Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

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Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by reboundstudent on Wed Mar 25, 2015 7:52 pm

So as most of you regulars knows, struggling to accept my self-image has been a very big hurdle for me. I've tried different varieties of "positive self-talk" or just trying to give NoFs, but neither really work for me. Partially because I do care about what I look like. I have no idea how to stop caring because I like to try to look good.

Latest struggle is, about a month ago, I did my very first convention costume contest. I am mostly pleased with how the costume turned out, and the judges quite liked it. There was a professional photographer there, and I was super excited to have several photos taken, as I couldn't grab any decent ones myself. Well he finally published the photos today and.... dear Lord I look horrible.

One of my biggest struggles with self-image is that I frequently feel as if my self-perception and reality are on different planes of existence. I looked in the mirror several times that night (right before I took the pictures even!) and I remember being pleased with my appearance. Maybe not "Yeah hot stuff," but enough that I felt comfortable posing for photos. And yet the photos are just god-awful. I look bloated and awkward and... no other nice word for it, fat. I actually almost cried looking at the photos. Is that how I looked in real life? Do I walk around every day looking like that? How did I not realize it? How can I ever think of myself as attractive when I look like that?

How can you have positive self talk when confronted with that sort of thing? How can you think of yourself positively when the actual images of reality are so far from it? Some people genuinely seem to not care if they're unattractive... how do you even start doing that? How do you not care about walking around looking like well, like I did, in public? How does a person accept being unattractive?
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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by eselle28 on Wed Mar 25, 2015 8:09 pm

I have fairly similar reactions to 90% of the pictures taken of me, despite the fact that I'm generally okay with how I look in the mirror most of the time these days and that other people seem to find me decent-looking enough. On a practical level, I deal with it by quickly deleting those pictures and never seeking them out again. There's a reason there aren't a ton of pictures on my social media accounts that actually have me in them, and it's not that cameras suddenly malfunction when I walk into a room.

On a theoretical one, I guess I'd poke at the assumption that the picture represents reality. Looking good in clothes in a still, two-dimensional image is rare enough for there to be a professional field based around the talent. Not everyone's angles and curves are going to translate to a good flat image, the focal points of a picture are generally not quite where they'd be when people are having a conversation, and I think there are a lot of people whose decent-looking-ness relies in large part on movement and animation. I guess that's just a long way of suggesting that maybe the mirror and the judges were right and that the photos are just a sign of perhaps being unphotogenic. But I realize that doesn't automatically make things feel better. I'm sorry you had the experience of looking at pictures that make you feel lousy about yourself - I've been there, and it sucks.
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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by Enail on Wed Mar 25, 2015 8:37 pm

I second what Eselle said. I'm pretty okay with my looks, but I still kind of cringe seeing myself in photos. So, fist bumps of cringing solidarity! There's something about capturing a single moment and just freezing it like truth that brings out all kinds of things I can't stand (some of which I know really don't match the technical facts of my appearance, as well as some that do but don't bug me much outside of photos). It's not that the photo's a lie, exactly - and it never helps to hear all the people who are used to seeing you from the outside and don't have their self-image riding on whether that photo's good or not say "oh, that's a great photo of you!" :\ - but it's only a particular side of the truth. I like to think of it as even if I'm hideously ugly, I'm a different kind of hideously ugly in photos than IRL, in motion Razz

And it helps me to remember some pictures I saw of aspiring models once, all extremely conventionally attractive - but some of them looked bad in their photos, and the ones that looked good were not always the ones who I'd thought looked most attractive IRL. Being photogenic is a talent or a skill, and while it's got some relation to general attractiveness out in the world, it's very far from an exact match.

But mostly, I just try not to dwell on them if they bother me.  Shrug

Also, congrats on doing well with your costume! I hope the pictures don't totally overshadow that for you.
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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by Guest on Wed Mar 25, 2015 9:09 pm

Enail wrote:
But mostly, I just try not to dwell on them if they bother me.  Shrug

Pretty much this.

I'm of the belief that a lot of people (not everyone) don't like photos of themselves. I sure as hell don't like seeing myself in pics and video a lot, I hate the way my mouth moves a lot, I don't like that I have a small-ish mouth with somewhat plump lips. I'm sure the people I speak to don't care about that... but I do! Razz So, you're definitely not alone, RBS. Not by a loooong shot.

