Experts Explain Why We Always Look Better in the Mirror

Women in the UK look in the mirror, on average, over 70 times a day according to a survey. And it’s no surprise, we’ve all been there before, getting ready, making sure our hair and makeup are on fleek. And then somebody takes a picture and you look horrible in it as if you were 2 different people! Relax, you’re not the only one feeling this way. There’s actually a scientific explanation for it.

Here at Bright Side, we like figuring out how our brains trick us, like when we feel confused after looking at pictures of ourselves. So scroll down to find out why we always look better in the mirror.

1. The mirror is flipping us.

What we see when we’re looking at ourselves in a mirror is not reality — the reflection in the mirror is a reversed version of the way we actually look. And since we look in the mirror every day, we’re very used to this flipped version. It’s called the mere effect. So if you don’t see yourself too often in photographs, you don’t really know what you look like, so it’s okay to be a bit shocked.

2. Immediate control

When looking in the mirror, we have full and instant control. If we don’t like the angle, we react right away by tweaking our face and correcting our posture and facial expression to form a more satisfying appearance. When it comes to photographs, we mostly see ourselves only after the pic is taken. Here, posing tricks can help. It’s also good to know your strong and weak sides and your best angles.

3. Lighting matters

Our brains work in a way that we don’t notice lighting differences when we look into the mirror because our brains automatically even it out and show us the display of our face close to what we’re used to seeing. A camera doesn’t work this way and instead, captures all the tones and shadows objectively and plays a huge role in taking a pic. As photographers say, “The light can either make it or break it!”

4. Our faces are asymmetrical.

Nobody has an absolutely symmetrical face. Try flipping parts of your face and compare them — they’re probably really different. We’re used to looking at ourselves at one or a few particular angles and we often think that one side of the face is the same as the other. That’s why we feel like it’s a completely different person when we see the final shot and probably feel less attractive.

Experiment at home with lighting, angles, and poses. Set a timer and learn what works for you.

5. The environment puts pressure on you.

As researcher Nolan Feeney explained, we’re usually looking in the mirror when we’re either at home or at least in a safe environment. As for photographs, it’s common that we look more tense and tight. We make big eyes as not to blink and stretch our lips into a fake smile or duckface. Because pics mostly end up on social media, we feel lots of pressure on ourselves to look a certain way.

Try to feel more relaxed on camera, it always looks better in the end.

6. We only see certain details in the mirror.

Looking in the mirror, we usually focus on a particular part of our face like our lips, nose, eyes, etc., and we don’t realize how it looks all together. When looking at a pic, on the other hand, we perceive everything at once and judge the whole performance: our posture, facial expression, and anything else we don’t usually pay attention to. So again, self-exploring might help you feel more confident in front of the camera.

7. We think we’re more attractive than we really are.

A research from the University of Chicago revealed that people tend to think they look better than they really are. For this study, researchers selected pics of participants and processed them into better and worse looking versions. Then participants were asked to find the original photos of themselves and most of them failed, choosing pics where they were more attractive.

We spend way more time looking in the mirror than we do at ourselves in photographs. Our brains trick us and the real pics look weird. It doesn’t mean we look horrible, we’re just not used to seeing ourselves from that side. So the ultimate remedy is to explore yourself both ways!

Do you have any tricks to look nice in pictures? We’d be happy to see your advice and pics in the comment section below!

Illustrated by Valeria Vlasova for Bright Side
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