On Self-Perception or The Lies in the Mirror

I read a post today at August McLaughlin’s blog today that got me to thinking about how we see ourselves. In particular, it was the video she shared out that struck me deeply and reduced me to tears at my job. Take a second and watch it if you haven’t already.

The thing that really hit home for me was the fact that in every case, the self-described portrait is so unflattering, yet each portrait as described by the other person was so beautiful.

Why do we judge ourselves so harshly?

That question is much bigger than me alone, however, I absolutely do the same thing. Over the years, I’ve been told I resemble these gorgeous women:

Winona Ryder

Winona Ryder



Lisbeth Salander

However, when I look in the mirror this is what I see:

face front

what I see

Also what I see


I don’t say that to be funny. I’m quite serious. I see myself as having a very long, horsey face. My teeth are too big for my jaw (quite literally, I had to have permanent teeth removed in order to make room). My eyes are little too small, my forehead too big.

I honestly don’t see what other people see.

The why for me goes back to my mother. I have an older sister who is three years my senior. Growing up, we passed for twins. Again, I’m not making a joke. We’d pretend to be each other and universally fooled our friends. The only difference between us was that my eyes are lighter than hers, however, my mother made it very clear that my sister was the “pretty” one and I was the smart one.

This shaped my perception of myself that I fight to this day.

My body image is just as bad. I’m 5’3″ and fluctuate between 120 and 130 lbs, but every time I look in the mirror I see someone completely out of shape and frankly, ugly. I see short and boyish, flat-chested with an ass that needs its own zip code.

No matter how much I try, I don’t see anything good in the mirror.

Objectively, I understand that I’m reasonably attractive. Objectively, I can even say that I love my eyes (they’re hazel) and my lips (nicely shaped and full), but the rest I see nothing redeeming about.

As I get older, I’m slowly learning to accept myself more readily. To even appreciate how I’m shaped and how I look. But it remains a hard thing to do and accepting myself is not the same thing as celebrating myself.

Were I in that video, I would have been just like those women. I would have been worse.

6 thoughts on “On Self-Perception or The Lies in the Mirror

  1. I’ve seen that video a few times recently, and I’m starting to think that our inability to see the good in ourselves (or maybe our tendency to see the worst) might even be innate. I don’t know anyone who is perfectly happy with they way they look. If I’d been in that video, I’d be right next to you, describing my own flaws. Both my body and my perception of it have changed over the years…let’s face it – nature takes its toll and so do medical issues. I think at this stage in the game I’d settle for acceptance of reality…the celebration of it seems a little too far off!

    • I hear you on that, but I think this is a nature/nurture argument. If we were never exposed to negativity surrounding our appearance we’d have no reason to feel that way, so I don’t think it’s innate.

  2. Celebrity Sarah Jessica Parker is often maligned for horse-face. Objectively, her face may be reasonably compared to a horse. Given her overall features compared to yours, and the celebrities to whom you compare yourself, I can assert with confidence that you do not have horse-face. Should you require further proof, I can describe how one of my favorite actresses, Ms. Ryder, is ugly.

    Also, there’s a good parody of the Dove commercial done with men. You should watch that.

  3. Indeed, if one judges themselves too harshly, they will eventually believe every negative comment from their surrounding and ignore any positive ones.

    This post of yours reminded me of another youtube video (I looked it up again and linked it). It deals with quite the opposite of the video above: celebrities react to mean comments about themselves. Keeping that horse & teeth theme in mind (in an unserious way), you may find the part after minute 1:07 particularly interesting. 😉

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