Look in the mirror. Notice that you like the way you look today. Take 10 to 50 selfies for Instagram. Look through them. Find something wrong with each one. Delete them all. Lay in bed and ponder what your face actually looks like and if your whole life is a lie. Repeat. Does this process sound familiar? We all go through this, and it can take a toll on our self-esteem. So exactly why do you look different in a selfie and in a mirror? We finally have some answers that may help us make peace with ourselves — and our selfies.
According to The Huffington Post, there are a number of reasons why what we see in the mirror is different from what we see in our front-facing camera. The good news is, it's like this for all of us: you're not alone in your selfie struggles. Take it from the hundreds of selfies in the Recently Deleted folder on my phone.
The main explanation is that what you see in the mirror isn't really what you look like. Kind of alarming, right? Canadian photographer Jay Perry explained to HuffPost that what you see in the mirror is actually the reverse of how other people see you. Whether that freaks you out or brings you some relief, the concept can take some getting used to.
You may still be wondering, "OK, but how is the reverse of my face that different?!" A lot of it is in your head, because your frame of reference for what you look like is, most likely, your mirror image. So when you see the reverse of that, differences in certain features appear more prominent. Seeing a beauty mark in a different spot can throw you off. Even less defining features can look totally different, like the way your freckles are arranged or which eyebrow is more arched.
Based on mere exposure theory, which states that "repeatedly encountering something makes us like it more," we tend to prefer the mirror image of ourself. This is how we "see" ourselves, so we get used to the idea that that is what we look like. Because we are so familiar with that mirror image, we also know how to make it work for us.
New York-based photographer Michael Levy told HuffPost, "When you’re looking in the mirror, you are subconsciously turning your face, usually, to a certain angle that to you is most optimal. It attracts you to yourself.”
Plus, it's rare that we are completely still when looking in the mirror. We're examining, washing, or grooming our face, all of which require motion. According to Perry, that motion can blur out "imperfections," and makes it difficult to focus on a single spot on our face. With a photo on our phones, we can zoom in and pick our features apart much more easily.
What about looking different in a selfie than you do in photos that other people take? Yep, that's also a thing. A number of variables can come into play here, including what kind of lens the photographer is using, and how close they are to you.
Overall, how you look in photos is a better representation of you than your mirror image, but that's a good thing. In 2013, Dove released a video called Real Beauty Sketches, in which a forensic artist drew women first according to their descriptions of themselves, and then according to descriptions of them by others. In the experiment, the women found that they were much more critical of themselves than others were of them.
So yes, you do look different in the mirror than you do in pictures, but all versions of you are beautiful. Post the selfie, queen.
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