Do you love pictures of yourself?
We’ve all been there. You see a photo of yourself that you hate, and you quickly hit delete.
You don’t let people take pics of you.
You hide in the back of the photo.
You offer to be the photographer so you don’t have to be in the picture.
You don’t want to feel insecure, ashamed, or unhappy with how you look, so you just try not to see photos of yourself. If you don’t see them, you won’t be unhappy, right?
Actually, it’s exactly the other way around. The more you avoid photos of yourself, the more you’ll hate the ones you see.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
The brain is designed to prefer familiarity. Your brain comes from a long line of human brains that found safety in the familiar. If you recognized a plant was safe to eat, that was one less time you ate something poisonous. If you recognized a place that had good shelter, that was one less time you slept out undefended.
So now, your brain likes what is familiar. And one of the reasons you hate photos is that they are unfamiliar.
When you think about it, where do you see yourself most often?
In the mirror.
That’s the view of yourself you see dozens of times a day, 365 days a year. Your brain is very familiar with your reflection in a mirror, particularly the few mirrors you see 90% of the time (your bedroom mirror, the bathroom at work, etc.).
Well, when you take a photo, you usually end up looking different than you do in a mirror, for a couple of reasons. One is that a mirror flips your reflection across a vertical axis. That’s why if you write something, it reads backward in a mirror. You’re used to seeing your face flipped, and in photos, it’s not.
Studies show we prefer mirror images of our own faces, but we prefer photo images of other people’s faces because we see them un-flipped in daily life. On top of that, different kinds of lenses, distance from the camera, angles, lighting, and backgrounds can all contribute to making photos look vastly different, even if taken of the same person in the same place at the same time.
So how can you learn to love photos of yourself?
By taking more of them.
Take all the selfies.
Take them from different angles, in different lighting, in different clothes (and wearing different makeup if you use makeup). Look at them often.
Notice the thoughts that come up about why you prefer one photo to another. Notice which photos you think are the “real” you, and which ones are easier or harder to dismiss.
For extra credit, here’s an exercise you can do with those selfies that will help speed you along the path to loving any photo you’re in!
Look at a photo of yourself that you love. Set a timer for 90 seconds. Free-write for 90 seconds about why you love the photo.
Take a photo of yourself that you don’t like. Set a timer for 90 seconds. Free-write for 90 seconds about why you don’t like the photo.
Look at your two descriptions. What themes do you see? Write down any themes you notice (you like photos where you look thin, where you can’t see your nose, or where your hair looks shiny).
These are your “photo beliefs”—the ideas you have about what makes a photo great or terrible.
Read over your negative description again. Notice how it makes you feel. Read over your positive description of the photo you love. Notice how it makes you feel.
What this exercise shows you is that it’s not any particular photo that causes your feelings. It’s your thoughts about it.
Now take the “bad” photo again. Set your timer for 90 seconds again. Write a list of things about that photo that are true, but either neutral or positive. No negative descriptions this time. Positive descriptions would be things like “my hair looks nice.” Neutral descriptions are things like “I am wearing a dress.” “ People are dancing.”
Read over the new neutral/positive description of the “bad” photo. Compare to how you feel reading the negative description of the “bad” photo. Notice that choosing to draw your own attention to and describe neutral or positive aspects of any photo, even one you hate, can help you feel better about it.
These descriptions you wrote are just the thoughts you’re usually having. Bringing them to the surface shows you that you can decide how you want to feel about any picture, and you can think thoughts on purpose that will help you create that feeling.
Do this exercise once a day for a week or two (with different photos) and you’ll be amazed how much more you start to like photos of yourself that you would’ve hated before!
I’ve decided to like ALL my photos.
What I say to myself when I’m looking at my photo is … “That’s me. I’m grateful to be alive.”