Mark Twain wrote that “comparison is the death of joy,” and indeed, we may underestimate our own attractiveness when we compare ourselves to others. Research shows that when we see photographs of very beautiful others, we not only view ourselves as less good looking, but our self-esteem suffers as well (Cash et al., 1983; Little and Mannion, 2006).
This is sometimes referred to as the contrast effect: We see ourselves as less appealing when we compare or contrast our appearance with that of others (Little and Mannion, 2006). However, the contrast effect can work in the opposite direction as well: Women who were shown photographs of unattractive women subsequently viewed themselves as better looking (Little and Mannion, 2006). Comparing ourselves to others on social media, or to celebrities, may make us temporarily insecure about our own attractiveness.
It is important to recognize the ways in which we underestimate our own attractiveness and to recognize that others also experience these doubts about their appearance. Researchers have shown that even though we tend to overestimate ourselves in some circumstances (self-enhancement), when we feel insecure about our abilities or our appearance, we fail to recognize that others share the same weaknesses (Kruger, 1999). What would happen if we showed ourselves the same compassion and understanding that we show to our loved ones? We might start to believe Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars: We are perfect and amazing just the way we are.
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