What You Think You Look Like vs. What You Actually Look Like

What You Think You Look Like vs. What You Actually Look Like

Updated Mar 18, 2014 at 10:43PM EDT by Brad.  

Added by RandomMan.

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What You Think You Look Like vs. What You Actually Look Like is a two-pane image macro series illustrating the discrepancy between one’s own self-image and outside perceptions of physical attractiveness. The first image typically approaches the subject’s self-idealized image while performing a certain act in a positive or attractive way, followed by a second image portraying the subject in an unflattering manner.


On July 20th, 2008, FARK[2] user Control_this commented in a thread about the state of casinos in Illinois with a photograph of a young woman playing a slot machine followed by a photo of an older woman smoking while playing another gambling machine.


The multi-perspective approach in visual jokes has been previously adapted by other survey template memes like “How People View Me After I Say I’m X” and “What I Watched vs. What I Expected vs. What I Got”.


On December 26th, 2009, the party photo blog Sorry I Missed Your Party[3] published a post titled “The Disparity of Self Awareness: Dancing," which compared a photo of a young woman in a club with lots of people to an awkward looking young man dancing alone in his bedroom.

On July 29th, 2010, the Internet humor blog Cracked[7] published an article titled “10 Mustache Styles That Must Be Stopped” featuring photos of various mustache facial hair styles with “what you think you look like” and “what it really looks like” versions (left below). On December 15th, Tumblr user itsjudytime[4] reblogged a post titled “what you think you look like when a guy sees you” which compared an animated GIF of actress Selena Gomez making a seductive face while her hair blows in the wind to an animated GIF of a drag queen’s hair blowing with her false eyelashes fluttering in an unflattering manner (shown right below).

The first Reddit post to use this trope was a rage comic[9] about taking a shower submitted on March 23rd, 2011; It went relatively unnoticed, only earning 4 points. Four months later, Redditor obvnotlupus submitted a post to the /r/pics[6] subreddit titled “What I think I look like… (the inescapable truth about mirrors)” with two horizontally flipped versions of his self-portrait for comedic effect. It hit the front page with 11,800 upvotes and 1382 points overall. Between that post and April 2012, approximately sixty other Reddit threads[10] using the two pane technique have been posted.

Notable Examples

The trope has continued to spread on sites like Tumblr[1][11][12], FunnyJunk[5] and the single topic blog Expectations Vs. Reality[26] in the form of image macros. Common themes often referenced in these image macros include facial hair, men’s suits, duck face photos, fashion accessories and hair blowing in the wind. The trope was also discussed on Thought Catalog[25] in January 2012.

Advertising Vs. Reality

On April 15th, 2007, personal blog The West Virginia Surf Report[13] began publishing photos comparing menu items depicted in American fast food advertisements with purchased versions of the items (below left), highlighting the lack of congruency between what one may expect versus what one receives. The blog was featured on foodie sites Chowhound[14] and ThisPiggy[22], as well as health blog Starling Fitness.[20] In 2008, Pundo3000[19] began comparing food items specific to Germany (below right) in a similar manner. These photos[24] were compiled into a book[21] in March 2012.

American blogger Dario D.[15] began another fast food project in late 2010, turning his findings into infographic-style images. These photos were reshared on Buzzfeed[16], Business Insider[17], Examiner.com[18], and culture blog Bored Panda.[23]

In Advertisement

In September of 2011, the Danish bus company Movia hired the Bocca Copenhagen agency to make Byturen.com[8], which featured an interactive video where the user could mouse-over a scene at a bar to see the difference between what people think they look like compared to what they actually look like while intoxicated. The site has since been removed, but a YouTube version is still available.

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