I may say something that will sound very offensive to some, but bear with me as that is not my intent. There are two kinds of beauty: inner and outer. The inner reflects a good character or nature, the outer reflects both good health and form. I think inner beauty is the most objective kind of beauty because it has to do first and foremost do with what you are and second with who you are (i.e. your character). You are a person made in God’s image. You are objectively beautiful then because God is objectively beautiful. Your moral worth is the same thing as your beauty. There is no “beauty is in the eye of the beholder ” here unless your worth also depends on who is beholding you. Same applies to beauty of character. Being loving is beautiful, but being hateful is ugly. This is objective. All of this is respectable to most, even if they’re not Christians. Here comes the controversial part.
Outer beauty is what people take to be mostly, if not entirely subjective. When it comes to outer beauty, I hear people say, “Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes!” Against fat-shaming, a movement like “curve-loving” is formed. This movement revolts against being skinny because it is the standard of beauty in our world that prevents the world from not seeing their big curves as beautiful. A certain resentment tends to develop that encourages skinny-shaming. Let me ask you this: What do the fat-shaming bullies and curve-loving people have in common? They both determine their worth by their outer beauty. The bully who shames a person for being fat is degrading that person’s worth for their looks, but the curve loving person is elevating their worth based on their looks. Both are the toxic inverse of the other.
The Bible very clearly says that our beauty (or worth) should come inwardly, not outwardly (1 Peter 3:3-4). But these people are doing the exact opposite of that. This causes them to say very superficially nice things. If a girl is 500 pounds overweight, I read comments that say, “OMG girl, you are so beautiful! I’m jealous!” And I just think to myself, why are you lying? Either that or you’re deeply mistaken. Let me be absolutely clear here: I do not condone in any form degrading a person because they are fat. As someone who was degraded for being too skinny and ugly in school, I know how that is and I despise it. My goal in this post is to uplift people, no matter how you look, by focusing your attention on your worth. But I may incidentally hurt you in the process because I am fundamentally challenging your worldly notion of beauty.
Subjective Outward Beauty
This is strange because if beauty is subjective, then someone can just as validly affirm their own ugliness. I know people who subjectively think that they are ugly. Who are you to say that they are wrong if beauty is subjective? You may say that it is harmful for their psychological well being to think this way, but this is not necessarily the case. A person could say, “Hey in my eyes I am ugly, but I don’t care! There’s far more to my life than beauty.” Mindset changes everything. Such a person is mentally far stronger than someone who needs to affirm their own beauty. Even in cases where it is harmful, it is harmful because they are placing their value in the wrong type of beauty, not because they are thinking false thoughts about their outer beauty (which is impossible under subjectivism).
Someone could object that it is harmful because it is harmful. That is sufficient reason to not embrace the subjective belief that you are ugly. It’s not because the belief itself is objectively false, it’s because it produces harm to your psyche. My answer to that is this: It is one thing to recognize it as harmful, another to provide a proper diagnosis of how to remove that harm. Reaffirming your value in outward beauty is a terrible diagnosis. You are finding your worth in something that depends on what people think, or what you think. Your worth should not depend on what anyone feels, including yourself, because there is objective worth. If it depends on the subjective then one day you may see yourself as worthless, and that’s what you shall be, and another day you may see yourself as the best gift to mankind on the planet (e.g, Trump). If it’s all subjective, then there can be no moral objection to elevating your worth to however much you want.
Objective Outward Beauty
Now you may wonder whether I think outward beauty is objective. I think part of it is in fact objective. It seems to me that an anorexic human being, covered in feces, is not attractive or beautiful. We feel compassion for this person, of course, but we do not think this state is a good thing. This is because outward beauty is associated with what is good for a thing – namely it’s health and form. A person who is overweight by 400 pounds, is likewise objectively not attractive. In many cases this reflects both a bad character trait (gluttony), or it reflects a kind of genetic defect. Either way, it is not good for a person to be overweight as it causes serious psychological and biological problems. So we naturally do not see that state as attractive because only a good state can count as beautiful. Piles of dead bodies from an earthquake cannot count as beautiful because it is bad. Other parts are subjective. Some guys like skinnier girls, while other guys like “thicker” girls. But it is almost universal that most do not find excessively overweight individuals attractive.
At this point I am sure some of my readers are gasping, furious that I would ever suggest such a thing. People who offer the “I am beautiful” diagnosis aren’t diagnosing the person, they are isolating their feelings and diagnosing that by cuddling their feelings with lies. Your feelings matter, but feelings grounded in the wrong values is harmful. Unfortunately when I undermine those kind of feelings, I will come across as heartless when the opposite is the case. It is precisely because I care about the person, not just their feelings, that I am willing to risk hurting them (temporally) with truth in order to make them wiser and stronger as a person. I want everyone to flourish. But you cannot flourish if you are unable to accept the possibility or reality that most people do not find you attractive. You are not entitled to people finding you attractive. If objective beauty exists, then you cannot reject it anymore than you can reject the sun.