Your Thoughts of Yourself Are Cruel, and How a Dove Commercial Can Fix This
Do you remember the Dove commercial where a group of women are asked to describe themselves to a sketch artist? A stranger is asked to describe the same woman to the artist. The original women are then shown their sketch alongside that described by the stranger. The stranger’s sketch is notably happier and more attractive. This occurs because the original women described themselves with unkind words while the strangers were more pleasant, using more positive language to highlight attractive features. Guess which image more resembles the original woman? If you guessed the stranger’s sketch, you would align with my perception too.
It’s a beautiful case study showing how we don’t see ourselves the way others do. We desperately need to remember this.
The filter through which we see ourselves isn’t kind. We see ourselves each day. We are intent on our imperfections, real or imagined. We fixate on them. We notice things others don’t, things others don’t care about. We have an imbedded belief that everyone around us can read our thoughts, thoughts drawing them directly to our greatest insecurities. Add in the spotlight effect. We naturally think people are more aware of us than they really are, resulting from our natural tendency to see ourselves as the centre of the universe.
Many of the people we see and interact with venture into the world having spent time and effort to look their best. Often enough meaning nice clothing, makeup for most women and some guys(hey its 2018), and in general a lot of effort to appear attractive. This is further exaggerated online, not only selecting the best of those 20 selfies you took, perhaps now adding filters and photo shopping to alter reality. We have people looking like odd cute forest creatures with leaves for ears, through I’m unsure what its even supposed to be. I have social media “friends” who never post unfiltered photos. I am not certain I would recognize them in public. We are even seeing this trend get to the point where people are asking for plastic surgery to make them look more like their filtered photos. This has to be disordered and highly unhealthy thinking.
So why is the Dove commercial so poignant? It hammers home how we think and speak unkindly about ourselves. We beat ourselves up with thoughts and words before the world even has a chance to. We think it in some fashion insulates is from outside abuse. Instead it brainwashes us with a narrative that we aren’t good enough, pretty enough, lean enough, or worthy of kindness from ourselves, let alone others. Plus the whole thing nearly brings me to tears. If you choose to watch, it makes a lasting impression.
The commercial highlights how we simply don’t see ourselves the way others do. Our vision of ourselves is distorted by a mental filter, a dishonest filter that discounts our good qualities and highlights our flaws. It produces an image of less than truthfulness. The Dove pictures showcase this clearly. The key message is to mistrust what we see and how we feel about it. To let in a little crack of plausibility that we might be lying to ourselves, however unintentionally. To admit the kind words from others may be the truth instead of something we deflect and dismiss because we think everyone else is being nice. When everyone else tells a consistent tale conflicting with our own, perhaps it’s our own deeply flawed self narrative to blame. We need to allow ourselves to consider this possibility.
We craft a notion of a conspiracy among all of these unconnected people to mislead us. They all say similar things conflicting with our own version. They must all be wrong and we are right, we tell ourselves. How ludicrous does this even sound? How could everyone be so wrong as we stand firm in the delusion of our self magnified flaws?
When you allow yourself to realize your version of yourself isn’t honest, you begin to understand you are more attractive than your mind tells you. Maybe you are better looking, leaner, more muscular, and simply better than the version you’ve always seen. When you allow this, your insecurities begin to fade a little. Your self worth grows along with your confidence. This in turn may set of a cascade of other positive changes and events. Maybe you feel confident enough to interact with others more and suddenly find it easier to make friends or meet someone special. Maybe selling yourself in your career is a little easier. This could have far reading effects.
Please begin to challenge your perception of yourself. Please allow yourself to accept the kind words of others, even when they don’t align with your own view, and especially if you hear the same thing from more than one person. Remember, others cannot see into your thoughts and are not aware of the flaws you focus on. Even if you are just a little more kind with your thoughts, you benefit. Remember to put yourself in the shoes of others. Pay honest compliments to others knowing that it may just change their day for the better. Never lose sight of the fact that virtually everyone experiences this all in the same way. Sometimes the most outwardly seeming confidence can mask the deepest insecurities.
Most of all, choose to be kinder to yourself and put a little more kindness toward friends, loved ones, and strangers.