Turns Out, You Have No Idea What You Really Look Like

Illustration for article titled Turns Out, You Have No Idea What You Really Look Like

It's not an Onion headline: not only do we have distorted views of said appendages, but beyond them, "women's brains ‘massively distort' their own body image, creating a shorter figure which can be two-thirds wider than in real life." Great:

The study, by scientists at University College London, started out hand-focused. According to the Daily Mail,

Researchers asked volunteers to place their left hand under a board and guess the positions of the knuckles and fingertips, pointing them out with a baton. The results, reported today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, were used to assess mental models of finger length and hand width. In general, participants estimated their hands to be about two-thirds wider and a third shorter than actual measurements showed they were.


And what's more, we - women, that is - also think the rest of our bodies are shorter and wider than they are, what the researchers call a "dramatic distortion" of our "position sense," or the ability to gauge our bodies' spatial relationships. As the piece points out, these findings could be useful to understanding - and therefore treating - eating disorders. And, hopefully, to contributing to realizing that these things shouldn't be gauges of anything anyway, and so what?

Alas, this is not what readers seem to have come away with. The comments to the article are a veritable carnival of the sort of fruitless height-and-weight disclosures that serve to do nothing but drive home people's obsession with measurements. Woman after woman takes the opportunity to share her weight and height, bemoan, compare, perpetuate the cycle. It's disspiriting. And, comments one woman, seems to be, as the researchers suggest, a particularly feminine condition: "I think that some men have the opposite problem, the short, fat baldy ones often seem to think that they are Gerard Butler!" Gratuitous swipes at less Butler-like gents aside, it's probably wise to remember that few of us can gauge correctly-in any sense.

Do I Look Fat In This Mirror? Why A Woman Sees Her Reflection As A Shorter, Wider Version Of Reality [Daily Mail]



I have had this conversation, or one very similar to it, with my wife on quite a few occasions. She's convinced that people are staring at the backs of her knees and can see spider veins, or that she can't wear skirts because they do weird things with her hips.

My response, besides assuring her she's the most beautiful creature that's ever had a heart, is to ask her about the people she talked to today. I ask her what she remembers about them. And 99% of the time, she remembers the basic outlines. And the very first thing she remembers? The attitude.

The point I'm trying to make with her is that nobody is going to be as critical about her body as her. She lives with her "flaws" every day, just like everybody else. But because they're hers, they take on an outsize immensity that they don't deserve.

I'm fully convinced that if we could see ourselves the way we see other people, we'd all be much more happy and far less neurotic.