Beauty is on the inside. Bullshit. Beauty is not only on the outside, agreed, but it is not only on the inside either.
Very few will dispute what I just said, but the truth is that most of us have been conditioned since we were kids into thinking that substance is way more important than form. We´ve suffered a constant bombardment from parents, educators, our social environment and Disney. We´ve developed a set of values that trigger inadequate responses in our adulthood. Some weeks ago a friend of mine was struggling because he was about to end a relationship with a girl. He just didn´t like her, but she was a great girl. He was consumed by guilt. I´m sure you can relate to that. The concepts of vanity, ostentation, narcissism, superficiality are deeply rooted as detestable (and we can all come up with some role models that are, indeed, despicable). But we have a hard time drawing the line where rightful attention to aesthetics become, indeed, vanity. And we tend to be biased.
This bias may be due to the fact that our education happens during ages in which we are not mature enough to have proper perspective, and our young brains tend to be inclined for sensory stimuli rather than thoughtful consideration. Adults may feel then the need to counter balance those instincts of youth with lopsided messages, disregarding form for substance. The outcome is the “beauty is on the inside” thing, which results in denying truths that will result in guilt and fear and other disorders.
Form and substance are indivisible components. But we are obsessed in decomposing them in order to make a judgement. My rule of thumb: both of them are equally important. If you produce a presentation full of interesting insights but is hard to follow, that is not a good product. If fonts are inconsistent, that is not a good product, no matter how useful the content is. I don´t feel guilty for judging people for how they dress. Don´t take it on the negative side, I don´t feel guilty when I admire you for how you dress either.
Developing a set of aesthetic principles is just as important as developing a set of core values. Take a moment and feel how wrong that statement feels to you.
When developing those aesthetic principles, it is hard to find absolute truth, same way as you can always find counter examples for any core value, therefore this a very personal exercise. But one thing can be said, though, form is more powerful when it is aligned with substance. iPhones were developed with a foundational premise: convenience and ease of use. The fact that they were physically designed to minimize the number of buttons adds up to creating something that works. If you value introspection and having a low profile, dressing like Dani Alves is going to be weird (honestly, dressing like Alves is going to be weird in any case). The point is: your looks deliver a message, make sure they deliver your message, and not someone else´s. Likewise, make sure the way your house looks, your work looks, is aligned with what you want to be or say, and never disregard it because beauty is on the inside.
I leave you for now, I have an appointment with my hairdresser. Cheers!