The Rule of 3 & the Mirror

Lucas A. Davidson
4 min readDec 28, 2023

Daily Meditation 671–12/28/2023

When you look in the mirror, do you see an ACCURATE perception of yourself? Or a grotesquely distorted perception?

When you stand in front of a mirror, what do you see? Beside the obvious (“Well, me lulz”), we don’t just see our face, naked body, or disheveled hair. We will often see something a layer beyond the physical, especially if we are in a tender or emotional place.

We will first of all see imperfections, generally. It is human nature for us to see our aquiline or bulbous or button or “Jew” nose and hate it. It’s our nature to see extra fat when there may be none. Our nature draws our eyes to our vitiligo patches, “fat ass” stretchmarks, receding hair, patchy beard, our “fupa” stomach, our narrow hips, our lack of a thigh gap, or our slanty “ching chong” Japanese eyes.

And these “imperfections” descend from our equally human nature tendency to compare the self to others. This is a topic for discussion in and of itself! Maybe tomorrow. For today — self-comparison is the only productive comparison there is.

But the layer “beyond” the skin we inherently see is our untapped possibility.

Just as we look at a stool or stump and “see” “sitting spot” or look at a slice of bread and “see” “sandwich” or “gluten attack,” we also see our failure to live up to ourselves when we gaze into a mirror.

But here’s the rub:

Usually, we are too damned close to the mirror to be productive.

When you inch up close to a mirror, what do you see then? Every swollen pustule, heaping blackhead, picked-at zit, and ingrown hair. But when you’re this close, you’re unable to see the “rest” of you. It’s not unlike that “blind” date your friend set you up on — “Oh, he’s a cute guy!” you said when your friend showed you a pic of his face, but then he was 5'3" and overweight.

Up close, you are missing the greater picture of yourself and you are wholly incapable of making accurate self-judgements.

So, what do we do?

Well, as I’ve mentioned once or twice here in the Daily Meditations and in the book YouDaimonia, we have what I call “The Rule of 3.”

Throughout your life, you’ve probably (hopefully!) been told you’re a great singer, a solid public speaker, have a handsomely square face, are very beautiful, are good at the benchpress, are a gifted writer and so on. And what’s our general response to these?

“Psh…oh, well…haha, thanks. I dunno, hah…” or some semi-bashful-semi-humble-semi-glowing variation.

And then we never take it to heart. We ignore these comments and foolishly believe we know better than those others who are almost certainly in a better position to make those judgements.
We are far, far too “close to the mirror” to determine our skills to other people, elements of our attractiveness to other people, and our value to other people.

Enter the Rule of 3.

When three different people tell you something about yourself — that your gorgeous, or that you play guitar very well, or that you’re in great shape — three times then you should unequivocally accept it as true and that your opinion on it is mostly incorrect. I say “mostly” as we can (and should) retain some autonomy over our self-opinions, but in many arenas we are simply too biased to self-judge appropriately.

A good application of the Rule of 3 is when friends, family, or spouses have told you “You’re awfully hard on yourself (when you fail, fall short etc).” Your gut probably screams out to you to double down, work harder, and to “suck it up,” but those different voices might be right. Maybe your hardness on yourself is part of your equation of failure?

Or, when you’ve been told you’re very beautiful, gorgeous, or have a slender figure. You see in the mirror the tiny rolls “spilling” over your underwear. You see your uneven teeth. You think your nose is too small or big. But to those others who have told you you are, in fact, beautiful? Well — you are!

Generally, we preach improvement of perception here at YouDaimonia, but you must recognize self-perception is notoriously bad. We are not accurate, but rather overemphazied. We are not fair, but instead brutally judgmental.

You deserve to be treated well, and you will not treat yourself well with your self-appraisals, generally. Use the Rule of 3. Heck, some people even keep a little “compliment journal” in a notebook, spreadsheet, or phone notepad and will put tallies on each compliment or comment as they come in.

In summation — be fair to yourself. Use the Rule of 3 to better “step back” from the mirror and make a better self appraisal.

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These are distillations from my coming book “YouDaimonia: the Philosophy of Human Flourishing.”



Lucas A. Davidson

Daily philosophical meditations on Eudaimonia. These are distillations from the forthcoming book on the topic. Comments or jobs: