Virtue Vibes with Jarrod Blair

#13: Physical Attraction and Shallowness

November 30, 2023 Jarrod Blair Episode 13
Virtue Vibes with Jarrod Blair
#13: Physical Attraction and Shallowness
Show Notes Transcript

This episode is going to be pretty spicy in a variety of ways. That’s because we’re going to think about the role that physical attraction plays in romantic relationships. In particular, were going to zoom in on three related topics:

Firstly, what exactly does it mean to be “shallow,” and why is it even bad to be shallow?

Secondly, even if we ourselves aren’t shallow, society at large is. People are told in various subtle ways that they do or don’t deserve to be with another person because of their physical attractiveness. So what should we think about these kinds of social hierarchies of attractiveness that get thrown at us? 

Lastly, is it ok to think that someone else is more physically attractive than our partner? If we are refusing to be shallow and instead choosing partners based on a more wholistic criteria, then isn’t this a likely scenario?  

Outro music: "Lifelike" by AlexiAction on Pixabay

Intro music: "Lofi Heavy Chill Bass & Keyboard" by Phill Dillow on Pixabay

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Yooooo, Welcome back to the virtue vibes podcast. I’m your host, Jarrod Blair, and today's episode is going to be pretty spicy in a variety of ways. That’s because we’re going to think about the role that physical attraction plays in romantic relationships. In particular, were going to zoom in on three related topics; 

Firstly, what exactly does it mean to be “shallow,” and why is it even bad to be shallow?  

Secondly, even if we ourselves aren’t shallow, society at large is. People are told in various subtle ways that they do or don’t deserve to be with another person because of their physical attractiveness. So what should we think about these kinds of social hierarchies of attractiveness that get thrown at us?  

Lastly, is it ok to think that someone else is more physically attractive than our partner? If we are refusing to be shallow and instead choosing partners based on a more wholistic criteria, then isn’t this a likely scenario?  

Sounds interesting, right? Good. Now that I’ve piqued your interest, let’s jump right in. 

 

---interlude--- 

 

Some people are just hot, right? They’re just dead sexy. Our eyes just gravitate towards them, which often sparks a desire to get closer to them. In other words, purely physical attraction exists. I’m sure you didn’t need me to tell you this, because you’ve probably experienced this feeling before.  

It’s interesting to think about what exactly this physical attraction consists of, and why do we have it? I’m not entirely sure. I’m guessing some of it comes from cultural beauty standards. If everyone in your African tribe tells you that women whose necks have been elongated with rings are attractive, you too might start to see the beauty in it. I doubt any of my current listeners are in such a tribe, but I’m sure there are plenty of things in your own culture that you’ve been taught to be attracted to, which would seem just as odd to a foreign observer. 

Another source of physical attraction probably lies in our own personality quirks and upbringing. For example, one of my quirks is that I find androgenous looking women to be incredibly attractive, which I think is somewhat unusual among men. This might have come about partly because of my discovery of Japanese role playing games, like final fantasy, and anime as a kid. I’m not sure how exactly this attraction develops, but the peculiarities of my own brain and my specific upbringing seem like plausible explanations. But let’s not spend too much time talking about my childhood videogame crushes haha.  

Culture and personality are two somewhat arbitrary and subjective sources of our attraction, but there’s another more robust and universal pattern of attraction which relates to fertility and suitability as a mate. For example, the reason why we are attracted to vibrant and radiant skin rather than dry, ashy, or diseased skin has little to do with arbitrary cultural standards, or personality quirks that are unique to us. Instead, radiant skin is a tiny indicator of overall health, and health is a good quality to have in a potential baby-making partner. This pattern of being attracted to features that are indicative of health and vitality explains a great deal of the physical attraction that we feel, although as we’ve seen, other forces are also at work.  

 

---interlude--- 

 

Alright, so now that we have a rough idea of where physical attraction might come from, let’s think about what it would mean to be a shallow person. I don't think it’s shallow to feel the kinds of attraction I mentioned above. It’s ok to find beauty in things that your culture also finds beauty in. It’s ok to find beauty in ways that are peculiar to your own mind. And it’s ok to find beauty in features that are indicative of health, which seems to be just a basic part of our psychology.  

However, these purely physical features aren’t that useful in finding a high-quality relationship, and that’s because your partner’s values, their character, and their personality end up being waaay more important in the long run. So if you strongly prioritize things like jaw lines, height, and boob size when looking for a partner, you run a high risk of getting into a relationship that’s gonna cause all kinds of problems down the road.  There’s aways a chance you’ll find a great relationship despite prioritizing purely physical features, but this chance is much smaller than it could be if you were more focused on values, character, and personality. Also, I’ve heard from a lot of people that they became more physically attracted to their partner once they got to know who that person was on the inside. We can find new things attractive that we had never even considered before. New things can become sexy to us. Our minds can be quite flexible in that way, so it would be a shame to prematurely write off huge segments of the population. So, in my mind, the criticism of shallowness refers to an excessive prioritization of physical features and a failure to pay attention to the values, character, and personality of partners when pursuing and engaging in relationships.  

Before we move on, here’s one quick controversial caveat. Certain physical features can give us a tiny glimpse into that personal values, character, and personality. So, for example, a person's weight can give you a clue about how much they prioritize nutrition and exercise in their life, and their hygiene can also tell you if they are the kind of person who takes care of themselves or not. This is different than other physical features, like jaw lines or hair color, which tell you nothing about that person’s values, character, and personality. So, controversially, paying attention to things like weight and hygiene is actually far less shallow than using hair color or jaw lines to determine who to pursue romantically. There’s of course far more to a person than their weight or hygiene, but physical features like these can provide at least a piece of the puzzle when trying to understand a prospective romantic partner. Hopefully nobody hates me too much for saying this, but I think it’s true. Moving right along...  

