Sunday, June 23, 2019

My Self-Hate Battle Plan


I wrote my last post, "No Pictures, Please", three years ago, and since then I've had both wins and losses. I've actually struggled with some of these issues for over a decade, starting back when Cake Wrecks hit the best-seller's list, and forced this already camera-shy introvert into the limelight. The panic of losing my anonymity was only compounded by the fact that I didn't like the way I looked.

I never thought I'd get better, and often dreamed of being the eccentric recluse author, hidden in deep shadows for the rest of my days. But to do what I love - to connect to people through this blog - I knew I had to show my face. So I tried. Eventually I fought back my self-loathing enough to film some Youtube videos - a thing I never thought I'd do - and over the years I've shared quite a few photos of myself here on Epbot. I won't say it's ever been easy, but there have been times when it was easier, at least. There were even times I liked a photo of myself! I was making progress.

When I stopped pushing myself, though, it always got worse.

I reached a point of not only avoiding photos and mirrors, but even neglecting my own appearance. After all, what's the point of wearing nice clothes or styling my hair when there's no use, no hope?

More dangerous, I found myself so anxious at the thought of going places where fans would see me that I was tempted to cancel important trips and plans. Even visits with friends became a challenge.

I'd be so ashamed of these feelings that I would get trapped in a loop: hating myself for hating myself, struggling to overcome a feeling I still don't understand, struggling to understand how everyone else seems to be fine with how they look, while I'm just over here... stuck.

Then I posted "No Pictures" last week, and was OVERWHELMED.

It turns out that not only am I not alone, I am SO not alone that I'm starting to think our club of self-hate is in the majority. In the first 24 hours I had hundreds of DMs, e-mails, and comments, ranging from teenagers to 70-year-olds - and the vast majority were a unified chorus of "Me, too."

I'll be honest, some of your responses made me sob. The amount of visceral, unbridled self-hate among you was like a punch to the gut. I wanted to take it away. I wanted to hug so many of you, to cry with you and heal you and distribute light-up unicorn headphones so we could all dance this pain away.

Then I got mad. Because this isn't right, gang. This isn't right. This has to change. We have to fight.

Look, I know my feelings are lying to me, that the people who love me will find beauty in me no matter what I look like. I know physical appearance is the least important part of a person, and that all I need is a little confidence and a lot of kindness to shine through for people to enjoy looking at me.

I know this, but I don't feel it. Sounds like most of you don't, either.

So here's my battle plan.


Step One:
Declare War... On The Right Enemy


We spend all this energy hating our own bodies, but the truth is our bodies - our bellies, our double chins, our bad skin - none of these are the enemy. In fact, our bodies are our allies. (Or at least a neutral party. That's right, y'all, MY BODY IS SWITZERLAND.)

The real enemy is our own distorted self-image. It's the mental selfie with a self-hate filter that lies to us, hurts us, and actively works to bring us down. No one else sees it. I repeat, no one else sees what we see when we look at ourselves. We're attacking the wrong enemy.

So first things first: Declare war. Recognize what you're actually fighting: Not your weight, not your face, but a false internal image so deeply embedded that you've long since accepted it as fact.

This is so important that I need you to go back and read that entire section again. I'll wait.

Now, do you believe that, at least in your head, if not your heart? Do you believe the problem isn't in any way your body, but only your perception of it?

When the answer is yes, move on to step two.



Step Two: Gear Up

It's dangerous to go alone, so gather your forces. Don't have any? Just take a look in my comment sections here, on Facebook, and on Instagram. WE ARE LEGION. And we're gonna need to hold each other up.

If you don't have a group of friends in real life who will support you in this battle, then I highly recommend Fans of Epbot on Facebook. I've already seen half a dozen discussion posts over there sparked by my last post, and the amount of encouragement and celebration and support among virtual friends there is incredible. In fact, I have an action plan I'd like to propose for FOE, but I'll get to that a bit later.

You'll also need some weapons, and as any nerd will tell you, the mightiest is INFORMATION.
 
