Various studies have shown that few people see themselves as others see them. We tend to either overrate or underrate our attractiveness compared to others’ collective rating of us.
How is it that you can look in the mirror and say, “Looking good!” and others think you need help. I’ve recently decided our self-view is anything but reliable. A date snapped a pic of me in what I thought was a cute, flattering outfit. The pic he sent me didn’t reflect what I thought was my cuteness. “Maybe it was the angle or lighting,” I told myself. Maybe not.
Recently, I’ve been going through a crisis about my appearance. A few months ago, I had my professional portrait taken at a hefty expense. I liked the pics, as did many colleagues, friends and clients. People commented on how much they liked my hair, which, after decades of struggle, I’ve finally decided I like long and straight, but with a curl on the end. I’ve even had strangers stop me to tell me how beautiful my hair is. “Aha,” I thought, “I finally have a style that works!”
Then a few months ago, a dear friend said, “I’d love to see what they’d do for you on one of those make-over shows.” “What????!!!” I inwardly screamed. “She thinks I need a make over?” She added, “I’d love to see what they’d do with your hair so it is more flattering and less Morticia-like.”
Then I sent some recent video footage to my video producer. He liked the content, but said, “You need a new hair style. It looks outdated and matronly.” He even put his wife, a former hair stylist and makeup artist, on the phone to explain to me what she thought was the problem and how it could be fixed.
I worked to listen to each of these advisors, as I know they have my best interest at heart. They were not trying to be mean or hurtful. So I listened with that orientation.
The final straw came when I was having my hair and makeup done by a stylist at a talk I was giving. He didn’t know me, but I wanted an unbiased opinion. I told him what my video producer and friend had said, and he agreed that my hair could be more flattering.
While I generally believe in trusting one’s instincts and being true to yourself, sometimes you don’t do yourself any favors by insisting on sticking to something that you like but isn’t serving you well. So while I’ve gotten lots of compliments — something that didn’t happen until recently — I’ve decided to go for a change. I have an appointment with the hair stylist my image consultant recommended. I have my fingers crossed that she’ll do her magic.
The lesson for me is that I don’t think I have a good lens to see myself as others do. And I doubt many of us do.
Have you had trusted friends or advisers give you feedback that is counter to your own perception? If enough of them do, then put your own aside and take theirs. Our lens is skewed.
Get other ideas on how to make sure you’re putting your best self forward in Assessing Your Assets: Why You’re A Great Catch