Otherwise, do what Enail suggests which is what I do as well. Take the pic, if I like it, okay, if I don't that's also okay.

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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by waxingjaney on Wed Mar 25, 2015 9:59 pm

reboundstudent wrote:Well he finally published the photos today and.... dear Lord I look horrible.

Don't assume that what you perceive when you see yourself in a mirror is going to be the same as what you perceive when you see yourself in a photograph, or that it would be the same as what someone else perceives when they see that photograph. Self-perception is a very complex, contextual, and idiosyncratic thing.
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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by reboundstudent on Wed Mar 25, 2015 10:15 pm

waxingjaney wrote:
reboundstudent wrote:Well he finally published the photos today and.... dear Lord I look horrible.

Don't assume that what you perceive when you see yourself in a mirror is going to be the same as what you perceive when you see yourself in a photograph, or that it would be the same as what someone else perceives when they see that photograph. Self-perception is a very complex, contextual, and idiosyncratic thing.

I guess I shouldn't perceive them as the same, it's true, but then how are you supposed to have self confidence in your appearance without 1) any external validation that yep, that meat sack is attractive and/or 2) any reassurance that your own mirror-perception is correct? I admit, I don't quite buy that what people see in the photo and what other people see in real life aren't the same thing. I mean, if my photo is the "real me", it sure does explain why men don't like me.


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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by Caffeinated on Wed Mar 25, 2015 10:29 pm

reboundstudent wrote:
waxingjaney wrote:
reboundstudent wrote:Well he finally published the photos today and.... dear Lord I look horrible.

Don't assume that what you perceive when you see yourself in a mirror is going to be the same as what you perceive when you see yourself in a photograph, or that it would be the same as what someone else perceives when they see that photograph. Self-perception is a very complex, contextual, and idiosyncratic thing.

I guess I shouldn't perceive them as the same, it's true, but then how are you supposed to have self confidence in your appearance without 1) any external validation that yep, that meat sack is attractive and/or 2) any reassurance that your own mirror-perception is correct? I admit, I don't quite buy that what people see in the photo and what other people see in real life aren't the same thing. I mean, if my photo is the "real me", it sure does explain why men don't like me.

Judge for thyself:
(PS: You have t-minus 3 hours before I delete the link.)

I just flipped through some of the photos, not just yours but of other people as well, and I can tell you what my personal reaction would be (you can read "reaction" as "rationalization" if you like) if I got photos of myself in this set. And that's that this particular photographer used some extremely harsh lighting that was not as flattering to his subjects as I might have expected from the context and backdrop etc. Normally, when shots have the setup of these, I would expect softer lighting that's designed to make people look their best. The lighting on this reminded me of lighting in a "before" picture for cosmetic procedures, like it was meant to emphasize flaws and makes everyone's pores visible. People sometimes say photos don't lie, but in reality, a skilled photographer can make them say whatever they want.
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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by eselle28 on Wed Mar 25, 2015 10:31 pm

So, I'd divide those pictures into three categories. I think a couple of them are cute and fun and look like the person who I remember as being the "real you" (assuming that my particular in person observation is "real" - which is up for some debate). There are also quite a few that I don't perceive as looking all that much like you, and I actually think I have a sense of why not. Your costume has some volume above the waist, and that's always going to make someone look larger than they are. That's not really avoidable in some period styles, I suspect. That part of the costume is also white and has some shine to it, and clothing with either trait tends to photograph awkwardly. And then you've got a couple poses where you're leaning down a bit, and especially in a picture, that tends not to be a body-flattering pose. Personally, my guess would be that your estimation in the mirror and the judges' assessment were closer to the truth, and that this particular costume happens to be one that looks good in person but is tough to photograph, especially in a setting where you're not getting extensive studio time and lighting devoted to correcting those effects.
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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by waxingjaney on Wed Mar 25, 2015 10:59 pm

reboundstudent wrote:
Judge for thyself.

Since you asked, I see a person wearing a jacket, a bowtie, and jaunty Bella Abzug-ish hat. This person may be a woman, assuming gender stereotypes regarding face painting hold in this instance. Beyond that, I make no judgement.


