The Funhouse Mirror Effect Part 1: The Men’s Mirror


Have you ever seen the cartoon in which a man is looking at himself in a mirror, and instead of seeing his beer belly, balding head and weak jaw, his reflection is that of an Adonis, with a chiseled jaw, washboard abs and a full head of glorious hair? I have encountered quite a few men (especially at the gym) who seem to have a reverse dysmorphia which has them thoroughly convinced that they are America’s Next Top Male Model. While I am all for a certain level of self-confidence no matter how closely a man resembles Golem from Lord of the Rings, I will never understand the boastful behavior and posturing that some less evolved representatives of the male human foolishly choose to display.

I am not suggesting that men don’t have insecurities, because I know they harbor doubts and feelings of inadequacy just like women do. But there is a stark difference between the male tendency to puff out his chest and confidently display his feathers (even if the display looks more like the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree), and the female tendency to amplify any imperfection. Lately I have seen far too many men walking or jogging on the sidewalk who clearly have no business being out in public sans shirt, but they seem completely oblivious to the negative effect their gelatinous bellies and hairy shoulders and back have on passerby. Part of me says bravo on the lack of concern over other people’s opinions, but the rest of me is desperately trying to keep my last meal down.

It appears that men’s inflated self-perception is more honest and congruent with what psychologists refer to as “self-enhancement”, in which people essentially give themselves the benefit of the doubt, exaggerating more desirable personality traits and skills, and considering themselves more physically attractive than they actually are. Of course we would all love to be above average, and thus nudge or enhance our views of ourselves. Believe it, and you can achieve it, I suppose, but it actually works. Most women will be more drawn to an average looking man who exudes confidence over a handsome fella who is self-effacing. Not that I have ever seen a great looking guy who lacked self-confidence, mind you, but confidence is very attractive for both genders.

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