Our society, by and large, is pretty self-centered. As someone with extreme social anxiety I can guarantee you that I don’t think about what other people do or look like when they’re out in public nearly as much as I care about myself in those situations, and I think that’s probably true for a lot of people. Basically, this means that my social anxieties are pretty unfounded, and inwardly I know that.

Simply from a self-preservation standpoint, it shouldn’t really matter anyway. I mean, you don’t owe these people a good appearance, just as they don’t owe you anything. Of course, at work or something there might be certain looks you’re obligated to have, but even then, past the point of uniformity, your appearance really doesn’t belong to anyone else.

That being said… When I found out there was a scientific way to figure out if other people found me attractive, I was pretty eager to check it out. After all, who doesn’t want a little confirmation that they look good every now and then?

A lot of understanding what people are thinking about you requires accepting that they’re probably not thinking about you, or at least not to the extent that you think about yourself. Picture it this way: How much do you know about a random passing stranger? Odds are, very little. But you know yourself quite intimately, so there are bound to be things that you scrutinize yourself for that your random everyday stranger will have literally no clue about.

With a little fine-tuning, though, you can “think like Sherlock Holmes” and mentally pick apart the strangers you pass by – evaluating the seemingly-insignificant clues like a genius. Of course, you’ll need an understanding of human body language to do this, but you’ll also need the ability to take a step back from yourself. After all, you can’t possibly see yourself like a stranger sees you, unless you look at yourself like a stranger would.

As you might expect, this is the hard part.

You’ll need to consciously distance yourself from all the information about you that’s not visible to the naked idea. Mentally erase all your insecurities, your perceived shortcomings, and anything else that others wouldn’t be able to tell about you. One of the easiest ways to evaluate your appearance with a “fresh set of eyes” is to look at a picture of yourself from a few months ago. Sure, some details might have changed between then and today, but trust me here – the general impression will be the same.

If you look at a picture of yourself from the day before, chances are, you’re going to remember everything that went into the shot. You’ll think, I look tired, because you know you hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before. You’ll think about how your hair wasn’t done very well, because you were in a rush that morning. But six months from now, you’re not going to remember those fine details – you’re going to see the more general “truth” that the picture holds.

It’s the same when a stranger evaluates your appearance. They don’t know the details that you know about yourself, or what has gone on that day. Strangers can’t see that you ate too much at lunch, or that you forgot to match your bra to your underwear, or that you only spent half as much time in the shower that morning. How could they know those things?

You can do this experiment with a video of yourself, too – just a short introduction. Chances are, the words that you use to introduce yourself are going to have a strong impression on the person who sees it, and this introduction is going to be pretty similar to the one you actually use when meeting new people. Take the video, then don’t look at it for a while – then watch it and see yourself as others see you.

Using this trick to help you fully understand what others are thinking about themselves, though, is a little different. You can’t understand someone else’s situation unless you’re literally in their shoes, and human psychology makes it impossible to do that by trying. If you look at a still photograph of someone and try to predict how they would see themselves in that picture, you’ll most likely fail.

This is, in part, a reminder that other people don’t see the flaws and problems we see in ourselves – which is a good thing.

This means that you can tell how you look to other people by simply examining the things you see in a picture from a long time ago and comparing that to the body language they exhibit. If you picked a picture from your past where you felt attractive, and the person you’re trying to read is looking at you, chances are that they see what you did. Your overall positivity will help, too, as confidence is proven to be an attractive quality.

In the end, though, we should all stop focusing so much on what other people think of us, and pay closer attention to the way we feel about ourselves. This positive outlook can be contagious and it’s becoming more and more important for us to learn how to love ourselves. Are you doing everything you need to do?