Almost everyone has some asymmetry in their faces, and it's our little imperfections that make us unique. However, in today's selfie and filter-obsessed online world, it's easy to get caught up in the pursuit of symmetry. Let's dive in and find out if all the stress and pressure to appear perfectly symmetrical is really worth it.
Covered in the article:
The face factor: the obsession with filters and perfection
No filters needed: asymmetrical faces and attractiveness
Mindful scrolling: boosting your self-esteem despite social media influence
Symmetrical face obsession and mental health
Filters on social media bombard us with images of flawless, perfectly symmetrical faces — but is it doing more harm than good? Are we becoming unable to accept and appreciate our faces as they are?
There’s no hiding the fact that the desire for the perfect face and body is increasing. Every year, more people are getting cosmetic procedures, with a total of 18 million in the United States in 2019.
It's also more common to use filters, like ones that create facial symmetry or inversions for your mirror image. However, using these filters might not be great for our mental health.
Systematic reviews on social media are showing that it can increase levels of anxiety and depression. More specifically, new research shows that filters and depression are connected, and young women are reporting higher feelings of appearance anxiety than males.
So, amidst all the pressure to post a perfect pic, remember that social media photo editing is negatively related to our self-perceived attractiveness. It makes us objectify and compare ourselves, reducing our self-esteem.
Is a symmetrical face more attractive?
Studies show that while we tend to prefer facial symmetry, it’s not the only thing that matters. For example, one study showed that the appeal of a symmetrical face was largely due to the person’s general healthy appearance.
Overall, attractiveness is very complex, and facial symmetry is not the principal factor. In fact, people often find total facial symmetry disturbing. To many, it makes the face appear artificial or strange, losing its human quality.
How others see us
When you look in a mirror, you see your flipped, or inverted, self. So when others look at you, they’re seeing the non-inverted image, which is why you might think you look different in pictures and pick your appearance apart.
You’re also more likely to criticize yourself and notice tiny asymmetries than anyone else. We zero in on our own self-imposed 'flaws' that others may never see. Plus, people look at the whole picture, like your expression, body language, and energy.
Also, someone who knows your personality might look at you and see something entirely different than a stranger. In general, though, we all see different things when we look at someone.
What makes people attractive?
The truth is that almost no one has a perfectly symmetrical face. This is likely why research shows that a bit of asymmetry doesn’t take away our attractiveness. Instead, asymmetry adds character to make you stand out as the unique person you are.
So, while our brains can appreciate symmetry, beauty is largely related to its symbolic connotation — much like how art and nature, full of asymmetry, can appear incredibly beautiful.
Overall, what makes someone attractive depends on many factors, such as:
- Personality traits
- Physical traits (smell, voice, etc.)
- Shape and symmetry
- Personal experiences and history
While we often focus entirely on appearance in the beginning, the reality is that the way someone behaves is inextricably tied to their attractiveness. For example, how does their smile make you feel? Do they walk with confidence and speak with kindness? A symmetrical face alone will not make you more attractive.
Tips on how to feel more attractive
We’ve grown up in a culture that constantly tells us we’re not enough. Whether it’s our size, skin, hair, or teeth, there always seems to be something we’re told to change. Luckily, amidst all the marketing to get us to spend more, we can work to retrain our brains to accept ourselves and feel more attractive, just the way we are.
Focus on neutral thoughts
People always say we should just 'think positive,' but if it were that easy, we’d all be doing it. So, instead of going from 0 to 100 in loving thoughts about your appearance, which may be difficult if you’re not used to it, try neutral statements. For example, “I am grateful my body allows me to experience life," "My body works hard and deserves care," or, "I can try looking at my face without judgment," etc.
Play around with the words until you find a phrase that sits well and feels true.
Develop a daily self-compassion practice
It’s easy to say that we’re going to try being more compassionate with ourselves, but putting that into practice? That requires a little bit of effort to create a consistent daily habit.
One exercise you can start today is to write three compassionate things about yourself every morning or night. They can be about your body, personality, or simply recognizing something kind you did for yourself. The key is to frame it in a kind, understanding, and nonjudgemental way. For example, "I'm proud of myself for resting after handling something difficult today," or, "I noticed social media triggered insecurity today, I'm thinking about ways to manage that."
With one small daily habit that reminds us of our worth, we can create a domino effect of healthier thoughts. Try getting a self-compassion app or journal with exercises to make it a habit.
Surround yourself with the right people
We know that social media can lead to FOMO, anxiety, depression, and a worse self-image. Think about deleting or muting accounts that trigger you, and try taking breaks from the apps.
Instead, focus on surrounding yourself with supportive friends or groups who value more than just appearances. For example, sports, music, hiking, or art clubs.
Talk to someone
We are social beings and we can’t expect to solve everything on our own. We’re wired to feel better when we feel we have a support system, so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for support.
Whether it’s from a kind friend or a professional, being open about how you feel can help relieve some of the pressure of holding all your insecurities and pain inside. A therapist will also be able to work with you to develop healthier coping tools and thoughts.
Remember that attractiveness is about much more than a symmetrical face or body. Just think about how someone’s personality can entirely change the way you look at them. Instead of worrying about perfection, focus on ways to keep your self-esteem high. Surround yourself with people who put importance on things beneficial for your mental health.
Which face is more attractive: symmetrical or asymmetrical?
Everyone’s perception of attraction is different — it all depends on your personal preferences and cultural influences. Traditionally, symmetrical faces were considered more attractive. However, asymmetry can add uniqueness and character. Besides, everyone has some asymmetry.
Do people notice asymmetry?
Minor asymmetries are often overlooked. Plus, what one person notices, another may not.
How do others see my face?
Most people don’t focus solely on your facial symmetry or specific features. We all tend to view people and their faces as part of a whole presence and personality. Meaning, we don’t have to worry about having a perfectly symmetrical face (or perfect anything).
Facial symmetry isn’t the main factor in attractiveness — personality and uniqueness count.
Almost everyone has some asymmetry, and embracing it can help you feel free to be your unique self.
You can improve your sense of self-love by starting with neutral thoughts instead of forcing positive thinking. Try practicing self-compassion daily, surround yourself with people who lift you up, and think about speaking to a professional for extra support.
- BMC Psychology. How photo editing in social media shapes self-perceived attractiveness and self-esteem via self-objectification and physical appearance comparisons.
- Cureus. Social media use and its connection to mental health: a systematic review.
- Annals of Medicine and Surgery. Snapchat filters changing young women's attitudes.
- BMC Psychiatry. Prevalence and associated factors of minimally invasive facial cosmetic surgery in Chinese college students.
- Perception. Perceived health contributes to the attractiveness of facial symmetry, averageness, and sexual dimorphism.
- Symmetry and Beauty. Asymmetry and symmetry in the beauty of human faces.
- Journal of Art & Architecture Research Studies. The impact of facial symmetry and asymmetry on beauty and attractiveness in character design.
- Dental Press Journal of Orthodontics. Facial asymmetry: a current review.