Why you dislike your selfies according to psychology(+ 5 tips on how to change that)

Do you have a love-hate relationship with your selfies?

Does looking at photos of yourself for a little too long make them appear uglier than the first time you saw them? There is now a psychological explanation why you are prone to disliking your selfies. The good news is that there are also ways you can overcome that!

What are the 2 main reasons why you don’t like photos of yourself? 

1. You believe you are more appealing than you actually are.

Our brains often make us believe that we are more attractive than we really are. Scientists describe this phenomenon with the fact that we tend to think about ourselves with self-enhancement. Psychologists Nicholas Epley and Erin Whitchurch explain:

“People tend to evaluate their own traits and abilities more favorably than is objectively warranted.”

The truth hurts, doesn’t it? Well, don’t worry, you are not alone in this.

To test their theory, the experts asked participants in their study to identify photographs of themselves. The respondents were given different photos – one real and several manipulated to appear either more or less attractive. They were then asked to choose the real image of themselves, with many picking the photos that were altered to appear more appealing.

These interesting results proved that we tend to apply self-enhancement when we think of our appearance. In other words, you may dislike your selfies because they reveal how you actually look, which may be much less alluring than you believe.

The psychologists conclude:

“People structure their lives in ways that tend to increase the likelihood of positive associations to the self. Such associations can create positive distortions of the self as well, a top-down influence that not only influences how people think about themselves but also what people see when they look directly at themselves. It is perhaps of little wonder, then, that people so rarely seem to like the photographs taken of themselves.”

2.  You are affected by the mere exposure effect. 

The mere exposure effect represents our tendency to fancy things we are exposed to frequently. For instance, the more times you listen to a certain song, the more you like it, even if you didn’t enjoy it the first time you heard it. The mirror you look at every single day is also something you are frequently exposed to.

However, the image you see in the mirror is reversed, while selfies usually present the real view of your face. And as you are less familiar with this perception of yourself, you don’t really appreciate it. Sure, some smartphones have a mirrored image feature, which is great, but it actually fools us into believing we are much more attractive than we truly are.

Here are 5 tips on how to train your mind to like your selfies: 

1. Take a selfie right now. 

Taking a snap of yourself will help you see whether you prefer selfies to traditional photographs of yourself. As we live in a social media era, many people prefer selfies.

Interestingly, a team of psychologists, including Daniel E. Re and Sylvia Wang,  discovered that “selfie-takers perceived themselves as more attractive and likable in their selfies than in others’ photos.” They concluded that self-enhancing misperceptions may support the positive self-evaluations of those who prefer selfies to ordinary photos of themselves.

2. Now take a look at some old photos. 

Sometimes the first glance at a selfie or a photo of yourself may not be a pleasant experience. But when you look at the same photo after a while, you see that it was actually a pretty decent image. Perhaps even Instagram-worthy. If you take a look at some photographs of you from way back, you would see how amazing you looked, and you will realize that you should have never doubted yourself as much as you did.

3. Take advantage of the mere exposure effect. 

In the period between 1968 and 1987, way before selfies became a thing, clinical psychologist Robert Bornstein examined the way people react to the mere exposure effect. According to his findings, exposures of shorter durations are more effective at increasing liking than longer duration exposures.

To use the mere exposure effect to your advantage, you may try quickly scanning through photos of yourself every once in a while. This may significantly benefit your relationship with your selfies.

4. Don’t forget to smile!

Looking at a smiling face activates the medial orbitofrontal cortex area of the brain – the special area associated with reward. A study called “Beauty in a Smile” from 2003 states:

“Attractive faces produced activation of medial orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), a region involved in representing stimulus-reward value. Responses in this region were further enhanced by a smiling facial expression, suggesting that the reward value of an attractive face as indexed by medial OFC activity is modulated by a perceiver directed smile.”

So, if you want to like yourself a little more when taking a selfie, try smiling. As they say, a smile is the prettiest thing you can wear.

5. Embrace happiness. 

First, remember that happiness is not something you find, but something you create yourself. With that being said, cultivating happiness is an amazing way to turn the love-hate relationship you have with your photos into a love-only one. You can achieve that by working towards strengthening the bond you have with yourself. Practicing self-care and learning the importance of self-love are two great ways to do that.

So, do you have a love-hate relationship with your selfies? Do you have any tips for others who struggle with the same issue? Let us know in the comment section!

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