Saturday, 3 December 2011

Changing Faces

Credit for this post clearly goes to my blogger friend Mel, whose post here made me comment, and the more I was thinking about the subject, the more I wanted to write about it.
Actually, this is not my first post brushing the topic of self-perception and how it so often widely differs from how others perceive us; two years ago, I wrote this.

As I said in my comment on Mel's post, I know what she means and often find the woman who looks back at me in the mirror has a different face on different days of the week and at different times of the day.
Sometimes, as mentioned in my comment, Mirror-Woman gets me by surprise - quite nastily, too, like on that day when I was waiting for the train home after a particularly exhausting day at the office some years ago.
When the train pulled in, I stood aside on the platform to let passengers get off, and incidentally caught my own reflection in the glass panel of the door. What I saw was an old woman, her face lined with tiredness, the corners of her mouth turned down and her eyes weary. It was NOT a pretty sight, and I was quite shocked.
I am 43 now and certainly entitled to a wrinkle or two, but there and then I looked a lot older - to be honest, I looked as old and knackered as I felt at that moment.
Since then, a lot has happened; two years ago, the sudden death of my husband meant not only a big change in my life, but also a total shift in perspective - among other things, I have elminated unhealthy stress from my life, and feel (and hopefully look!) a lot better for it.

Still, there are times when, for instance, I am getting ready for an evening out, even putting some make-up on (which is a rare occurrance for me, and there is nothing on my skin, obviously no powder or cream, just a dab of lipstick and some mascara on my eyelashes), and feel pretty enough to attempt taking a new self-portrait to use as my profile picture on a social platform (not FaceBook, I am not there and will never be).
So I go about taking the picture with the help of my camera's self-timer, but when I see the result, I think no, that's not the face I should have - I feel not as ugly as this.

Then, a few days later, I take another picture, for no special reason, simply because I feel like it, with no make-up on, dressed in my most comfy house clothes, and find it does not make a difference whether I make an effort or not, this one is not uglier than the first one.

My face is probably that part of myself I will never feel really, really good about, as opposed to most of the rest of me, which I quite like showing off (you'll see what I mean once I get my "Autumn Wardrobe" post up). And there is, I guess, the biggest difference in self-perception and how others see me: I do not think I am downright ugly, but I think my face is the part of me least worth looking at. My self-esteem is by no means low (quite the contrary, which some people find rather off-putting), but I have no idea of what is more realistic - how I perceive myself, or how others see me? And what is the secret in making others see me the way I think I am?

So far, I have not found an answer to either question, but the topic continues to fascinate me.


  1. I like both the photos, probably prefer the "natural" look of the second one. The things we hate in ourselves.... well, I think it's just pure chance. We like or hate the look of various things in other people, pretty well instinctively. Then we notice something we hate in others is in our own face or body, and ...ugh! How could we have the look we hate in other people? it grows into something much worse than it really is.

    So I look at your photo and I see a pleasant intelligent woman. Of course I don't scrutinise it with anything like your eagle eye!

    I am horrified by my own face (more as I get older - oh yes, ageing doesn't help either, does it?) but can only keep my fingers crossed that other people see it differently.

    The other thing which is interesting is that other people will generally notice your demeanour just as much as your face, the expression you habitually wear, etc. And the actual details of the face aren't as important as the general impression.

    I always think it's tremendously strange that sometimes you can meet a person and either like or hate them almost on sight. I guess it's about making a quick summing up of a number of different things about them.

  2. I prefer the second pic, but they're both attractive. The trouble is that we never see our own faces animated, amused, thoughtful - the way others see us. We se a face staring back in the mirror. Even a mirror-smile isn't real. I comfort myself with the fact that other people have to look at my face a lot more than I do!

  3. Isn't self perception interesting? Who cares what you look like on the outside! It's what's on the inside that counts. What I see on the outside are beautiful blue eyes that have a zest for life!

  4. I also like both photos, but I prefer the second one. Is it because you feel more comfortable without make-up and that comes across in your expression? In other words, your mental attitude counts for a lot! For me, that first one looks as if you are dressed up for a fancy party, and the next one looks like you are ready to climb a mountain with me, so you know which one I prefer!
    Lucky you, if I don't wear makeup, I look just like my brother, and he looks like Charlie Brown!
    Okay, I just went back and looked at the photos again...the second photo looks like a TOP MODEL who is ready to climb a mountain with me! :-)
    Oh, and have you heard about the book "Blink"?

  5. Jenny, yes, I think there is a lot more instinctive likes/dislikes going on than we care to acknowledge. And I am, thankfully, not at all shy or hesitant to smile and laugh in the company of others even though I hate the look of my teeth :-D

    Frances, you are right about that; how about seeing one's own face on video then? I remember when I was 17 or so, one of my great-uncles filmed me walking along the road in front of their house, and when he showed me the film later, I was mortified - was that really me?! Did I indeed move in such a gawky, gangly way? I konw my body and posture have changed since then, but the memory of those few moments on film is still in my mind.

    Mary, you are so kind-hearted - I wish I was more like you! But I'm afraid I am a lot shallower and looks actually do matter to me (to an extent; for instance, I couldn't care less about brand names or expensive jewellery).

