Of course they’re airbrushed. They don’t look all that happy, and they’ve probably never met a chocolate cake. We tell ourselves this. And yet—we know that those long coltish legs that cellulite dare not invade and those perfect Russian/Estonian/Kazakh cheekbones can put us in an ugly mood. When Kathy Wilcox and James Laird, psychologists at Clark University, asked women to rate their feelings after looking at 10 photos of slim, gorgeous models, many reported feeling negative, with deflated self-esteem.
This might help: Surprisingly, some women in Wilcox and Laird’s study felt terrific after looking at photos of models, and—hello—reported higher self-esteem. Why did they feel so good? Because these women found a way to identify with some aspect of the photograph. So when you start flipping through pages, pick out a facet that you can genuinely relate with or aspire to: a Cleopatra look that would play up your deep-set eyes or that pixie ’do you might try. If identification doesn’t help, you know what to do: stop looking.