 

---interlude--- 

 

People can be shallow in their own dating preferences, but there’s also this strange shallowness we see at a societal level. People often get placed in a hierarchy based on physical appearance. Have you ever heard someone say something like this; ““She’s a 10 bro. She could get with any guy she wants. Why is she with that uggo?” or “He looks like a model. Look at those deep blue eyes. Why does he date her? He’s so out of her league.” The underlying idea being conveyed here is that some people don't deserve to be loved by other better-looking people. According to this outlook, people should be romantically paired only with others who are at least in their same league in terms of physical attraction.  

Also, because of the shallowness in society, people sometimes treat their partner’s physical beauty like a trophy that you can show off to others, which somehow elevates your own status.  

I’ve always found these to be quite primitive and kinda gross way of looking at the world. The problem is that these purely physical features aren’t the most important part of a person, and, again, they aren’t great indicators of what makes for a quality relationship. So as a society, when we place people into these hierarchies, and when we play these trophy games, were actually pressuring people to make sub-optimal relationship choices. And when people give into this social pressure, they can become blinded as to what’s most important in a potential partner, and miss out on some amazing opportunities.  

So how can we avoid falling into these traps? Just keep the main thing the main thing. Focus your attention on your partner’s values, character and personality, and the compatibility of these things with your own. And screw what these other shallow people think. YOU’RE the one who’s going be in the relationship day in and day out, month after month, year after year, not them. So YOU’RE the one who's going to suffer the consequences of making bad relationship choices OR reap the benefits of making good relationship choices. Don’t let these goofy, primitive, and shallow societal pressures distract you from finding the kind of love that is best for you.  

 

---interlude--- 

 

I don’t watch many reality TV shows, but I've recently been really enjoying the Netflix series called Love Is Blind, and I’m watching season 3, in case anyone was interested. In it, participants go on a bunch of dates with each other by talking 1 on 1 through a thin wall for 10 days. Some of the participants get engaged after this 10 day period, and then afterwards, they finally get to see what their fiance looks like in a big reveal ceremony. After all this, and after a short vacation, they go back to the real world and start planning their wedding together. Setting aside the downsides of making such a big decision in such a lightning fast frame of time, this social experiment is super cool and fascinating to me! A big reason why it is so interesting is that dating behind a wall takes away many of the purely physical criteria people would normally use to decide who to pursue a relationship with, which makes them have to connect primarily on an emotional and personal level. This is great, but then you get to see what happens when you reintroduce that physical element back in. After this happened, there were some pretty heated conversation that came up after some participants said that even though they felt the most emotional connection to their chosen partners, they felt more physically attracted to other participants, whom they now had the chance to meet face to face.  

Setting aside the particulars of those specific relationships, and the way they went about sharing this information, there’s still an interesting question that arises. Does your partner have to be the person that you find to be the most physically attractive in the world? Or is it ok to find other people more physically attractive than your partner? Furthermore, if we are refusing to be shallow and instead choosing partners based on a more wholistic criteria, then isn’t this actually a likely scenario? 

It’s an awkward question, especially since so many people are insecure about their physical appearance, and I think we have a habit of telling little white lies to help soothe those insecurities. But I don’t think it has to be this way. I think these insecurities arise precisely because there’s so much shallowness around us.  

The need to be loved is one of our deepest psychological traits, and if we ever feel that our physical appearance might hinder us from getting the love that we so desperately crave, all sorts of psychological pathologies are sure to follow. Out of fear of losing the affection of our partner, we might become hyper-controlling or jealous around anyone who seems like a threat in terms of physical appearance.  Or as we age, and our skin begins to wrinkle, and our boobs and butts begin to sag, our insecurities and our fear of not being loved might make us try to compete with people half our age by injecting all kinds of chemicals in our face and putting plastic bags of gel in our breasts. And this fragile mental state can easily be caused by the shallowness of your partner; if they’ve treated you as being valuable primarily because of the radiance of your skin or the bounciness of your boobs, then it makes total sense that crippling insecurities would creep in.  

But it doesn’t have to be like this. Instead, if people valued you primarily for who you are as a person, and you felt their love loud and clear, perhaps the thought of other people being more physically attractive than you wouldn’t bring about the same emotional turmoil. And as you age with your partner, you would know that your relationship is secure, even if your hairline starts to recede, or if your badonkadonk becomes just a butt. If you were tragically maimed or scarred, your relationship wouldn’t suddenly fall apart like so many other shallow ones do. In such a relationship, it would be ok if another person had a greater measure of physical beauty than you, because physical beauty wouldn’t be what’s at the center of your relationship. You wouldn’t have to lie about the physical attraction you feel towards others, because your steadfast commitment to each other and your constant affirmation of what’s most important in your relationship would help to rid you of insecurity and jealousy. Sounds crazy, I know. Maybe this is why I’m single haha.  

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that physical attraction has no place in a relationship. It’s great to recognize the sexiness of your partner, and to feel sexy yourself, and to try things and wear things and do things that help to enhance this spice. And as I said before, your mind can be quite malleable, and new things can become attractive to you. But I’m just saying that it doesn’t have to be the end all, especially if you’re looking for true love.  

Remind people what’s most important about your relationship, and make sure they know that the love that they so desperately need isn’t contingent on surface level things.