face paintSo I did it—just couldn’t help it!—I judged a book by its cover and title and nothing else.

An ad in a magazine caught my eye. The cover was a bold splash of color, which on closer inspection turned out to be face paint on a face. The title was Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal. I was intrigued.

My local bookstore didn’t have it in stock, but I found it at the bookstore across town. After the briefest of flips through the pages, I bought it.

As it turns out, Perfect Me is a scholarly work by British philosopher Heather Widdows. The style is so scholarly, in fact, that I remain pleasantly astonished that it was in stock at a bookstore not attached to a university. The work is about the judging of people, including others and oneself, by how well they conform to modern—and, Widdows argues, increasingly global—beauty ideals. She argues that we should not judge people for either conforming to norms or not conforming to norms:

“Women recognize the extreme costs of rejecting all beauty norms,” she writes, pointing out that adhering to beauty standards can offer real benefits, from career and social successes to the joys of self-improvement and communal bonding. On the other hand, not adhering to beauty standards can save significant time, money, and effort; be better for one’s health; and promote more positive societal values.

Do you sometimes find yourself, despite yourself, judging others or yourself (or books!) superficially?