Image via Unsplash

We’re really hard on ourselves. This probably isn’t news to you, but I think it’s worth reiterating – often times we’re our own toughest critics. The things we don’t like about ourselves or wish we could change, we think are glaringly obvious – when in reality no one notices them like we do. Everyone else is too worried about their own lives and flaws! 

This reminder is particularly helpful when it comes to looking at pictures of ourselves. For example….you’re at a dinner with friends and ask someone to take a group photo of all of you – immediately after you whip the phone around and fix your eyes on yourself zooming in on every perceived imperfection (my smile is crooked, my arm looks squishy, why is my belly roll showing like that?). Or you’re giving a speech and see the candid photos online the next day and looking at yourself from new angles makes your stomach drop – do I really look like that? 

As humans, we can sometimes look at a photo of ourselves and only see the things we wish we could change (not even the other people in it!). And if you’re struggling with your body image and feeling uncomfortable in your body, this sensation can be heightened. So much so that you may opt-out of photos to avoid having to see yourself in them. If this is the case, I first want to offer you compassion – this is hard work. And second, I want to explore ways we could stay in the frame, because you deserve to take up space there.

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re getting your photo taken and you know you’re prone to overanalyze – try these three tips! 

  1. Don’t look at the photo

Yup – it’s as simple as that. Being in a photo doesn’t mean you’re obligated to look at it right after. You can simply smile and move on with your day – you’re not required to spend the energy zooming in on your figure and examining it from every angle 

  1. Put it in context

Sometimes you have no choice but to look at the photo (hello social media) as it pops up in your news feed or notifications. If this is the case, instead of immediately honing in on your appearance, look at the photo and place it in a bigger picture! What is this photo a memory of? Your sister’s graduation dinner? Your best friend’s wedding? What memories were you making that warranted capturing this moment in time? Hold that closer than the critiques you could make about your body.

  1. Choose one compliment

Even it feels difficult or artificial – challenge and counteract your habit to look at the negative by intentionally calling out something positive. It doesn’t need to be appearance related (the background in this photo is beautiful, I love the way this photo is framed, I love the colors in the photo, etc.) and it can be body neutral (I’m grateful for my arms because they wrap around the people I love in this photo). 

Overall, keep in mind your perceived flaws and unflattering bits are far larger to you than anyone else. And shouldn’t keep you from sitting on the sidelines of life experiences. 

Think back to old photos you’ve ever seen of family – your grandparents framed in black and white, a great aunt’s trip to the beach in a retro bathing costume. Each photo is a unique moment in time, passed down for other generations to observe and learn from. Don’t count yourself out from these moments. Chances are if future generations come across your photos from the present they’ll wonder what you’re doing, who you were with, how you were feeling, what your life was like – not the size of your pants. 

By: Maddy Weingast, Assistant for Wildlflower Therapy LLC