    Kay, he he you really made me smile there! This "top model" would go climbing mountains with you any time! No, I don't think I've heard about "Blink". What is it about?

  6. M, this is such an honest post. You have a wonderful face, very alert and full of an interest in things. And its very brave of you, I would not do this, I am funny about having my picture taken. But when I look at others, I think almost everyone is beautiful. (Unless I don't like them!) I am amazed by humans and their capacity to weather all sorts of trials and their faces reflect this.

  7. The face when still isn't anything. It is when it moves and speaks and smiles and laughs and cries that it becomes beautiful. One of those Harry Potter cards with moving people would be a better impression of a person than a mirror.
    PS you're beautiful still, too.

  8. Julie, the possibility to write about anything I feel like, whenever I feel like, putting my thoughts, ideas and impression into words, is what made blogging so appealing to me in the first place, and if I wasn't honest here, where else? :-)

    Nan, thank you! Well, it wouldn't actually be too difficult to make my own little video clip, with my face moving when I speak or sing and smile or pull faces... but I am not sure I'd like the result any better than the still photos.

  9. What an interesting topic. It is also very apposite given what happened to me last night.

    Firstly may I say that when I read the post and looked at the two photos my very first thought on the second was 'ah, beautiful teeth'. So I was very surprised by your comment. You probably look at the slight unevenness. That is nothing. I look at teeth because I can't help it. Martin (of my family here) is a dentist.

    For me the most important part of any face is the eyes. Yours are alive and aware. It's a trite truth that the eyes are a window on the person.

    Of course we are all consciously or subconsciously swayed by appearance - especially first or casual appearance - but it's what we learn behind the superficiality of the face that matters in the end.

    Why was it apposite? Someone commented yesterday that one of my eyes wasn't fully open. I have a lazy eye and when I looked in the mirror last night I realised that it wasn't as open as the other. Then I realised how tired my eyes look.

    Then I played the Glad Game. If people liked me for my looks alone I'd be a very lonely man. Mind you I'm still searching for my other redeeming features!

  10. Blink is a book by Malcom Gladwell. His website is
    He has his critics but I find his points interesting. Besides, he has written for the New Yorker magazine, and I used to buy that in my younger, richer days.

  11. Thank you, GB, for saying that about my teeth! Can you believe it that, once in my life, a male friend actually said I had "cute teeth"?! :-D
    Funny how I'd never heard the expression "lazy eye" before, but I instantly knew what you mean, and I knew someone who had a lazy eye, too. It became more obvious when he had been drinking and was generally more relaxed.

    Kay, I have read Malcolm Gladwell and like his work, just can't remember right now the title of the book, but I am quite sure it was not Blink.

  12. My mirror face has never looked like I imagined it should - especially lately when it's just plain old
    Mind you, looking back at photos of myself, I look a hell of a lot better in those photos than I ever thought I did at the time.

    Maybe we can never judge ourselves?

  13. Macy, I think we mostly are our own worst critics. Some of the people close to me tell me they find me pretty, and there is someone even going as far as insisting that I, in his eyes, am beautiful.
    You're right about old photos! I may laugh at the horrible hairstyle and specs I used to wear in the 1980s, but my face was (naturally) a lot "fresher" in my teens than now in my 40s.

  14. I know that we really care about how other people sees us, but seriously, who cares? I know this may sound cliche but what's important is what's inside of us, not our outer appearances. (Okay, I know i'm sounding like a self-help book or something, but really...) I know how you feel though... There are times when I look into the mirror and I'm like, "oh, why can't I look real pretty?"

    Anyway, you are beautiful... don't let other people say otherwise... even YOURSELF! :)

    Have a nice day!

  15. Denise, of course you are right - and I must admit it is not other people, just myself who is not happy about my face. Unfortunately I am one of those shallow people whose appearance does matter to them.

  16. Hello, friend! I'm sorry I didn't catch this post when it was originally written! I've had much going on, and quite honestly I've been doing a bit of "soul" searching. Anyway, I've always thought that it's wonderful that you are not shy about posting self pictures here. I love to see the styles in Germany as compared to the U.S.! Truth be told, I'm very much a "Jeans and T-Shirt" kinda girl!

    Thank you for finding my post good enough to use it as a base for one of your own! Since my post, I've been reaching for something that I wasn't sure of, and I've really just lately figured out what it is. More about that later, but I agree with the others. What's most important is what's inside, not outside. But like you, I'm my own worst critique and I also find the mirror image of myself not something I want to look at. I've found that when I look at pictures from my past, that I like what I see and sometimes wish I could go back to that. Then I remember when the picture was taken and remember thinking that I thought I looked horrible at the time! I suppose that means it's all relative!? 10 years from now, the family photos we had taken this past winter will appear to be amazing to me, though when I look at them now I can find at minimum 10 different flaws in myself!

    As Frances said, at least I don't have to look at myself all day! ;)

    1. Mel, so good to hear from you! And I hope the soul-searching yielded some good results for you - as it should.
      Indeed, looking at older pictures of myself, I often wonder at the discrepancy of what I thought of the picture back then and how I see it now. That is one reason why I usually hesitate before deleting any of my old pictures; but sometimes, they are just too ugly to be kept :-)