Talking about appearance is a touchy subject.

No one wants to be judged solely by the way they look, nor should they. Attractiveness is defined by many things that go beyond the superficial. That being said, there are certain things about appearance that are quite important.

No matter how shallow it sounds, looks do matter, but not in the way you may be thinking. No one is suggesting that you need to be a Size 2 or have biceps like the Hulk. And even if you are nearly the perfect physical specimen, there are a number of less obvious things that can take your attractiveness quotient down several notches.

So why is it that looks matter? There are four primary reasons.

1. Sexual Attraction

Being attracted to someone sexually happens for a variety of reasons. It’s not only about the way they look. But there is no getting around the fact that sexual interest starts with finding someone attractive physically. This is only slightly truer for men than for women — women are drawn to attractive men as much as men are drawn to attractive women.

As mentioned, finding someone physically attractive isn’t the only reason for sexual interest. Most people will (or should) look beyond that when deciding to initiate a sexual relationship. But the initial attraction to another person based on their appearance can’t be denied.

This is true through all stages of a relationship and not just at the beginning. Many people start to become less concerned about their appearance as a relationship matures. While it’s great to feel comfortable around your partner and like you don’t always need to look like you are headed to a black tie event, looking sloppy and letting yourself go isn’t a good idea either. Changes in bodies as they age, or due to pregnancy or illness, happen — there is no avoiding that, and two people in love should be willing to embrace each other’s changes. But that doesn’t mean that taking care of yourself physically and from a grooming stand point can go by the wayside.

2. Appearance is an indication of self-respect

How you look says a lot about who you are and how you feel about yourself. Staying physically fit, being well-groomed, and dressing appropriately are indications that you respect and feel good about yourself, and want to present yourself in the best way. Of course, these aren’t the only measures of self-respect. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who fail to recognize that their behaviors and choices must go hand-in-hand with the image they are trying to project. Otherwise it’s all window dressing.

3. Health

There is no disputing that exercise is good for your health. Most of us, however, if we are being honest, want not only to be healthy, but to look fit and attractive. The upside is that these two things go hand-in-hand. A person’s concern for their physical shape and appearance has a positive impact on their health — when being addressed through exercise. People who workout, and therefore look like they workout, are typically healthier overall than those who look like they sit on a couch.

So whether it’s vanity, a direct concern for your health and stress levels, or a combination of both, staying physically fit is a wise choice.

4. Your Own Self-Esteem

It is almost always true that when you feel like you look good, you feel better about yourself. We stand a little taller when we feel like we are the most attractive version of ourselves. This doesn’t mean that we are striving to look like Ken or Barbie, but it does mean that we are doing the best for ourselves by way of grooming and staying physically healthy. One of the best ways to boost your own self-esteem is to feel like you are taking care of yourself in a positive way and that it shows.

Admitting that looks matter can make many people feel uncomfortable. It may seem a little archaic and a bit narcissistic to focus on anything as superficial as physical appearance. And if that were your ONLY concern, it would be.

But appearance can indicate a lot about someone — do they take care of themselves, are they likely to be healthy, and do they seem to have self-confidence and self-respect? Just remember that old saying about books and their covers. While appearance can tell us certain things, it doesn’t tell us everything. But looks are often a pretty good clue.