Yesterday, while reading Alain de Botton’s Art as Therapy, I realized that I had overlooked an important aspect of why we choose and seek beauty in my post on ugliness and prettiness.

“Since art has this ability to help us understand ourselves, and then to communicate who we are to others, we tend to care a lot about which works of art we place around us. […] We’re trying to let others know about our characters in a way that words might not permit,” de Botton writes.

This is as true for paintings and posters as it is for the garden gnome we place amongst the blueberry bushes. It’s as valid for tattoos as it is for the wallpaper we apply in our homes and to our desktop screens. It’s as evident in the magnets in high school lockers as it is in the bumper stickers on the car in front of you on the highway. It’s as reflected by the ring on your finger as it is by the shirt on your back.

Somewhere deep in us, we believe that things serve as silent ambassadors for us. The things we keep around our homes and offices, and the things we wear are symbols for us—and to us.

I once was telling a friend why fashion doesn’t excite me much. He replied, “Saying that clothes are ‘just fabric’ is like saying words are just sounds and design is just shapes.”