I’ve been thinking about this ever since the actual conversation that spurred this most recent Friday’s Tales from the Café. It was a bit of a throw-away line from me at the time, but it’s stuck with me in the back of my head for probably a few months now.
We don’t see the same thing in the mirror as what the world sees. So maybe that’s why so many people dislike how they look in photographs.
I’ve never tried to hide the fact that I have serious body image issues. I hate the way I look, and I have for years now. I struggle with weight loss, and the occasional dysmorphia that occurs from my gender identity doesn’t help matters. I don’t look like I do in my head, and I never have. I may never look like that; I’m not sure it’s possible.
I also have struggled–and still do to some extent–with the way I sound. My voice in my head is significantly higher than what other people hear, or what comes back on a recording. Editing my videos is always interesting in that regard; though I’m listening to my own voice, it doesn’t sound like me–at least, not what I think “me” sounds like.
It’s odd, since as a writer we talk about characters reflecting on their appearance all the time. Characters hate the way they look, they think they look plain, they don’t think they’re attractive enough to appeal to their romantic interest. Of course, those around them see something else–but we never talk about why. It’s always a glazed over “I can see the real you, I see beneath the outside, beauty is on the inside,” blah blah blah. But literally, they see the us we cannot see. (At least not without a flipped camera, or a special mirror.)
Now, I’m not trying to condone self-hatred in terms of the way you look. But genuinely when people say they don’t like the way they look, and you (the collective you) say “oh but you look amazing, what do you mean, you can’t see yourself the way I do”–that is literally true, but it also goes the other way. You can’t see them the way they see themselves. In most cases, there is always going to be a disconnect between the person you see, and the person they see. It’s important in our day to day lives, it’s important in our writing, and it’s important in our own minds.
When someone says you look beautiful/handsome/etc, thank them. That is how they see you. You may not agree, but you are not seeing the same thing they are.
When someone has trouble accepting a compliment, let them. It’s difficult to separate what we see from what is around us. We can only see ourselves flipped, backward from the rest of the world.
Weird to think about.