Face Off – Self Esteem vs. Body Dysmorphia

We went to the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

One particular exhibit had a disconcerting effect on me for days.

You sit in between two mirrors and look at your self.

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One is a regular mirror and show’s you how you see yourself every day. The top photo is how I see myself.

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The other shows you what other people see every day. It shows you what you really look like.

Do you see a minute difference between the top photo and the bottom photo?

I’ve been fascinated by my own emotional reaction. Truly, it was unsettling to see my reflection differently than I do everyday.

The top photo, what I see in the mirror is more attractive to me.

My eyes are uneven in the second photo. The right eye, when looking at it, is slightly lower than the left one.

I find I hold my head slightly tilted in a way that makes my features more even. I think I also hold that eyebrow higher to make the eyes look more symmetrical. I compensate for the flaw I’ve really only noticed once in a photo when I was pregnant with Zack.

Since you are other people and it’s not your face I really have no clue how you are perceiving the attractiveness of the two photos or whether you see the unevenness of my eyes at all. For all I know, everyone who sees me, may choose to make the same correction that I do for myself.

It strikes me as a kindness to myself that my subconscious mind chooses to correct my minor flaw so that I not only feel more attractive, but literally see myself as more attractive.

It also strikes me that people who suffer from eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia or the emotional disorder of body dysmorphia for some reason they aren’t subconsciously fixing their features in their minds.

They are not only seeing their minor flaw – they are focusing on it and magnifying it.

Its also likely they are expecting the outside world, other people, to treat them the way they treat themselves. Did you see how I assumed that others would treat me with the same kindness as I show myself and that others would correct or overlook the minor flaw in their own perceptions, rather than focus on it and magnify it? This assumption is likely a result of my habit of doing such a kindness for myself and for others.

Were I unkind to myself, and if I made a habit of focusing on the minor flaws of other people, I would likely assume that others were also doing so to me.

That’s my theory anyway, based on everything I’ve read about self-esteem, self-worth, and eating disorders and related emotional disorders.

It follows then that maybe we can teach our daughters to serve their own mental health and self-esteem.

Cutting ourselves, our daughters and others some slack for our minor physical flaws teaches, by example, our daughters this emotional skill vital to their self-preservation.

Treating ourselves, our daughters, and others – especially other girls and women – with kindness is also a teachable habit.

Self-love and self-acceptance is a skill. One we learn and one we can teach.

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