 (Art by Risa Rodil)

So do your research! Go see if Body Dysmorphic Disorder describes you, and if it does - or even if it doesn't - consider talking to a therapist. No shame. You go for physicals, right? Therapy is a check-up for your brain. It's good. It's preventative. It's healthy. And if everything I'm writing here today has you backing away, shaking your head, and insisting that may be fine for everyone else, but not YOU, then please. Talk to someone. I'm just a geeky blogger muddling through best I can over here; I'm no substitute for a licensed professional who can work with you one-on-one.


Step Three: Exposure Therapy



I've learned there are startling parallels between my self-loathing and my agoraphobia. Giving in to my fear - by hiding and avoiding the things that give me anxiety - only lets the fear grow, and further cages me in. It's also insidious: everything feels fine while you avoid the stressors, but then an unavoidable life thing comes along, and WHAM. You're knocked flat.

See where I'm going with this?

In other words, the more I avoid looking at myself, the more I hate looking at myself. The more I avoid photos of myself, the more devastating they are.

The answer is also the best unintentional pun: Exposure therapy. (Hehehe.)

With agoraphobia, exposure therapy means leaving the house, taking trips, and getting a little further outside my comfort zone one step at a time. For self-loathing, exposure therapy means more photos. More mirrors. More selfies. We need to re-acquaint ourselves with our outside parts. Not in a way that hurts - not in a punishing way - but in small steps we're (mostly) comfortable with.

For example, my publisher required an author photo for Cake Wrecks, when the very idea made my insides wither. So I found a compromise: I had John take the photo, and I partially hid my face behind a cake. This still pushed me outside my comfort zone, but I had enough control over the results that it didn't devastate me.




If you can't handle a selfie right now, start with a part of your body you're sort of OK with. Your fingernails. The back of your hair in a pretty clip. Your shoes. A close up of a tattoo or a piece of jewelry. Give yourself the assignment of photographing a PART of yourself three times a week. Heck, turn off all the lights and just get your silhouette against a window! Get creative with how you hide, make it fun. But do it.

Remember, no one expects an agoraphobe to start with a cross-country trip, and I don't expect you to start taking daily selfies. Start small. Only try on your good days. Give yourself outs. Go ahead, use the cat filter. Just understand that filters are only tools to help you see yourself in a different light, to reset the faulty image you have in your brain. Eventually, after you know your face and body again, you may find you can appreciate them on their own. At the very least, you'll come to find them less shocking and hurtful.



Step Four: Make a Schedule

Every form of health care takes time and effort, and fighting self-hate is no different. Set a schedule of things that make you feel better about yourself - preferably things with somewhat visible results, like a manicure, shopping for fun clothes, facial masks, etc. Then STICK TO THAT SCHEDULE. Even if you do these things yourself at home, it's about making time to feel better in your own skin.

When possible - when you get there - start taking photos of yourself on your good days. This could be just outfit photos, like I do, or selfies, depending on your comfort level. You don't have to post these anywhere, and if they feel like a punishment - if they make you despair - then stop and go back to photographing just parts of yourself. This is all a process. I promise, if you keep at it, it will get easier. I read once that exposure therapy has a 100% success rate, because if you do it properly, it literally never fails. This has been true for my agoraphobia, and I believe it's true here as well. I'm not saying you'll ever necessarily love what you see in the mirror, but with exposure therapy you WILL get used to it, and find it hurts less and less, until there's no shock, no pain, no cringe at all. It will just be... you.

Another tip: I find that putting pretty things ON myself - jewelry, nail polish, even a nice perfume - sometimes makes me like myself more by proxy. Look for wearables that make you smile, so you get used to smiling when you see that part of yourself. Even if it's as small as a pair of silly socks, put something you like on your body. We need to learn to associate happy things with our own bodies. (It also doesn't hurt to have more people smiling when they see your glitter shoes or your geeky t-shirt or whatnot.)


I mentioned this next bit in passing to John last night, and he says you guys will appreciate it:

The past several days I've been doing outfit photos, even if I'm just wearing shorts and a tank top. On Friday I started to take a photo, but realized my Chucks were so dirty it was embarrassing. They'd been like that a while, and made me feel ratty when I wore them, but I'd been too lazy to clean them. So I stopped, went and washed my shoes, then proceeded to take the photo. And now I have lovely clean Chucks that don't make me feel like a bum anymore!

But first, let's take a shoe-fi.

