The subject sits behind a curtain, unaware she is being sketched, but after several questions, the light dawns. “Tell me about your chin,” Zamora will ask, or, “What’s your most prominent feature?”
Next, the subject of the sketch is told to become friendly with another participant in the project. That participant then describes the original subject to the sketch artist which results in the second sketch.
The two sketches are hung side by side and the subject is brought in to see two vastly different sketches.
Invariably, the subject becomes emotional. The sketch depicting the subject’s self-description tends to be grim and somewhat malformed. The sketch that results from a new friend’s description shows an attractive, happy face. Confronted with the disparity between the two sketches, the subject is forced to confront two ideas:
- She has a low self-opinion and finds fault with her appearance
- Others find her a pleasant and attractive companion
This social experiment was brought to you by Dove. The soap company has had a good run with its campaign for improving the self-worth and self-image of women everywhere. You can’t help but like these well-designed clips and the important message they impart. And I do like them, especially when they manage to help me procrastinate about that piece I’m writing for Kars4Kids, when the deadline is nigh.
But something bugged me about this clip. Remember that song, One of These Things is Not Like the Others? From Sesame Street?
As it happens, I’ve always had a knack for that game. I can always see what’s different or out of place. I see it as a gift.
I can glance at a piece of text, or my living room, or at the way a child is dressed, with an eye toward what needs attention, what needs fixing. My eyes find, of their own volition, a single typo in a blog, a milk mustache on a child getting ready for school, or a painting hanging crooked on the wall.
My kids tell me I see things with the back of my head or in my sleep.
But this thing I have, this gift or curse, has always been about wanting to make things better, to improve them.
I was left feeling disturbed by the sadness evident in the self-description sketches in the Dove clip. Especially in comparison with the bright and happy countenances so apparent in the sketches based on the outsiders’ descriptions. I was uncomfortable with the idea that seeing our imperfections is a sign of self-loathing.
Because I do this, too. I look in the mirror and judge.
And that’s okay. It’s absolutely, perfectly acceptable. It’s NORMAL. It doesn’t cause me grief. I don’t suffer from depression.
Fault-finding isn’t necessarily evil, bad, or depressing. Which makes me suspicious of the findings of this film. It’s possible to recognize one’s faults and still have a great opinion of one’s self.
Heck. I LIKE myself.
The small size of my eyes doesn’t depress me or make me cry. It’s something about me I observe and store away for future reference. It’s something I keep in mind. It doesn’t RULE me.
And by the way, I’m also BLOWN away by things that are perfectly exquisite. I can get high in the Dutch Masters room at the Chicago Art Institute. I swoon when listening to Rubinstein play Chopin’s Berceuse.
But wanting to make things better?
That's okay, too. In fact, it’s MORE than okay.
It’s a gift.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.