Powerful Video Statement about Body Image

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Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental illness that causes sufferers to perceive their appearance as significantly flawed and develop an obsession about it. It is one of the traits associated with anorexia, bulimia and addiction to plastic surgery.

The Mayo Clinic says it is sometimes called "imagined ugliness." A video experiment, posted by beauty products manufacturer Unilever, makes the case in a very heartbreaking way.

How We See Ourselves vs. How Others See Us

The experiment (video posted here) had women (and one man) describe themselves to an FBI-trained sketch artist (the artist was not allowed to look) who then drew a missing person style sketch from the description. A second person (introduced as a new acquaintance to the subjects) then did the same, describing the person he or she had just met.

The two sketches – one a self-description and the other a description by a stranger – were shown side by side. The difference between how we see ourselves and how others see us was profound. It isn’t just that our faces are more familiar to us; we actually shape what we see in ourselves by a kind of internal judging. Perhaps I think of myself as sad and serious or know I have deep regrets – these emotional hooks will be expressed when I look at my own face.

We Tend to Magnify Our Flaws

Other flaws are magnified as well: Eyes that are slightly wider apart than normal become grossly so, and misaligned eyebrows or wrinkles are enhanced. A startling statistic quoted on the site is that only 4 percent of women worldwide consider themselves beautiful. Four out of 100. Really? Somewhere, there’s a mismatch between what we see in others and what we are capable of seeing in ourselves.

While none of the women shown in the clip would rise to the level of a diagnosable condition, it appears that some level of body dysmorphic disorder is present in most of us. When it motivates us to lose those extra pounds or take better care of ourselves, that’s healthy. But when it drifts into obsession and trying for an unrealistic (and harmful) ideal, that’s trouble.

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