You know what? You look lovely. No, I’m not just saying that. I really mean it. You have a nice smile and your hair looks great and your outfit is fantastic. Oh, you want to see the picture I just took of you to see if I’m right? And now you want me to take another one, because despite what I said, you don’t believe you look good enough?
I get it: We are our own worst critics. Whether it’s in a mirror on in a photograph, we see flaws in ourselves that are often (even usually) undetectable by others. And, of course, when something as permanent as a picture is involved, we want to make sure we look our best. After all, that image is probably gonna go on the internet and be around for the rest of time.
The thing is, we are generally pretty terrible at judging how we look.
This past Saturday, I had the privilege of volunteering for a fancy gala for young professionals. I helped out in the photo booth, which is to say I snapped pictures of people wearing nice suits and beautiful dresses, often wearing silly props. Everyone seemed to be having a great time – the drinks were flowing, the food was delicious, and the music kept the joint jumping. But I noticed a trend: A lot of the guests whose pictures I took needed to see their photos before I printed them.
I get it – I truly do. A friend took a few shots of me slow dancing with another friend, eighth grade style, and I asked her to delete one of them because I was sticking my butt out and it was super unflattering. I mean, my butt was sticking out of that picture like giant presidential rock faces sticking out of Mount Rushmore!
But the pictures I was taking in the photo booth were great. Really! I tried to make sure everyone was smiling and no one had their eyes closed or was making a weird face. The awesome photographer who had set up the booth did an incredible job with the lighting, so it was very flattering on everyone.
People (women especially, I’m sure you’re not shocked to hear) doubted me, though. They needed to check to make sure they looked okay, good, “perfect.” I get it – I want to see pictures of myself, too, to make sure I approve of how I look in them.
Here’s the thing, though: You (and I) are often a lousy judge of what’s best. You’re lovely, your smile is fantastic, and you look like you’re having a great time. More often than not, I caught you in a moment of fun, happiness, laughter, that makes you look wonderful. You hate your double chin and your arms look fat and your pose is unflattering? The rest of us saw you and your friends having a blast, and that makes you look great.
When I look in a mirror, I see things that no one else sees, and a lot of them are negative. I’m gonna go out on a limb and bet you’re the same. And the flip side is true: When others look at us (whether in person or in a photograph), they see things that we don’t see… but most of them are positive.
So I wonder: How do we start seeing ourselves through the eyes of others? How do we start seeing ourselves as beautiful and lovely and handsome, instead of a collection of parts that sometimes maybe looks good in a perfectly staged selfie in the right light at just the right angle?
I hope you can start by believing me when I tell you how completely awesome you looked that night – and there are pictures to prove it!