Our lovers are beautiful, uniquely so, and in the throws of first passions their imperfections glow with that secret light of possession. He is mine. He is exquisite. He is love. But in this low age of the selfie we trap our most precious lover with reflections, refractions, into two dimensional pixel grids that tempt our brains’ unconscious mechanisms to betray us into ugliness.
The brain is a sly fellow and as the eye moves like some manic gps around these selfie maps of dead, lost light, it searches – relentlessly – for inconsistencies and asymmetries. Even now, I’m sitting here bemoaning that blotchy bit in the hair above’s pen line – and that’s just an illustration! This is the era of idealized, photoshopped, team-executed perfection, and we can’t escape our social tendency to internalize these false Plato ideals. There is only one way to take a psychologically safe selfie… put down the camera! Let’s subvert our biology and get serious about training our most flattering vision of self.
In Emily Balcetis’ brilliant Ted Talk about how vision and perception influence fitness, she reminds us that the eye can only truly focus on “what is the equivalent of the surface area of our thumb on our outstretched arm.” The following graphic (borrowed from Wikipedia) illustrates this concept – go ahead and test yourself… it’s pretty freaky. Now, let me tell you a story. When I was a teen (we’re talking full-on braces, glasses, and a series of gender bending tragedies in the hair department) I developed a strategy that I still use today. It was an intuitive reaction to a desperate situation and formed well before I had any knowledge of neuroscience.
How to take a psychologically safe selfie:
Step 1: Practice in front of the mirror to find your best angle. Study how the masters use expressions and light – I highly recommend Marilyn Monroe. If we want to be really scientific about it, the best source for learning this skill is pornography. Porn taps into our most primal signals of hotness – head back, mouth parted… need I go on?
Step 2: Select your top three features (you need backup in case your lovely nose is hosting a giant zit). I feel no shame in confessing to you, dear readers, that I’ve always had exquisite nostrils.
Step 3: Here’s the trick. Since the brain can only focus intently on a tiny fraction of the whole, flash your pose and then immediately close your eyes or look away. This is the image your mind will hold onto in connection with self until you hit refresh.
Each ‘psychologically safe selfie’ will reinforce the neural wiring that supports your private, personal story of hotness. Because don’t forget that many of the most gorgeous men/women have been trapped in private stories of unattractiveness. If you practice these positive selfies every day, I guarantee it will make a major difference! I’m especially talking to you teens! I usually take one of these selfies before heading out for the day and make sure to repeat one right before bed (to hold the image for as long as possible). It’s still an act of desperation, because (mathematically speaking) I’m no model (even though the carefully cultivated photos on this blog might fool you ~wink) and because now I’m getting a wee bit older and apparently there’s something wrong with that?! But alone, with my greatest, most loyal lover, I am the most beautiful woman in the world. And in this culture of best face forward, we may as well start with our own.