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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by reboundstudent on Wed Mar 25, 2015 11:00 pm

eselle28 wrote:So, I'd divide those pictures into three categories. I think a couple of them are cute and fun and look like the person who I remember as being the "real you" (assuming that my particular in person observation is "real" - which is up for some debate). There are also quite a few that I don't perceive as looking all that much like you, and I actually think I have a sense of why not. Your costume has some volume above the waist, and that's always going to make someone look larger than they are. That's not really avoidable in some period styles, I suspect. That part of the costume is also white and has some shine to it, and clothing with either trait tends to photograph awkwardly. And then you've got a couple poses where you're leaning down a bit, and especially in a picture, that tends not to be a body-flattering pose. Personally, my guess would be that your estimation in the mirror and the judges' assessment were closer to the truth, and that this particular costume happens to be one that looks good in person but is tough to photograph, especially in a setting where you're not getting extensive studio time and lighting devoted to correcting those effects.

Thanks Eselle and Caffinated, that does make sense, especially as I look at other photos in the sets. That bodice IS historically accurate, which in the 1880's-ish meant volume, volume, and more big-ness! which probably doesn't look right for sleek, modern sensibilities. I also made it intentionally larger because I was worried about lacing myself in the corset (can't get it as tight) and then having made the jacket too small.

To my original question.... how do you reconcile self-confidence or believing you're attractive when you don't photograph well or seem attractive to others?
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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by kleenestar on Thu Mar 26, 2015 12:15 am

I photograph *horribly* - to the point where I refuse to look at pictures of myself, except a few carefully selected shots that my husband pre-vets for me. I evaluate how I appear to others by getting feedback from three very carefully chosen people that I can trust. I also trust the mirror over the camera - but it helps that my mother and brother (who I look like) are also incredibly un-photogenic in exactly the same way I am, but are quite attractive in person. I can look at them and know that the camera lies about me just like it lies about them. (While my sisters are incredibly beautiful in person AND incredibly photogenic, just like my dad was. It makes it hard to be only moderately cute sometimes, and family photos are just painful. It's literally the "wow we are so gorgeous and shiny" half and the "we are all lumpy and strange-looking and also making weird faces" half.)
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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by The Wisp on Thu Mar 26, 2015 12:54 am

The Mikey wrote:
I'm of the belief that a lot of people (not everyone) don't like photos of themselves.

I generally dislike my photos, too.

I would go so far as to say most people dislike photos of themselves. It's kinda like hearing a recording of your voice, it's sort of alien.
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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by Guest on Thu Mar 26, 2015 1:15 am

The Wisp wrote:
I generally dislike my photos, too.

I would go so far as to say most people dislike photos of themselves. It's kinda like hearing a recording of your voice, it's sort of alien.

Actually I kinda like hearing myself speak sometimes; if I'm recorded properly, I can sound pretty sexy. Razz

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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by Guest on Thu Mar 26, 2015 1:19 am

The Wisp wrote:
The Mikey wrote:
I'm of the belief that a lot of people (not everyone) don't like photos of themselves.

I generally dislike my photos, too.

I would go so far as to say most people dislike photos of themselves. It's kinda like hearing a recording of your voice, it's sort of alien.

Same. Especially if my hair isn't perfect somehow.

Don't even get me started on my voice.

Both seem to be common enough issues that it's hard to feel alone about it.

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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by LadyLuck on Thu Mar 26, 2015 2:50 am

Just to give a +1 experience: when I went out for senior Prom, I ended up with two sets of photos. The first were from an uncle that did photography as a hobby. The others were from the "official" prom photographer. I was wearing the exact same outfit, had the exact same hairdo, everything. I do NOT look equally attractive in them; my uncle's are waaaaay more flattering (or at least I think so). Photos definitely are not a magical "Whole truth and nothing but the truth" thing. Otherwise I'd look equally attractive in the two sets of photos, since they were pictures of basically the same thing (me posing with my boyfriend).

Oh yeah, and then there's that thing about how EVERYONE'S Driver's License photo is awful, no exceptions. The best I've seen are pictures that are merely decent. I have yet to find a full-blown counterexample.