That's just an example of how making a little effort can snowball, since the little things add up. Also, wearing grungy clothes can make us feel grungy, so start there: wear the NICE things in your closet. Stop being like me and saving everything for a special occasion!


Step Five: Retrain Your Brain

This is perhaps the toughest step, because it requires questioning everything we think we know about beauty, and everything we see in every form of media. The truth is, every picture-perfect person we see on TV, in print, and yes, especially online, is a manufactured lie. We can no longer believe our eyes any more than we can believe the lying voices in our heads.

It's one thing to know that, of course, and another to believe it. So here are some tools:

Don't Compare Yourself To Celebrities is the one thing I miss most about Pinterest, but the good news is I *think* Indy is still writing for it. Regardless, you will get lost in her 6,000+ pins examining all things photoshopped and straight-up fake about people in ads and celebrity photos.


Indy includes side-by-sides of the same person in a candid shot vs a pro shoot - so you can see how much they're distorted in post processing -  as well as praise-worthy ads with non-photoshopped models, celebs without make-up, and lots more.

When I first started following Indy nearly 8 years ago I honestly didn't see the problem in half the photos she dissected, but now I find myself pointing out obviously 'shopped things to John all the time. This board will open your eyes, gang. I can't recommend it enough.

The other side of that coin is that you don't have to be attractive to be happy, and it's OK to not be beautiful. Our value is not in our appearance, and we don't owe TRYING to be pretty to anyone.

That one is so hard to internalize, and I'm nowhere near that place yet. I think it only comes with age and resilience and surrounding yourself with a strong chorus of voices that drown out everything the world tries to tell us as women. Living my life online as I do, I just haven't found enough places that tell me these truths.

To that end, one of you recently recommended two Facebook pages to me, and so far I'm loving them both:

Intuitive Eating by Molly B Counseling may focus on our relationship with food, but her page is full of great body-acceptance posts and tips:


I just noticed her page has less than 100 followers, but dang, she's got some great content in there. Go check it out.

The next page is Beauty Redefined, which is run by twin sisters - both with PhDs - and it also has some truly phenomenal content:


Again, I'm new to both pages, but they look well worth your time. And please, feel free to recommend more body-positive pages in the comments!


Step Six: Guard Your Thoughts
This is my weakest area, and probably best navigated with a therapist, but I DO know that every thought can be a weapon. We can either use them to cut ourselves down, or strike back at our inner demons. Most of us are so used to hurting ourselves, though, that it's become second nature. We have to recognize this as it's happening: stop the self-hate in its tracks, and replace it with more positive - or at least neutral - self-talk.

Again, I'm rubbish at this, but a few of you have told me it helps to imagine someone really comical in your head saying the awful things. Others say they write affirmation statements on post-its, and stick those around the house or on their bathroom mirror. Lindsay just told me it helps to swap your pronouns to the third person when thinking about your body. As she put it: "It's easy to think 'I'm hideous,' but if you think 'She's hideous,' suddenly it feels different. Mean, even cruel." That's a great tip!

At least start by examining how you talk to yourself in your head. Ask yourself how you'd react if your best friend's spouse verbally abused her this way. Then be more careful with your words, both spoken and unspoken. We tend to believe the things we tell ourselves, and I know we tell ourselves some real whoppers. So even if it feels fake and dishonest, even if you don't mean it yet, talk to yourself the way you would a friend or loved one. Be polite, look for the positive. Stop the abuse. 

When I start to spiral sometimes that critical inner voice gets extra vicious. I'm not to the place of replacing insults with compliments, yet, but I'm trying to at least stop the assault as I notice it ramping up.


Step Seven:
Surround Yourself With Real Life Beauty Inspirations

Consider this: Nearly everyone we see in our social media feeds is at their physical best: their best angles, using the best filters, the best makeup, etc. Meanwhile, nearly everything we see of ourselves is at our worst: the worst angles (helloooo, unexpected front-facing phone camera), our worst morning squinty-eyed puffiness, our worst busting-out-of-the-pants-that-used-to-fit in front of the bedroom mirror.

We're comparing our worst to everyone's best. So of course we find ourselves lacking.

