My perception of my image when I look in the mirror is filtered by my mind. If my mood is positive, then my perception is favorable (hey, lookin’ good.) If my mood is less positive, then my perception is less favorable (damn, lookin’ old and tired.) But each time I purposely look in the mirror, I know it’s me I’m looking at, because I can see myself doing the looking, and that influences my perception. My mind knows it’s looking at itself.
My perception of my image when I look at myself in a picture or a video is also filtered by my mind, but in a different way. My mind knows I’m not purposely looking in a mirror. And perhaps I grow a little apprehensive, hoping I look good, and maybe my mood darkens a little as I look. If it’s a group picture I sometimes have to look twice to find myself. It’s as if the picture or the video produces enough disconnect that my mind can’t remember it’s looking at itself.
I recall a time when I was with friends in a local pub. The mood was very light and jovial, with much laughter and good feelings all around. I made my way down a short hall to the men’s room and met a friend who was coming the other way. We stopped and talked for a bit, perhaps shared a joke or the like, and went on our ways laughing.
When I pushed through the door the first thing that confronted me was my reflection in the mirror. I did not purposely seek out the mirror, it just happened into my field of view as the door swung open. My mood was very light, I was laughing, and I didn’t expect to see the mirror. And I did not recognize myself. My mood was very good, so my perception of the image was very positive, but my mind had the same disconnect that it does when I look at a picture or video, and it didn’t recognize itself.
That was a bit of an epiphany. And it’s one I try to remember anytime I look at myself in a picture or a video. That’s the same guy you saw in the mirror that day. Lookin’ just as good.
Image: Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library