CLEVELAND — When you get up in the morning and look in the mirror, what do you see? Bright skin? Or a dull complexion? Friendly eyes? Or maybe crows’ feet? An infectious smile? Or crowded teeth?
Is what you see in the mirror the same thing that a loved one sees when spending time together?
We enlisted the help of Terry Hager, a retired police sketch artist from Willoughby, training in drawing a face from description alone. Although this is a little out of his wheelhouse, he agreed to play along.
We also brought in best friends Ogechi Onyeukwu and Shamiah Williams. Not only is this out of their wheelhouse, these two women have no idea what they are doing here.
"I have no idea," Ogechi said.
Anxious? Nervous? Excited?
"All of the above," confessed Shamiah, who also goes as “Miah.”
Two best friends since high school, they went to college together, share a love of fashion, and even do each other’s make up.
"Me and Sham, we go by the name of yin and yang," Ogechi said.
"She’s like my soul sister," Miah countered.
But how well do Shamiah and Ogechi really know each other?
"Tell me about Miah," Terry instructed Ogechi.
"She has a full face; eyes, kind of like sexy, a little," she said. "Thick eyebrows. They’re not bushy though. Small lips. Shapely. She has a bob. The hair is straight, but it’s wavy. I love her hairline. Oh, she glows."
Now it was Miah’s turn to describe Ogechi.
"She has very beautiful skin," she gushed. "Big round eyes, a broad nose. Her lips are full. She has a wide smile. She has nice teeth too. Nice cheekbones. Her hair is very kinky and long. Her personality really radiates."
Now how well do the women know themselves?
"Right now, my hair is curly," Ogechi told Terry, describing herself. "I have a heart-shaped head. I have a medium-sized forehead, wide nose, nice lips."
Next up? Miah: "Cheeks are chubby."
Terry: "Tell me about your chin?"
Miah: "Small and pointy."
Terry: "Is there anything unusual about your eyes? Do you think they are large?"
Miah: "No, but other people say they are."
Terry: “Tell me about your nose.”
Miah: "I have a long bridge. It flairs out. Thin lips. Mole on my left side. A slight unibrow. Short bob. It parts on the right, swoops to the left."
But the real reason why everyone’s here today is not to see how well they know their friends and themselves, but how do they view themselves compared to what their friends see.
"We experience ourselves in the context that no one else does," Scott Beas, clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic, told us. He says there are several factors that play here, notably how well we know ourselves and how often we see what we deem as flaws in the mirror.
"The way the human brain is constructed we tend to notice what is wrong, first," he explained. "As people look in the mirror, they will look at their negative characteristics and traits."
When Ogechi and Miah finally saw the sketches, they were taken aback, and quick to notice the differences.
"You see yourself a little bit chubbier than it really is," Ogechi said of the way that Miah described herself.
"We are looking for the problems. We’re seeing what we can edit with makeup."
And knowing this is how everyone is thinking, it’s not a bad idea to point out our admiration for one another.
"I love the idea of praising at alarmingly high rates," Bea said. "We need something systematic to compete with our brain’s tendency to notice what is wrong."
"I do think that when people look at themselves, they overwhelmingly look for the negative," Ogechi said, with Miah finishing her best friend’s thought, "Those places of improvement."
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