There are days where you look in the mirror, and clearly something is wrong. Maybe your hair won’t cooperate that day. Perhaps your lack of sleep is showing itself under your eyes. Whatever it is, you just don’t feel like you look your best.
On those days, it can feel like everyone is going to look at you and see only the flaws. You feel like you're just one big walking mop of hair or a great big bag under your eyes. That can make you quite self-conscious. You may find yourself watching other people for signs that they can see how awful you look. And that can affect your whole outlook. It is amazing how much stress you build up on those days.
And, of course, it can become self-fulfilling. When you feel bad about the way you look, you carry yourself differently. You slump a bit. You smile less. And eventually, people start wondering what is wrong. That just confirms that the world is focusing on the flaw you saw that morning in the mirror.
The thing is, most of the flaws that you notice will actually be missed by just about everyone who sees you. There is a great study by Tom Gilovich at Cornell and his colleagues that shows what I mean.
They had college students put on a shirt with a picture of Barry Manilow on it. Nothing against Barry Manilow, but he is not a favorite of most college students, and they felt quite self-conscious wearing the shirt. After putting on the shirt, they were instructed to go up the hallway and into a room where they would participate in a study. When they got to the room, there were 10 people sitting around a table filling out a survey. The experimenter in that room told the student that they had come too early, and they should wait in the hallway.
At that point, the student was told that there were 10 people in the room they had just entered. They asked the student how many people noticed the shirt. The students wearing the shirt thought that just about everyone in the room noticed. They also asked the people in the room what the student who walked in was wearing. In actuality, almost nobody noticed.
When you are uncomfortable about your appearance, you think that the flaw is waving a big sign that says “Look at me.” In reality, when people see you, they take in the whole person. Whatever flaw you noticed is just one small part of you. It is much less noticeable than you think it is.
On those days, you need to learn to see yourself the way others will see you. Walk away from the mirror. Remember that when you see other people, they are looking at you as a person. They see your face, hair and clothes. They also notice your posture and the way you talk. One small blemish will not ruin that entire appearance.
To prove this to yourself, take a picture of yourself in a mirror on a day when you are not completely happy with your appearance. Take some pictures on days when you feel more like yourself as well. Print them all out and put them away for a few weeks. Mark your calendar for a day the next month and then pull out the pictures again. Look them over. Can you remember which one you took on a day when you didn’t feel like you looked your best? Chances are, it will be hard to separate the “good” pictures from the “bad.”
So, remember, when people see you, they see all of you and not just the parts that you are concerned about. When you carry yourself beautifully, you will look beautiful to everyone.
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