Wednesday, September 23, 2015


I'm sorry, but someone ought to say this:
You're not beautiful just the way you are.

In fact, if we're having this conversation, you're probably ugly. And you know what? That's okay. You matter as a person, you are valuable, you are loved. But you aren't beautiful.

It makes me angry to see people confusing beauty with worth, especially their own worth. Sure, some primitive part of our brains confuses being good with being beautiful, with being intelligent/kind/interesting. That doesn't mean it's actually so. If we could all start acting like adults about this that would be awesome. (This goes for a lot of things, but this is a blog post, not the Pensées, so we're sticking to one subject.)

Telling a child he's intelligent doesn't make him smarter. It makes him feel smarter. Which does... well, it does precisely nothing. Until, of course, he figures out that he's not intelligent and people have just been lying to him, or at least confusing the hell out of him, for his entire life. 

Just because you love someone and see them as valuable does not automatically provide them with the cornucopia of talents that you wish they had. Sorry, them's the breaks.

So what do you tell a child who maybe isn't quite as smart? You praise them for the actual effort they put in. You tell them you love them. You let them know what their diligence can really earn them. Which, oddly enough, is exactly what you tell the clever child, who will otherwise think that they should have the world handed to them on a platter, from which they can eat with a silver spoon. All this because of some accident of environment and genetics -- which they had no control over, yet which they still implicitly claim credit for. 

It's the same with pretty people. Life is genuinely harder when you're not beautiful. Like it or not, people are shallow and our brains like symmetry. And we tend to favor things we like. Pretty children get more positive attention in school. Pretty people get more attention period. They actually can get away with things by simply batting their eyelashes. We automatically assume that pretty people are smarter. So if you're not attractive, you've already started life with one major deficit. That just plain sucks. 

So given how people are, do I blame others who spend seemingly ludicrous amounts of time and money trying to alter their appearance? No. Because people are jerks. Life is hard enough without someone immediately judging you, your overall health and evolutionary fitness upon seeing your misshapen nose.

The issue is not that people do any of these things, it's our willingness to delude ourselves. If you mean "valuable" say "valuable," if you mean "beautiful" say "beautiful." It's not that hard. 

No matter what we believe, we can't all be above average. It's not possible. This much is obvious. (I hope.) What's not obvious is why we blame people who aren't above average for their "innate" mediocrity. Since most of us are mediocre in most ways, it's kind of a shitty thing to do.

...but what do you expect when you measure people's worth by their intelligence or attractiveness or conviviality? What about someone without any of those pleasant attributes? (Such people exist, I guarantee you.) If all we are is a collection of attributes and affiliations, if you measure a human's worth by their utility to you... such a person is not worth anything. So rather than face the icy implications of being utilitarian, or choose a different philosophical outlook, we lie to ourselves and say that someone is what they are not. Because reality is a slippery concept and truth is painful. 

Edit: Someone pointed out that while Penguin classics can get away without putting the accent aigu on 'Pensées,' I, miserable plebe that I am, cannot. Things have been updated accordingly.