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Mirror, mirror on the wall

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Are we attractive? The way we see ourselves and others depends on our perspective – and our intention.

We often don’t see ourselves as worthy or as beautiful or as strong as we actually are. To experience oneself as worthy of happiness is to have a healthy level of self esteem.

When it comes to body image, females are most likely to perceive of their looks as not quite good enough, even inferior. According to a study conducted by Dove (the people who make Dove soap and related products) six out of 10 girls avoid activities because they don’t like how they look.

Moving up to women, Dove conducted an experiment where a group of women were in a room together for a time and asked just to socialize and get to know each other. They were then, one by one, asked to sit behind a curtain and answer questions about how their face looks while a police artist tried to draw them from the descriptions they gave.

Another person from the group then sat behind the curtain and answered the same questions about the lady who just left; the artist drew a second picture based on the new answers. The one who was drawn was then shown the two pictures. It was disturbingly consistent and sad to note that the woman described herself as much less attractive than others saw her.

Dustin Hoffman, star of the movie Tootsie, spent over a year with makeup specialists to see if they could make him look like a realistic female. Hoffman didn’t want to do the movie unless that basic test could be a success. Once they had that foundation up to his satisfaction, he then asked them to make him a more beautiful woman. They told him, “No, you’ve got all we can do for you.”

Hoffman was devastated and expressed remorse about how he had missed out on knowing so many beautiful human beings because he had labelled them as not physically beautiful enough. He experienced low self esteem when he looked at Tootsie in the mirror and that was a humbling and extremely valuable experience for him.

What we see in the mirror is tainted by what we see in our head. What we look for, we find, including a tiny pimple or a scratch or some kind of asymmetry. We don’t usually smile at ourselves in the mirror, and wouldn’t that colour our opinion of our looks?

There it is. It is my opinion of my looks that tells the lie. When you see me, if you choose to esteem me, you will see beauty. If you decide I am ugly, then I am ugly and you can point to many things to substantiate your claim. Me too, toward you. Both of us, toward ourselves.

Recall those complex pictures with hundreds of cartoon people where you are invited to find Waldo. I don’t have a chance unless I know something about what Waldo looks like. But if I have that image in my head, I’ll find him, even though he is buried in the throng.

If I have an image of ugly in my head and I go looking for it in the mirror, guess what? I’ll find some of it. This has to do with intention. If I intend to find ugly, it’s easy to find. If my intention is to live a happy life and at least allow myself to look attractive, that too is as easy to find.

What is your intention? When you look at yourself? When you look at me? Just curious.


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