mirror mirror

When we look in the mirror, are we seeing relatively the same image as others see us? Before you discount this question as dumb let me state why I asked it and let me state up front that I am not talking about anyone’s God given physical features, which we have for the most part, no control over.

I see people all the time that make me wonder…what that person might have been thinking when he/she looked in the mirror that morning? Just today I saw a conservatively dressed, middle-aged lady who obviously dyes her hair, and that’s ok…but this ladies’ hair was coal black…almost blue-black…I have never seen anything in nature that resembles the color of her hair. Otherwise she was a nice looking lady from my point of view anyway.
I wondered if maybe she sees her hair in the mirror as a natural looking dark color for some reason.

I could name other examples and I am not trying to insult or degrade anyone’s natural features or looks. It just that sometimes I just don’t get it.

“I think it speaks to the duality of man sir.”
(private Joker in Full Metal Jacket)

Have you ever looked back at old pictures of yourself, like from high school, only to think “Good God, did I think my hair looked nice like that?”
Maybe that woman with the blue-black hair will think that one day. Or, maybe she was a Goth. Or, even more unbelievably, maybe she might like the way she looks, and not care if you don’t.

No, I don’t think we do.

It would seem to me that our personal perceptions about ourselves play a large part in what we “see”. This is hard to explain, but I’ll try - I have a coworker who looks in the mirror each morning, puts on her makeup, and says to herself “I look good - this is how I want to present myself to the world”. When I look at her, I get the uneasy feeling that the Maybelline factory may have thrown up on her. I see “help me I don’t know anything about makeup” and she sees “I feel pretty, oh so pretty”.

Does this make any sense at all?

I think its kind of like when you see someone you haven’t seen in a long time - you don’t realize just how different (looking) they’ve become due to that distance between you. When you live with you (umm - yea, that’ll work) you’re with you all the time and I don’t think you can distinguish those things as easily.

Hope that made SOME sense…I’ll go shut up now.

well put both missy and blue. Yes I have looked at an old yearbook and almost threw up…but what ever the weird style I had then the fact is… that almost everyone looked kinda alike.

BTW Another phenomenon are those HUGE assed plastic frame glasses that older people wear. They set on their noses and cover half their foreheads and cheekbones. In this day and age of high strength lightweight materials what is up with those things?

“I think it speaks to the duality of man sir.”
(private Joker in Full Metal Jacket)

Ever look at a high school yearbook from 1974 and notice that their only seemed to be one kind of dress at that time? I’ve seen group photos, like choirs or clubs, from that time, and every girl always has on the same dress. Different colors, patterns, and fabrics, but the identical cut (sort of an A-line) the same neckline and the same length. One of these photos had all the girls standing in a line, and all the hems matched up evenly.

My middle school music teacher said, in 1982, that ten years earlier, in the era of long straight hair and the aforementioned dresses, that if she stood back farther than the tenth row, she couldn’t tell one girl from another. She said she thought it was ironic that the generation that wanted to be “free” made themselves identical. At least my generation allowed themselves some margin for expression.

Remember, I’m pulling for you; we’re all in this together.
—Red Green

Just an observation, but some of the yearbook thing may have been dictated. In my sister’s class there was a dress code for pictures: black sweater or plain top, pearls if they really felt giddy.

I forget the term for it, but there’s something that describes seeing what you expect to see. Beyond the obvious cliche, there’s a psych term of something for seeing not the actuality in front of you but the picture your imagination has already projected.

Maybe that’s part of what’s happening. The lady in the mirror honestly doesn’t see the shoe-polish black hair; she sees the natural dark hair she once had, or an image of what she wanted it to be.

That is just soooo heavy and insightful. Sigh. Don’t throw things, I’m going away now…


Have you ever noticed how different you look in the mirror as compared to on film. I think that we kind of see what we want to seewhen we look in the mirror. Whereas we associate a video or a picture with a different person. Maybe that makes sense… probably not. It looks good while I’m writing it, but I’ll probably think it’s the stupidest thing ever when it’s actually up.

All I know is, I prefer myself when I look in the mirror without my glasses, because the blurred edges make me look like I’m some damned good-looking dude. But with them on, I look like a geeky balding ordinary weird person.


The Legend Of PigeonMan

  • Shadow of the Pigeon -
    Weirdo of the Night

It doesn’t sound stupid, but the reason you look different on video or film or in a photo is two-fold; the lighting determines much of how you look, and the images are flat.

Remember, I’m pulling for you; we’re all in this together.
—Red Green

Responses to the OP seem to be going in the direction of “Do I think I look good” vs “Do others think I look good”, in regard to hair, makeup, etc. With nods to comments already made (all legit), I’m going back to the original question, which was, “When we look in the mirror, are we seeing relatively the same image as other see us?” I take this query to be directed more at the concept of “self-perception” specifically, not just poor taste or poorly developed fashion sense. In that vein, I speculate that at least sometimes, the answer is definitely NO! Consider the anorexic who is down to eighty pounds and keeps seeing a pot belly or a big butt. The temptation is to roll ones eyes and think, “Come on!”, but there is something more legitimate in that perception than mere attention-seeking. I have never been in that situation, but I have experienced what would pass for a parallel for the sake of this question. My own weight has fluctuated over a forty pound range during my adult life, but has never been truly extreme in either direction. My lowest weight was about 100 pounds, which is too low for 5’6" and a generally sturdy and curvy body type (I’m no bony waif). I reached that weight (not on purpose or by dieting, it just happened) during a very, very unhappy time in my life. During that time I can remember looking in the mirror and bursting into tears many times over what APPEARED to me to be genuinely huge hips and giant thighs. (“It would be better if it weren’t for those horrible…”) Every time I inspected my image I really did perceive those “faults” to be there. I can look at pictures of me taken then and see that it was not true at all - I was quite thin and my hips/thighs were practically striaght up and down. Yet I wasn’t trying to be Twiggy back then; it really did seem to me as though the image I saw was fatter than “average”. Conversely, I eventually gained some weight back at the same time I began to regain some semblance of sanity and happiness in my life, and instead of thinking, “Oh my god, I’m getting fatter!”, as you might expect, I started to look more normal to myself, and those previous distorted perceptions diminished and disappeared. My point is, I don’t think this is an uncommon “syndrome”, and I know for sure that other factors in one’s mental state certainly affect the process of self-perception, be it for better or worse. I’m not talking about the intangible concept of “self-esteem” (though it’s certainly related), but of the very real image of the pysical self looking back at you from the mirror. No, what you see is not always what others see. Sometimes it is an optical illusion, a trick being played on you by your own mind. Just like an optical illusion on paper produced by lines and space can fool you into seeing something that isn’t there, so can an optical illusion on glass produced by reflection and the mind’s interpretation fool you into seeing something that isn’t there.

The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go.

There is an exhibit of mirrors at Liberty Science Center in New Jersey, one of them is called “The True Mirror”. It reflects a reflection back at you, so you are seeing yourself, not backwards as in a regular mirror, but the way everyone else sees you everyday. I must say it was a bit strange to se myself like that. My earrings seemed misplaced, I just seemed different. Kinda neat. So, nope, you see yourself differently than everyone else does. Eternally backwards.

If A equals success, then the formula is: A = X + Y + Z, X is work. Y is play. Z is keep your mouth shut.
-Albert Einstein

There was a book I read once - I believe it was “Fletch Reflected” by Gregory McDonald. In it, one of the characters has built an empire and made a fortune based on his invention of a “true” mirror like you describe - it made standard “old-fashioned” mirrors obsolete.

The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go.