Why the face you see in the mirror may be irrelevant

face in the mirrorLet me begin by saying I’m not in any way a psychologist (although I do have a fairly meaningless diploma in ‘success’ coaching which covers some of the basics of NLP etc.,) but this is something I’ve been considering for some time and thought I’d note it down in blog form.

Most of us hate seeing photos of ourselves, and video can be even worse. The main reason for this is that the main source for our self perception is our reflection. This is flawed on two counts. First of course, it’s a reflection – in other words a ‘flipped’ image, and secondly no matter what we try we only ever see one view of our face because the moment we begin to look away we lose the vision.

We’ve learned to live with that face – for good or for bad. It’s been familiar to us since we were small children and it’s even shaped how we react to others based on how we feel about that image.

Seeing ourselves in photos or video can either strengthen our self-esteem, or shatter it depending on how it conforms with our self-view. Unfortunately however seeing ourselves in photos and to a certain extent video is still only a flat 2D representation of what the rest of the world sees.

Surprisingly though, what others see almost certainly goes beyond visual, and I believe reveals some interesting additional senses at play that can have an impact on our success in all areas of our lives.

Everybody who has ever met you has created a highly complex 3D impression of what you look like. On a subconscious level their eyes have mapped your physical shape and the nuances of your face. This ‘data’ is then stored for future recognition along with ‘notes’ on any specific features that may be used to instantly recognise us from others with similar facial patterns. These ‘notes’ can even help us to recognise someone years after we last saw them. How many times have you comes across an old school friend who you haven’t seen for, say twenty years, and yet despite the ravages of time, gravity and KFC abuse their salient features are still there and within moments we realise who it is. At this point as well our stored data is updated so that the next time we see them the recognition is instantaneous.

This alone is an amazing feat and a primary ability that has no doubt been with us since the dawn of our ancestors, but I believe there is a further trick that our brains pull off – and one that has far-reaching implications.

I believe therefore that those that like us, or even love us, go through a mental process of suppressing the facets of our physical look that may otherwise be unattractive and accentuate the facets that are. Even when they look at a 2D photo of us their brain slots that image into the 3D representation and ignores anything in that photo that may be unattractive. That’s why we can see it as someone else – as we have no 3D representation to replace it, and can’t understand why our family and friends still see it as us. It’s impossible for them to see a 2D image as their stored data is three-dimensional.

Some of us are born with looks that are instantly appealing to a large proportion of our peers. Most of us are born with looks that will be instantly appealing to some. Some of us are born with looks that are not instantly appealing to most – yet, despite that seem to be able to achieve attraction. It’s also fair to say that attraction can be affected by culture. For example in some third world cultures obesity can be seen as desirable because the chances are that individual either has plenty of food reserves, and it’s dependents and descendants will want for little, or in times of little they could live longer than most on their fat reserves, and therefore care for their family. So, as the old adage goes, beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. Beauty, is a mental construct and as Derren Brown and those familiar with the practice of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) know, the brain can be programmed.

This ability to override visual senses or cultural beliefs can be starkly seen when other factors come in to play. Factors that harken back to the basest instincts of survival.

We have all seen people who we believe to be largely unattractive with incomparably attractive partners. Out of hand we scratch our heads as to what that individual ‘sees in him or her’. But what we are doing is judging with our visual sense alone and what we are unaware of are factors at play that have enabled their partner to re-programme their definition of attraction. One crude example is wealth. In a world where wealth can guarantee a successful life for offspring, re-programming our perception of attraction could be a small price to pay. Less crude examples may be areas that hold particular strengths for the partner such as kindness, intellect, humour, or even resemblance to an individual that was important in the partners past – such as a parent.

Once one accepts that the perception of attraction can be adjusted and re-programmed, we can begin to consider how that can be applied in our everyday lives. For example, if contemporary culture favours a particular style of clothing, dressing of hair, make-up, beard growth, or even stance – then emulating this instantly gives us a tick in the box. And of course, that’s exactly why the fashion and cosmetics industry thrives.

As building strong relationships in business is universally accepted as vital, being attractive to our clients (either visually or through one of the other factors mentioned above) is worth giving serious consideration. As in any social situation (which a business meeting is), conformity will work over non-conformity almost every time. We all like to think there’s something of the rebel in us, but if we’re trying to win business, it’s probably best to leave it to the weekends. Of course there are situations where stepping outside the box so to speak wins business, but before taking that risk make sure it’s seriously calculated!

So, dress to impress and smile to beguile. Think happy thoughts as positivity is hugely attractive and take every opportunity to leave a lasting impression. If you can leave the client with a 3D representation embellished with at least one other noteworthy attraction the chance of that relationship extending beyond the initial meeting are substantially increased.