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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by nearly_takuan on Thu Mar 26, 2015 2:59 am

LadyLuck wrote:Oh yeah, and then there's that thing about how EVERYONE'S Driver's License photo is awful, no exceptions. The best I've seen are pictures that are merely decent. I have yet to find a full-blown counterexample.

I kind of like mine, but I also think I look a bit like a serial killer in it? So... Shrug
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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by readertorider on Thu Mar 26, 2015 7:51 am

LadyLuck wrote:Oh yeah, and then there's that thing about how EVERYONE'S Driver's License photo is awful, no exceptions. The best I've seen are pictures that are merely decent. I have yet to find a full-blown counterexample.

I have, but it was on a fake License, which may come close to proving your point Wink

I definitely hate how I look in pictures-I look like a gremlin and when I smile my eyes disappear and my mouth gets shorter and my face just looks like a very craggy moon. Even in a group shot of my college major (80+ people) I was the only (way too pale) blob in a suit.

What definitely helps me is that I have a few friends that like to take phone pictures of anything and everything and occasionally there will be a photo of me looking like a human while I'm doing something else. I know I would be a terrible scientist if I regarded 98% of the data, but I don't care.

Do you have any pictures you like? I've heard that people are attractive because they have an expressive face, or their personality shines through, or their physical grace, or hoards of other (non-photogenic) reasons. It does seem like camera misfunctioning is not that rare Smile
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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by Caffeinated on Thu Mar 26, 2015 1:18 pm

reboundstudent wrote:To my original question.... how do you reconcile self-confidence or believing you're attractive when you don't photograph well or seem attractive to others?

Back in the 90s some time, I read a passage in a book that changed my life as far as self-image goes. It was definitely in one of Cynthia Heimel's books, and I think the book was "If You Can't Live Without Me, Why Aren't You Dead Yet?" (although it could have been one of her others). The passage took place at a Hollywood party, I think in a Malibu beach house. And she described how she kept seeing out of the corner of her eye cute little cheerleader types, and then turning to look fully at them and realizing they were women in their 50s or 60s who were dieted and surgeried and fashioned and processed within an inch of their life. These women were all avoiding the food and looked skinny and crabby and unhappy. Then she describes going out on the deck and seeing the men (presumably these women's husbands), who were all tucking happily into plates of food, and how even the balding and paunchy ones looked enormously pleased with themselves.

I read this passage, and a couple things hit me. One was that a person's self-image is not necessarily directly related to their actual looks in any but the most cursory way. Another was that there were many forces in our world that wanted to keep me miserable and unhappy with myself and constantly trying to fix myself (at great cost to me and profit to certain industries). Another was that life seemed much more enjoyable if a person could join the enormously pleased with themselves set rather than the unhappy with themselves set. And perhaps the most important was that I could just decide which set to join.

So I decided I would cultivate an attitude of being enormously pleased with myself and my looks, and to hell with anything or anyone who contradicted that.
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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by reboot on Thu Mar 26, 2015 1:53 pm

LadyLuck wrote:...

Oh yeah, and then there's that thing about how EVERYONE'S Driver's License photo is awful, no exceptions. The best I've seen are pictures that are merely decent. I have yet to find a full-blown counterexample.

Driver's licenses, passports, and mug shots. If someone looks good in them, start questioning whether or not they are a cyborg, an alien, or both Smile

I cannot add to the great comments everyone else gave, but I can definitely sympathize with the hatred of pictures of yourself. The only pictures I like of me are in a burkha or niqab
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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by Izmuth on Thu Mar 26, 2015 2:30 pm

When I start feeling down about pictures of myself, I just study this pic religiously. It reminds me that every picture is just the result of lighting, food you just ate, drinks you just drank, activities you just did and a healthy dosis of (bad) luck how it all comes together, not necessarily inherent attractiveness.

Doesn't work all the time, but hey, I never go swimming because I hate my body, so not crying when I see a picture of myself is kind of an achievement!

(Spoilered for length)
Spoiler:
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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by Gentleman Johnny on Thu Mar 26, 2015 2:36 pm

Photographs are in no way an objective truth. For an example, the following two pictures were taken 15 minutes apart. They're hte same person but the latter one has better lighting, better fitting clothes and a better posture. That's basically it.


