When it comes to getting a job, appearance is not the only factor. There is more that counts.

Mary was excited about her first job interview. She had just finished college and was looking forward to new challenges in the workplace, including a monthly paycheque. In the midst of all the excitement, she was suddenly plagued by self-doubt. She had always been ridiculed by family and friends about her dark complexion. Then there were advertisements that projected — girls who got the job and the boyfriends — were the ones who supposedly applied fairness creams. She decided to do the same.

Varun was in college and loved wearing branded clothes and shoes. He was popular and was always busy organising culturals, blood donation drives and theatre festivals. When he overheard a group of students talking, making insinuations that his popularity was because of his branded attire, he was shocked. He never saw himself as brand-obsessed. Moreover, the clothes were bought with his own pocket money which he made by working in an event management company during weekends.

Image and reality

All of us are living in a world bombarded by images and perceptions. Both, in print and visual media, we are constantly being told what to wear (or more likely, what not to wear!), how to walk, talk, what being successful means, and so on.

We are constantly judging ourselves and others against standards set by models and celebrities. How do we filter through all the messages we receive? How do we negotiate our own desires to look good with what is being prescribed by advertisements, and family and friends? We want to be accepted for who we are, yet we want to feel a sense of belonging to a particular group. Sometimes, this leads us to spend more than we can we afford or wear something which makes us feel uncomfortable.

“Do not judge a book by its cover”, might seem like a worn-out cliché. However, it really is the first step to addressing the issue. Clichés have often come through the wisdom of experience and it does not hurt to pause a moment and ponder over it. The first cover that we harshly judge is ourselves — we feel we are never good enough. Often this insecurity gets projected onto other people, so we end up avoiding them. Sometimes, it is interesting to listen to what people in the business are really saying.

Celebrity speak

Sonam Kapoor is a young actor and model who has been generating a lot of interest for her work in unusual films like Delhi 6 and Ranjanhaa. While the love for her work shines through, she cautions young people on blindly emulating celebrities. She reminds us that to make her look that good, there is an industry of people working behind the scenes — hairstylists, makeup artists and photo-shopped pictures that mask blemishes.

If you spend a few moments to think about the people you admire, most likely they would be people who are either trendsetters or those who are truly comfortable with themselves.

Perhaps it is just being aware of the gap between the image and reality. Read any biography of successful people (models included) and what comes through is that their journey has been based on principles of hard work, honesty and a passion to keep learning. Despite facing rejection or failure, they strived towards perfection in their chosen fields. A fair complexion does not make you a better pilot, singer or executive!

Life and lessons

When we approach life, knowing that every person has an interesting experience to share, it makes our lives richer as we connect with people beyond the image.

In the above story, when Varun casually shared his experiences of coming from a middle class family and that his clothes were bought with his income, many in the group were surprised. He even gave the group some tips on where they could buy branded clothes on sale and it is not surprising that his circle of friends has since widened. Instead of confronting their prejudices head-on, his honesty helped in bridging their resentments.

In Mary’s case, her learning came from a bitter experience. The fairness cream she used caused severe allergies and the dermatologist asked her to stop using it. It took a lot of painful soul searching to come to terms with what had happened. Currently, she is happy in her new job where her mentors have given her new responsibilities based on her unique abilities. None of it was based on her complexion.

At eighteen, while travelling on a train, I was seated next to a silver-haired elderly lady, wearing a traditional kanjeevram sari and a diamond nose stud .When she asked me about the book I was reading, I dismissively told her that she had probably not heard about the writer. She smiled politely and told me that she was the manager of a book store in Trichy and had read all his previous works. It was a humbling moment for me, and a rich experience as she shared her knowledge and passion for books.

By all means experiment with your sense of style — this is the time to let your creativity unleash. However, if you find yourself becoming obsessed by it or judging people for what they wear, it will be worthwhile to take a moment to introspect.

Go beyond the image and expand your horizon. Your world will become larger and in the truest sense… beautiful!

Email: anamika292000@yahoo.co.in

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Heart-to-heartJune 23, 2013