Chances are you’re at your best when you’re not thinking about yourself.
Just about every guy has an embarrassing story about the time (likely in their early teens) when they tried to impress a girl they liked. Noticing her in the audience you tried to win her affection by skating the puck from end to end and scoring the winning goal, only to realize you’d shot the puck into your own net. I’m pretty sure my first stories of this nature include falling ungracefully off of my unicycle (yes, I was that cool).
The reason that posed photos so often fail to capture the essence of a person is that the person tries to be themselves, and it comes looking a bit fake. The problem is just that, they’re trying.
The new Dove Real Beauty Sketches touch on the difference between how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. Although I’m not convinced that I could give a verbal description of myself that would help any artist sketch my face, I think we can all relate to the point it illustrates.
Watch below (or here):
It seems we’re at our most beautiful – our very best – when we’re focused on the task at hand, or the person in front of us. Once our eyes turn to ourselves, the magic fades, our eyes dim.
Tolstoy describes it in War & Peace, when Princess Mary starts reading a note from her close friend, Julie:
Having read thus far, Princess Mary sighed and glanced into the mirror which stood on her right. It reflected a weak, ungraceful figure and thin face. Her eyes, always sad, now looked with particular hopelessness at her reflection in the glass. “She flatters me,” thought the princess, turning away and continuing to read. But Julie did not flatter her friend, the princess’ eyes – large, deep and luminous (it seemed as if at times there radiated from them shafts of warm light) – were so beautiful that very often in spite of the plainness of her face they gave her an attraction more powerful than that of beauty. But the princess never saw the beautiful expression of her own eyes – the look they had when she was not thinking of herself. As with everyone, her face assumed a forced unnatural expression as soon as she looked in a glass. She went on reading…
This is why we need to trust the encouragement of the people close to us, to remind us that we’re more than the reflection of ourselves we see.
The next time you catch yourself being amazing or beautiful, take note about where your attention is being directed. Wait, don’t take note! Ignore that reflection in the mirror, and keeping pedalling your ridiculous one-wheeled contraption. She’ll be more impressed when you’re not trying to impress her anyway.