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You’re Twenty Percent More Beautiful Than You Think

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Standing front of the mirror each morning is a ritual for most women, but not always a positive one. What do we do during those few minutes as we brush our teeth, apply makeup or comb our hair? We look for flaws. We judge our features and body critically. We scold ourselves for having the extra helping, not moisturizing, or getting too much sun when we were kids. But what if I told you that you’re actually twenty percent more beautiful than the reflection you see each morning?

It’s true. I and my colleague, longtime friend and co-author of The Beauty Prescription, Debra Luftman, MD, have found that based on clinical research and our observations in our practices (I’m a psychiatrist, she’s a dermatologist), the average woman underrates her own beauty by about twenty percent versus how other people see her.

How is this possible? Because when you look at your own reflection, you’re doing two key things. First, you’re negatively judging yourself. We don’t care about what’s right with our faces and bodies, only what we need to fix. Second, because you’re not engaged with another person, you don’t see your personality, wit, confidence, playfulness, compassion…any of the qualities that make you more than the sum of your physical parts. For every woman, our beauty is a blend of physical attributes and “Inner Beauty,” those intangible qualities that attract others. Only when you take Inner Beauty into account can you assess how beautiful you truly are, and most of us don’t do it.

So the next time you’re standing in front of the mirror and you’re tempted to criticize your appearance, remember that you are more than your appearance. Try to see yourself as others might see you, taking all your best attributes into account. Ask yourself, “Why do other people tell me I’m beautiful? Are they lying, or do they really see something I don’t?” You already know the answer. Admitting it will transform how you see yourself.

Eva Ritvo, MD, is Associate Professor and Vice Chairman at the Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Mount Sinai Medical Center. She is co-author of The Beauty Prescription (Contemporary, 2008)

Add a Comment4 Comments

What a great article!! I think we all need to read this every single day. A very dear friend of mine once gave me a list of my positive attributes (things I never, ever saw in myself, but that she saw in me), and she told me to tape it to my mirror and read it each morning. That was nearly two years ago, and I still have that listed taped up, and I still have a hard time believing everything on that list! I do try, though, and it has helped me immensely on my journey towards reclaiming my self-esteem that I'd lost over a period of many years. I like the thought that we're all 20% more beautiful than we realize. I'm going to pass this on to my teenage daughter who lately I think has started looking at herself with the eyes of a critic.

August 10, 2009 - 3:29pm
(reply to Kristin Davis)

Now, if your teenage daughter's friends would also buy into this concept, your daughter would have less of a struggle with her perceived image! But, we women still, no matter what, are constantly trying to compare ourselves to either our younger, slimmer, less "aged" selves - or, worse, to someone else.

Kristin, you're gorgeous, anyway!

August 10, 2009 - 4:20pm
(reply to alysiak)

Thank you so much for the sweet compliment!!!! :)

It's funny...I was on a plane yesterday and was sitting next to a man whose 21-year-old son had interned for Hillary Clinton while she was on the campaign trail. A proud father, he showed me a photo of his son with HIllary. I commented how cute his son was, and he told me that whenever he shows this photo to women, they most often comment about Hillary. Either they comment about how her shoes don't match her outfit (they definitely didn't), or how the suit she's wearing is frumpy looking, or how she was obviously having a bad hair day, or it looked like she'd put on a few pounds, etc. He said that it always cracked him up to see, in action, how critical women are of each other. Kinda sad, huh!

August 10, 2009 - 4:55pm
(reply to Kristin Davis)

That IS funny, and so true! I probably would have noticed the son, as well, and made mental notes about Hilary's appearance. I wonder if the man's wife made comments about her, LOL!

August 10, 2009 - 7:03pm
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