did a post on other unattractive people who are considered important historical figures for their contributions to politics, music, literature, and more. If you didn’t win the genetic lottery, have no fear because there are plenty of other things to be good at. Besides, looks fade quickly. Writing abilities, kindness, speaking abilities, teaching abilities, etc. are usually good for life. Much better investment in the long run.

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3. Talia Castellano was diagnosed with 2 forms of cancer (neuroblastoma and myelodysplastic syndrome) as a child. She battled cancer for 6 years, and she died at age 13 on July 16, 2013. Did she think “Well I’m going to die soon, why try to do anything worthwhile? I’m too young anyway.” No. She made her own YouTube channel where she posted makeup tutorial videos under the screen name “taliajoy18.” She still has over 1 million subscribers.

While undergoing cancer treatment Talia radiated joy, hope, and love at the tender age of 13. I still tear up watching some of her videos.

Want to know the most dangerous thing about my chart from up above? Sometimes when we have slots that say “Not So Good at Dancing,” “Poor Grades,” and “Unsupportive Family” and we see someone else’s slots that say “Star Dancer,” “Valedictorian,” and “Supportive Family,” we get jealous. This is not good. Jealousy is a monster that can eat you from the inside out.

And you know what, believe it or not, other people are jealous of some of your filled slots. Slots that your probably forget are filled because they’ve always been filled and you don’t bother to notice that they’re filled anymore. Be happy for those filled slots.

And don’t be jealous of other people. You need those other people, and those other people need you. We need each other to make a functional and enjoyable society. Be happy for other people’s filled slots, and other people will be happy for your filled slots.

I Corinthians 12 gives an excellent illustration. It says that we are each given spiritual gifts (wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing). Each of us then makes up one part of a complete functioning body.

17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,

Whoever is reading this, you have awesome advantages and awesome talents. Sometimes the examples are of these incredible rags to riches stories that make it on the Ellen show, but there are so so many more. Look around. People everywhere are overcoming disadvantages and are using their talents to help others and to bring joy to others. The list is endless. Don’t end up on the other list of people who wallow in self-pity lamenting their disadvantages in life and their lack of talent. The choice is up to you. Where do you want your name?