As human beings, we have a tendency to value the things we’re good at and ignore everything else. This is why, when left to its natural pace, society’s narrative of human value is one where physical beauty supersedes all other qualities.
This should come as no surprise to anyone reading. Even as I lie in bed and write this article, I have two fashion tabs open in the corner of my laptop screen and a torn-up issue of Vogue spread out on my floor. We know its complete bullshit.
Intellectually, we even know that judging another person’s character based on something as transient and arbitrary as their beauty is superficial. Beauty is meaningless in the grand scheme of things, after all.
What’s problematic is when I attempt to take note of who is echoing this sentiment. Ironically, the very people who condemn others for superficially judging attractiveness are always the first people to judge others for being unintelligent.
I think of belligerent atheists mocking religion on Facebook, pseudointellectuals proudly proclaiming that ‘everyone is an idiot’ and acquaintances in higher education callously rolling their eyes at members of the working class. Sometimes I can’t stomach the irony.
It brings me back to my adolescence, when I tried to take comfort in the inherent equality of all things. People who weren’t good looking were supposed to be kind, intelligent, and gracious – right? Maybe they could sing really well, or maybe they were excellent at sports. I thought everyone had a thing, but life quickly showed me how naïve I was being.
I was disappointed, but I eventually came to the conclusion that I was missing the entire point.
It’s a great thing to be intelligent… but isn’t that just another quality that nobody ever chose to have? I think of my intellectual mentors – Steve Jobs, Isabel Allende, Maya Angelou – do I look up to them simply because they possessed their level of intelligence?
Absolutely not. I look up to them because of how they chose to use their intelligence – the demonstration of their spirit. That’s why belittling another person for their intelligence is just as stupid as doing so because of their looks.
What we need to understand is this: We are not the skills, traits, or successes we use to adorn our own egos.
These things are temporary possessions gifted to us so we can find meaning and fulfillment in the world. To become drunk with pride is practically asking for them to be taken away – all it takes is a blow in the head to ruin everything about yourself that you love.
Instead of trying to climb over each other for things we have, we should be celebrating demonstrations of the human spirit.
Let’s celebrate the choice to think critically, the choice to work hard, and the choice to uplift other people.
When we choose to do this, we attack the issue of superficiality at its root. We create a world where everyone can be comfortable in their own skin, and the people we celebrate the most are the ones most worthy of our celebration.