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)