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.