Do you look at yourself in mirrors and wonder whether your eyes have a problem or worry that you are too self-critical? You probably don’t have any of these problems because many people feel they look different in different mirrors!
Relax; you are not alone. This is a really weird phenomenon. You look good one minute and then not so good when you look at yourself in the next mirror you come across.
Well, there is actually a scientific reason for this. If you are wondering: why do I look different in different mirrors, read on; the answer might surprise you.
Lighting makes you look different in the mirror
You know what they say about a good selfie? It is all about the lighting! The same is true for mirrors.
Light can distort or enhance your perception of your mirror image. There are different lighting conditions in different locations. So you will look different in a mirror where there is a lot of lighting and in a mirror where the lighting isn’t that great.
It is common for your skin to appear lighter in a mirror where plenty of light is flooding in. Light can also hide or accentuate your bodily features and skin ”imperfections.”
Mirrors come in different qualities
Mirrors are made differently, which greatly impacts your reflection. Older types of mirrors have a metal coating applied to the front, while modern mirrors have the coating applied to the back.
The position of the metal coating produces a unique mirror image due to the way the metal reflects light. Unsurprisingly, when you look at yourself in an antique mirror, your reflection might seem slightly different than how you look in a contemporary mirror.
You may also notice that a convex mirror makes you seem curvier than you are. Yet when you immediately look at yourself in a plane, flat mirror, you look like the normal self you are used to.
Something else you may encounter is that you look different in mirrors at clothing stores. Did you know that mirrors can be altered to make someone look slimmer, curvier, or lighter than they are?
Yep, that’s right! This explains why you look ”unusually” good in the skinny mirrors at clothing stores. After all, you are likelier to buy shoes or clothes if the mirror shows you an image of yourself that you perceive as attractive.
Glass coating and density can alter your image
The image reflected in the mirror will be distorted if there isn’t enough coating on the mirror. The coating helps to minimize the reflection on your face and body. Without it, your mirror image will likely be blurry or distorted.
The density of the metal coating is another game changer. Mirrors with less iron in the glass surface will give you a clearer, more accurate image of yourself. More iron can reflect a slight bluish-greenish hue, making your skin appear darker than usual.
The surrounding environment affects your mirror image
Have you noticed that you look different in outdoor mirrors than indoor ones like in your house?
Again, it is all about the reflection of the light, which produces unique mirror images. Depending on the light’s angle and the type and structure of the mirror, you might look taller, shorter, curvier, slimmer, or more appealing in an outdoor window than in an indoor one and vice versa.
Other factors, such as the wall’s color and the room’s size, can produce varying mirror images. Colors reflect light differently, which may alter your perception of your mirror image.
This explains why indoor photography studios carefully choose the colors and props to make the most of the lighting and ensure that the photos come out nice, bright, and in a way that flatters the client.
Room size can make you look different
Another interesting observation is that the size of a room can make your mirror image look different even with the same mirror. Try looking at yourself in a mirror in a large room and then take the same mirror to a smaller room.
In the larger room, your image might appear slightly bigger and your face a bit wider, while you might look slimmer in the smaller room. These differences are due to the reflection of light on your body.
Is your reflection in the mirror what others see?
If you do not like your mirror image, you might wonder whether the mirror is how others see you.
In this case, the good news is that how we perceive ourselves in the mirror is not an accurate portrayal of our appearance and is, therefore, not how others see us. This means we appear differently in the mirror and real life.
There are several reasons why the mirror image is not how we appear to others. The most common reason is the reverse image. Let me explain this further:
Your reflection is the opposite of your true self
When you look at yourself in the mirror, the reflection is the opposite version of yourself. The reflection is how we appear to others because the reflection is looking out to the world.
If you often look at yourself in the mirror, you get so used to your mirror image that your brain may not notice slight changes to your appearance, but other people will. As mentioned, your reflection is not an accurate representation of your appearance.
Also, our brains often cannot detect slight changes caused by the angle of light. So if you are used to looking at yourself in one mirror, you might not notice any changes in your appearance even when the angle of light changes, but other people will notice changes in your appearance.
You can control your mirror image into what you want to see
Most of us have something we do not particularly like about our bodies, and our brains know this. So, when you look in the mirror, your brain may shift your attention from those parts you do not like to other, more desirable parts.
You might change your pose, stand differently, lean into or out of the mirror, or even make different faces to see what makes you look hotter. You are in control of how you look.
But, when you are out in the real world, you may not always have control over your appearance. For example, say you do not like the appearance of your abdomen area. When looking at the mirror, you may adjust your pose to hide or minimize your abdomen, leaving you feeling more attractive.
But, in the real world, people are likely to notice your abdomen whichever way you pose. It will also be weird or restrictive for you to keep changing poses just to hide your appearance.
We are actually asymmetrical
This may come as a surprise, but humans are not perfectly symmetrical. One side of us is slightly different from the other, i.e., your eyes do not look the same, and the same is the case for your hands, feet, and breasts– there is a slight asymmetry that most of us do not notice.
When you are so used to looking at yourself in the mirror, your brain does not detect the asymmetry in your face and body. But perfect symmetry is not how we appear in real life; other people can quickly pick up the difference in your 2-D version.
Which Is More Accurate: Mirror or Photo?
The straightforward answer is that a mirror is more accurate than a photo.
Although people generally see you differently than you see yourself in the mirror, your mirror image represents yourself more accurately than a photo.
Factors such as lighting, camera angle, camera quality, lens distortions, the photographer’s position, skill, and editing can drastically alter the picture quality, making you appear more or less attractive than your mirror image.
On the other hand, your mirror reflection doesn’t undergo drastic changes; it is a more or less accurate reflection of your true self. Even differences in outdoor lighting will significantly change your mirror image in the same way a photo image would.
So, there you have it. Everything from lighting, the type of mirror, and your brain’s perception make you look different in different mirrors. That said, whichever mirror you look into, you are beautiful just the way you are!