The psychology of motivation III

Photo by Prateek Katyal on

Change takes place when a force brings about it. In science and engineering, it is understood that motion or movement results when a force acts on an object. Movement, of course, can be defined as a change in the position of an object. Therefore, change cannot occur if force is absent. The universe and all that are in it respond to the effects of forces. The rotation of the earth about the sun, planetary motion, the random movement of gas particles, such as the gaseous emission of a burning bush, all of these behaviors cannot exist without the existence and action of forces. 

In the same way, human beings do not behave the way they do without forces. The forces that bring about the actions or behaviors of other people are known as motivations. Therefore, every single act you perform is a response to motivation. When you turn your head, cross your feet, look into space, or blink your eye, you are responding to motivation. This is the third article on this subject, “The Psychology of Motivation”. Therefore, if you have not read the previous articles, I recommend you do so. 

In the previous article, “The Psychology of Motivation (Part 2), I gave a short but true story about a boy who had been a victim of prolonged childhood bullying, and later grew up to become a man who had developed an obsession for becoming more muscular and intimidating. I also stated that three questions must be answered in the affirmative for motivation to take effect. I have decided to share yet another interesting story about Annalise, a young girl who had grown up to become a supermodel in the modelling industry. 

Annalise was a pretty-looking girl, a cynosure of all eyes. She was often showered with a lot of attention by those around her, and so she felt that she was profusely valued because of her astonishing beauty. She would often enjoy the unusual benefit of being the favored one among the lot, the one most desired by all the teachers, peers, and other students. Indeed, she knew she was drawing plenty of attention and respect, and was enjoying it. Annalise’s physical appearance would sometimes be likened to those of the top models in the country, and she would often be regarded as a beautiful princess. She believed she was valuable, desirable, and important largely because of how beautiful she was believed to be. 

However, on growing into adolescence, Annalise began to experience what seemed to her as undesirable bodily changes. The young girl who was once known to have a runway model-like physique was gradually growing fat, and her flawless skin seemed to be developing acnes and eczemas. Most people were quick to realize that she wasn’t as pretty as she used to be, and this consequently led to her losing much of the attention, admiration, and respect she once enjoyed. She ceased being the cynosure of all eyes, and scarcely enjoyed the rare benefit of being favored among other people. As a result of what seemed to be a great loss, she started to feel inadequate and worthless.   

Now, Annalise was from a rich home. In addition, she was exposed to the numerous beauty products and cosmetics available in the market via mass media advertising and friends, was in the know about cosmetic surgeries, and could afford them. And since she perceived a need, thought she should satisfy the need, and realized she could do so (i.e. she could afford the expensive beauty products in the market and cosmetic surgeries), it occurred to her that she needed a quick remedy. Her perceived problem, in this case, was losing her beauty, which had consequently led to losing her spark in her world. She felt inadequate, defeated, and inferior to other girls who were now getting most of the attention, and got preoccupied with rectifying her perceived aesthetic problem. 

Annalise became so obsessed about losing weight, having attractive skin, and looking prettier that she invested most of her pocket money on beauty products and cosmetic surgeries. She would look into the mirror many times in an effort to convince herself that she was making significant progress in her beautification. If she noticed she was growing a little fatter or had some blemishes on her skin, she would become immediately unhappy, and would use products that she believed would help solve the problems. The desire to look pretty became insatiable, and soon began to adversely affect her academic life. It seemed that she couldn’t help feeling obsessed over maintaining and improving her looks. 

She indeed got prettier over time, but never still believed she was pretty enough. She would always perceive an imperfection in her appearance, and she just wasn’t satisfied. Any negative remark about how she looked, and she would think that she had a less than perfect look. Consequently, she would want to do something about that imperfection, which often led to an endless cycle of self-criticism (or self-hate) and a desire for perfection. To put it shortly, she never felt pretty enough. Although, she felt so insecure about how she looked, such insecurity enhanced her beauty indeed. She became more beautiful, while she was never so happy in her life. She later went on to become one of the finest models in the country. 

Now, there was yet another lady, Kiera, who was the same age as Annalise at the time, and was also quite pretty-looking at a young age. Like Annalise, she used to be the center of attention, a great beauty to behold. But on growing into adolescence, she started to experience some unwanted bodily changes, which made her feel she was no longer as pretty as she used to be. However, because Kiera was born into a poor home, she couldn’t afford beauty products and cosmetic surgeries. She wanted to do something about her undesirable bodily changes, but thought there was virtually nothing she could do about it. Therefore, she coped with the situation and didn’t obsess over getting pretty. She embraced the popular saying ‘what cannot be cured must be endured’. 

Annalise’s and Kiera’s story is yet another story that sheds more light on how motivation and reluctance control our actions. While Annalise could answer all three essential questions in the affirmative, thus deriving motivation, Kiera could not answer all of them in the affirmative, and therefore experienced reluctance. It shouldn’t be a surprise to realize that many supermodels across the world know that they are pretty, but never seem to feel that they are pretty enough; they fear that they may fall back to being less pretty simply because they have come to believe that their self-worth and importance are largely determined by their physical appearances.