One of the most successful, influential and beloved women in American history, Eleanor Roosevelt once said that she had one regret: she wished she had been prettier. Who hasn’t felt the same way? We are all too aware of our physical imperfections. To overcome them, we spend billions upon billions of dollars every year on cosmetics, diet products, fashion, and plastic surgery.

Why do we care so much about how we look? Because it matters. Because beauty is powerful. Because even when we learn to value people mostly for being kind and wise and funny, we are still moved by beauty. No matter how much we argue against it or pretend to be immune, beauty exerts its power over us. There is simply no escape.

Aristotle said, “Beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of introduction.” It’s not fair, but it’s true. We simply treat beautiful people better than we do others. Attach a photograph of a beautiful author to an essay, and people will think that is more creative and more intelligently written than exactly the same essay accompanied by the photo of a homely author.

Our sensitivity to physical beauty is not something we can control at will. We are born with it. Experiments conducted by psychologist Judith J. Langlois showed that even small infants prefer to look at attractive faces. Before they have met a single supermodel, before they have watched a single TV show, before they have opened up a single fashion magazine, they are drawn to the same faces which adults have judged to be attractive.

There are more important things in life than beauty. But as Etcoff says, “We have to understand beauty, or we will always be enslaved by it.” If you aim to be wise and kind and funny, it doesn’t mean that you can’t also try your best to look beautiful. There’s no reason to feel guilty about being moved by beauty’s power. It moves us all.