Why We Hate Seeing Photos of Ourselves

If you’re human then you’ve probably looked at a portrait of yourself at some point and been dissatisfied for one specific reason or another. Most of the time, though, it just comes down to an unexplainable “I don’t like it” or “I never look good in pictures” or, in extreme cases, a sound effect similar to gagging. But according to this short TED audition, the problem isn’t with your expression or your looks, it’s in your head.

The issue is that we’ve grown up seeing ourselves as nobody else has, in a mirror. Because of this our image of ourselves, the one that we’re used to (even if we don’t like it), is actually a mirror image of what everybody else sees and what a camera captures. The idea is that, when we look at a picture of ourselves, we pick up on the million little asymmetries that don’t match up with what our brain wants to see, so we dislike the image.

Admittedly the talk, being an audition, is painfully short and doesn’t go into detail on things like emotional lateralization (we tend to show emotion more on the right side of our faces) and left gaze bias (we consistently look more at the right side of people’s faces when we speak to them, shifting our focus to our left), both of which are worth looking into if the subject fascinates you.

Of course, the simpler option is to take a photo you don’t like of yourself and flip it on your computer. Chances are the outcome will look a lot more pleasing to you. The only downside? That picture will look as much better to you as it does worse to everyone else that knows you.

(via Reddit)