The Secret to Liking Yourself in Photos

woman looking at photos

I recently saw a picture of myself, where I looked gross. Like, for real. It wasn’t an “Oh, stop, Nicole, you look fine” kind of photo; it was a legitimately unattractive picture of myself. Unarguably so. My unintentional ombre hair was in a messy “bun,” if you could call it that; I was wearing an old bright blue zip up sweatshirt of my husband’s; my under eye bag game was strong after about three hours of sleep; and my head was positioned in such a way that it appeared that I had grown 47 chins and aged about 17 years from the last photo that was taken of me. I did not pose for this photo. My 3-year-old daughter snapped it when I was holding my 8-month-old son and not paying attention. And, let me tell you, it was depressing as hell. 


When I stumbled upon the photo in my iPhone, I did what most masochists would do: I zoomed in. "Ugh," I sighed. "This is terrible." I, of course, deleted the photo, but not before analyzing it like an uncracked forensic case and thinking about all of the things I could and should change about myself. Maybe I should cut my hair? Or grow it? Or dye it? Or chop my head off and get a new one? Sure, it’d be expensive, but there was probably a Groupon. It would be worth it.  

I don’t spend nearly as much time thinking about my looks now as I did when I was 25, but when I do, it typically isn’t in the vein of, "Hey, you look pretty today!" It’s more along the lines of, "Ugh."

I know, it’s such a cliche for women to hate the way they look in photos, and all reflective surfaces. There are countless parodies on the Internet and beyond of females who are incapable of accepting a compliment, particularly when it pertains to their looks -- and they’re funny, because, sadly, they’re true. Women are harsh on themselves. But, when I sat there, staring at that photo of myself, I realized something other than the fact that it wouldn't kill me to do a hot oil treatment: I’m tired. I’m tired of looking at photos of myself and immediately criticizing. This is not something I want to do the rest of my life. This is not a pleasant way to live.

After I finished critiquing my final eyelash and deleted the pic, I had a thought: What if I just … liked that picture of myself? What if I didn’t immediately think, "Must. Delete. This."? What if I didn’t contemplate all the things I should change about my appearance? It certainly wasn’t my finest moment, but who cares? I’m happy. I’m healthy. My family is happy and healthy. Why not focus on that instead? Or why not focus on nothing at all? In the 10 years I’ve known my husband, I don’t think I’ve once heard him say, "OMG, delete that picture of me!" after seeing a photo of himself. Why was I always doing it? It's as if I'm trying to erase all traces of me ever being on this earth.

It’s definitely a tall order to simply start "liking how you look in photos" in one fell swoop, particularly if you’ve been doing the exact opposite for years. But, it's certainly within the realm of possibility. I can't say I know for sure how to do it, but I'm guessing it starts with not zooming in on your face when you see a shot of yourself, right? Baby steps.

I once heard a piece of advice that stuck with me, despite my not heeding the message. It was something in the vein of how when we look in the mirror, we should try pretending we're a friend instead of ourselves and see how our perception changes. The few times I've done this, I've instantly gone easier on myself, as I'd never criticize or examine another person like I do myself. Perhaps the same thing can be done with pictures? Perhaps, like my husband, I can just see a photo of myself and think, "There's a photo of myself," and move on to something else? On paper, it seems so simple. 

Recently, I was hanging out with some friends I hadn't seen in a while and before we all parted ways, we had someone take a couple of photos of us. Naturally, we all immediately huddled around the phones after to examine the pictures and say which ones we liked (the ones we looked good in), and the ones we didn't (the ones we looked bad in). When I saw the pictures, I immediately noticed how my bangs were askew and frizzier than a pulled-apart cotton ball. But, I didn't dwell. I didn't comment. I tried to focus on four friends who've known each other since sixth grade. 

"Mind if I post this one?" one of my girlfriends asked. 

"Sure," I said without looking. 

She sighed. "You have the best hair."

Do you like the way you look in photos?


Image © RossHelen/Shutterstock 

Read More >