Greater blue-ringed octopus. Photo by Jens Petersen (Wikimedia Commons).

Horseshit... ok, not exactly horseshit.  You are, I suppose, beautiful just the way you are—in the same way that a Sequoia or a blue-ringed octopus is beautiful.  The sheer mathematical improbability of your existence is a marvel, to be sure; you're a unique snowflake who is greater than 99% similar to me and anyone else on this planet.  This is all clinically interesting, technically beautiful.  And I make these observations without trying to dull the sense of wonder that should rightfully exist about us humans.  We're incredible creatures, certainly the most intelligent and evolved species on the planet as long as intelligence is your primary metric.

But I was once told I was a bad person for refuting the Relative Beauty Hypothesis (RBH), for claiming this is the biggest lie we like to tell people, especially our children.  (Well, not our children.  Perhaps your children, or just the children.)  Based on the tone of voice I likely employed when making this comment, I can't blame my counterpart for reacting negatively, though I do think I was misunderstood.

So don't misinterpret my meaning:  I realize we frequently use this phrase to attempt to mitigate the side effects of cruel bullying, which is often pointed toward kids who are fat or gay or who suck at kickball, and rightfully so.  No child should have to suffer on account of their weight or sexual orientation or any other such trait.  Kids can be little bigots, but most of them will probably grow out of it when their logic develops enough to supersede the almost universal childhood predilection toward tribalism.  (We never grow out of it, really, but at least we do shift our loyalties somewhat.) So we grow up and those of us lucky enough to be more or less reasonable people accept our differences.  Some people are gay; some people are fat; some people are black or white or Asian; some people have six fingers. So what?  These things don't matter as far as human worth is concerned.  We are finally evolving enough to rid ourselves of some of these biases and to realize the trivial nature of such arbitrary distinctions.

All good so far, until we begin to pervert the original meaning and apply the Relative Beauty Hypothesis to characteristics that weren't originally on the docket, particularly when we self-apply these concepts and the phrase serves only to dilute the value of introspection.

Bad temper?  That's just who I am.

Somehow find my way to the bottom of every bottle I see?  I just love to have fun.

The Rolling Stones are better than the Beatles: It's my opinion, right?  It's not an objective question, is it?  ... Guys?

This whole mindset itself is little more than a springboard for rationalization, a catalyst for the kink in our internal logic that provides immediate forgiveness for failure to improve the self.  Why?  Anyone who pretends to know the answer to this question is a liar, so I profess no level of special insight in this regard.  My suspicion, however, is that we're simply too lazy and afraid to admit not only that we have a deficiency but that this deficiency is not acceptable, that it should be fixed if at all possible.

If you're beautiful just the way you are, why fix anything?  You're free to continue on in your willful ignorance, racism, homophobia, depression, addiction, bias, and foolish illusion about the Rolling Stones' superiority over the Beatles.

Then, there is beauty in our flaws.  I admit that, fully.  I would hate to see what a perfect world looks like:  I can only imagine the drawling, lobotomized expressions we would carry around on our drooping faces like electroshock patients.  That's not the world for me or for anyone who cherishes the little bits of necessary chaos we all possess.

But it's important not to fall so far into individualism that every regrettable human foible is somehow elevated to the status of defining character trait.  Otherwise, we will hang willfully onto our opinions and succumb to those instincts that separate us from logic and rationality.  We will continue to drown our ambition in excuses and suffocate our innate creativity with them as well.  We will fail to change, as individuals and as a society.

Those are the broad strokes as I see them.  We should encourage everyone to embrace their differences, for they are what make us such an incredible species; but we should not extend our pretenses of virtue to our character flaws, at least not so ubiquitously as we seem to.

Perhaps I'm way off on this one.  If I am, flog me for it.  You won't get me to admit that this post is anything more than trite philosophical garbage, anyway.  And if I'm right, I don't intend to suggest we all resort to self-loathing and despair, even if they've always worked for me.  (You'll find plenty of people willing to refute various elements in this last sentence.)

We're never going to be perfect, but that doesn't mean we can't do just a little bit better, does it?  For my part, I'm going to be competing again tonight, and instead of shattering a pint glass against someone's head when I lose, I'll try to hold back and simply stab them lightly with a shard from my broken pool cue.

The road to self-improvement is, after all, slow and tortuous.