I've done several photo shoots with professionals as well as several in the field and you'd be amazed at how much change a little difference that you'd never notice in person makes when you catch it and freeze it. If my head's at the wrong angle, I have a double chin. If my feet are set too wide or my shoulders aren't back enough, I look short. If I wear my hat without my coat, I look like a pumpkin headed scarecrow. Its gotten to the point that I take my coat and hat off any time I'm eating, slouching in a chair etc to discourage photos. A lot of factors have to be just right for me to find a picture of myself ok, let alone great. On the other hand, when my psoriasis is flaring up, I tend to think that I look like a horrible, radiation scarred mutant but the photos don't show it nearly as much as I feel it. The only way to really find out what works is get the photos you don't like, figure out what to do differently and repeat.

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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by caliseivy on Fri Mar 27, 2015 11:11 am

I spent a few days thinking about whether I had anything to add to the conversation that hasn't already been said, and I think I have something.
I think that even though we know most of the images we see anywhere of people (that aren't done by an average joe with a phone's camera) are planned out and photoshopped, we still unconsciously compare our real-life shots to the doctored images we're so used to seeing which is a comparison of wax apples to fresh-picked oranges.

To answer the question, I don't, really. Feeling attractive has been a long-standing issue for me, though there are times when I might look in the mirror and think I look attractive I've never felt like it's an opinion that anyone else would share. Pictures definitely don't help that.
I've only had maybe four pictures, in a lifetime of unwanted photos, that I thought looked good or decent. Two were in costumed poses, one was when I was slimmer and having a good day, and the fourth was taken by a good photographer who had a perfect shot while I was busy caught up in my own thoughts. Now, I insist that if someone feels they must take a picture of me it has to be while I'm doing something; poses always feel artificial.

Maybe you'll have to constantly remind yourself that there's a lot more going on in the process of taking a photo than there is in staring at yourself in a mirror in real time. I take a lot of ID pictures (just from the neck up) at work and I'm thinking maybe 99% of them are not flattering, no matter how much the person primps or retouches prior to the picture. The majority of them scrunch up their faces when they see the picture so it's apparently an issue for all of humankind.
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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by CP96 on Sat Mar 28, 2015 9:29 am

Izmuth wrote:When I start feeling down about pictures of myself, I just study this pic religiously. It reminds me that every picture is just the result of lighting, food you just ate, drinks you just drank, activities you just did and a healthy dosis of (bad) luck how it all comes together, not necessarily inherent attractiveness.

Doesn't work all the time, but hey, I never go swimming because I hate my body, so not crying when I see a picture of myself is kind of an achievement!

Gentleman Johnny wrote:Photographs are in no way an objective truth. For an example, the following two pictures were taken 15 minutes apart. They're hte same person but the latter one has better lighting, better fitting clothes and a better posture. That's basically it.

I've done several photo shoots with professionals as well as several in the field and you'd be amazed at how much change a little difference that you'd never notice in person makes when you catch it and freeze it. If my head's at the wrong angle, I have a double chin. If my feet are set too wide or my shoulders aren't back enough, I look short.  If I wear my hat without my coat, I look like a pumpkin headed scarecrow. Its gotten to the point that I take my coat and hat off any time I'm eating, slouching in a chair etc to discourage photos. A lot of factors have to be just right for me to find a picture of myself ok, let alone great. On the other hand, when my psoriasis is flaring up, I tend to think that I look like a horrible, radiation scarred mutant but the photos don't show it nearly as much as I feel it. The only way to really find out what works is get the photos you don't like, figure out what to do differently and repeat.

This clip from the movie Bigger, Stronger, Faster also covers a lot of the same stuff.
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Re: Self-Image Struggles [Adv]

Post by ChrissyOrig on Sun Mar 29, 2015 1:20 pm

Gentleman Johnny wrote:Photographs are in no way an objective truth. For an example, the following two pictures were taken 15 minutes apart. They're hte same person but the latter one has better lighting, better fitting clothes and a better posture. That's basically it.

Thank you so much for posting those pictures. That is such a great example of how fluid our bodies and images are. We often think of our images as static (fat, short, whatever), but how we are actually seen can change a great deal.

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