1. Parallels between racism and the beautiful woman (or man) syndrome
2. From swelled heads to shrunken prosperity

People afflicted with the beautiful woman syndrome (or the male equivalent) think they are better than others because they look better than others. Once that idea enters their heads, causing them to swell, it creates a vacuum that sucks in other strange beliefs, leading victims to generalize their attributes in a snowballing cascade so they conclude they are not just better looking, they are better, period.

They're smarter and more capable. They have more wit. They're more interesting, wonderful, and amazing. In short, they're great. They deserve better, easier jobs with more pay and prestige. They have so much to offer they deserve the best spouses and have every right in the world to be exceptionally picky and demanding—as if appearance were the only thing that mattered, or mattered so much that it conferred the right to lay claim to other attributes that entitled them to other rights.

Because this attitude boils down to “I'm better than you because I look better than you,” it is a cousin of racism. That's not good territory to be in, but if anyone tries telling a victim of the beautiful woman (or man) syndrome he or she is less than perfect, their reactions usually manifest their entitlement to their lofty opinions of themselves.

I described people with the beautiful woman (or man) syndrome as victims of it because while they hurt others with callous treatment, the ones they hurt most are themselves. Given enough time, I could name millions of people who've done great things that helped others and made this world a better place, but I'd struggle to think of more than a handful of exceptionally attractive physicians, scientists, engineers, inventors, authors, or others who did great things—not just went through the robotic motions of being another cog in the system.

Most people are programmed to begin coasting once their self-image reaches a certain threshold. This results in their trajectory of achievements leveling off. I commonly see this in physicians and surgeons. It takes a very good mind and incredible stick-to-it-iveness to become a licensed doctor, but once they've arrived, they usually stagnate. I was guilty of that, too, but once I focused on what I was doing instead of what I did, I did much more and thus fulfilled more of my potential.

The United States is full of people hoping that our economy rebounds to overdrive and stays there, but that miracle won't happen without magic. Coasting is corrosive to success, so battling complacency is key to optimizing our personal and collective potential. American recovery won't happen in Washington or any state capital; it will result when we expect less of the DC drama queens and expect more of ourselves. Our leaders proved that they cannot catalyze a real recovery, but we can. Stay tuned for how.

The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reference: Imagining dialogue can boost critical thinking: Excerpt: “Examining an issue as a debate or dialogue between two sides helps people apply deeper, more sophisticated reasoning …”

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