Not only that, many of us seek out the most unattainable beauty icons, and fill our social media feeds with impossible physical standards. I admit, I'm guilty of this. I tell myself it's because I find this Disneybounder or that makeup artist "inspirational," but really, I'm just punishing myself for not looking like them - for having a body and bone structure that could NEVER look like them.

We need to stop seeking out flatly impossible "goals", and instead look at more real life beauty. Real people, showing us how to shine in real, every day, approachable ways. I actually follow a few folks like this already on Instagram. These fashion 'grammers are all different and colorful and wildly beautiful in ways that make me feel hopeful, not despairing. Like maybe I could wear these kinds of clothes or styles and feel pretty, too.

Obviously the list will be different for everyone, hopefully based on people you actually know (as opposed to celebrities or high fashion "influencers"), or at least people who seem more real and dress & style themselves the way you'd like to. And considering how many of you STILL mention my post on Toddler Grandma style, I thought you'd like to see a few of my favorites. So here come half a dozen great gals I think you'll love:



 Team Sparkle is all about COLOR, and her feed is the purest eye candy. She has bubblegum pink curls, loves Disney and everything sweet, & rocks some casual looks that prove you don't need a dress to be dressy OR girly:



*****

I met Misti_Loves at Dressed To The 9 3/4s last year while she was here on vacation. (Remember the cute Slytherin in pink combat boots?) She manages a Claire's in the UK, and her daily work selfies are the stuff that Care Bears' dreams are made of:



*****

Sara Lily of In A Nutshell Blog mostly wears vintage-style dresses and fun pins and colorful shoes. She feeds my grown-up girly side while still making her style look doable, since most of these are things she wears to work each day:


 
*****

Color Me Courtney has a whole range of styles, from super glam to casual, but they're always colorful and often even practical:

 

 (I seriously want a fashion account that only allows flats and sneakers. SOMEONE MAKE THIS HAPPEN.)

Oh! Plus Courtney has a SECOND account, Color Me Magic:


This is where she posts all her Disney styles and 'bounds, and where she manages to make even bike shorts and an oversized t-shirt look fashionable. MY HERO.

 *****

And of course no Toddler Grandma style list would be complete without Baddie Winkle, the irreverent, technicolor dream coat of a literal great-grandma:

Her feed these days is all sponsored content, but it's worth it to see this fabulous lady (she's over 90!) having the time of her life.


Again, your inspiration list will probably look vastly different than mine, but the idea is to broaden our horizons. Look for people who build you up, who open your eyes, who love who they are especially when they don't fit the mold.

Which brings me, finally, to those of you who are actually OK posting photos of yourself from time to time. Maybe you don't love it, and of course some shots make you cringe, but mostly you're fine with how you look. If that's you, could I ask a favor? This would mean a lot to me. To a lot of us.

Would you post more photos of yourself online?

Not glamor shots, not when you're super dressed up; just everyday outfit selfies. All most of us see are the filters and professional shots, so show us a little reality. Remind us what non-photoshopped people look like. Help your friends and your family see you as you are, so maybe they'll have more courage to post themselves as they are, too.

In fact, starting next week, there will be a new space on FOE where we can put some of this into practice: Selfie Saturday. (Don't worry, I've cleared it with the mods!) This will be a single post where you can add your own photo in the comments - but only if you want to, of course. No pressure. FOE may literally be the only safe space left on the internet where this could happen, gang, so let's take advantage: let's go lift each other up. Let's get used to our faces, our bodies, our shapes. Let's have those who are comfortable share their favorite photos from the week, and celebrate each other's progress. And hey, if you're not comfortable sharing anything yet, then go cheer on everyone else! This is one activity where even being on the sidelines is good for us. Seeing our fellow friends and warriors in the flesh is going to help us fight self-hate in more ways than I think any of us can know.

So that's it, my friends. That's what I've got. That's what I've learned so far. I hope - I SO hope - that something here helps you, or leads you to a place that helps.

This conversation is far from over, though, because now it's your turn again. For a start, tell me who else I should be following online! Who inspires you? Who helps you? What helps you? Tell me about your own battles in the comments, and who's out there fighting alongside us. Though I will say this: there's no other group in the world I'd rather have at my back in a fight than this one. Gah, I love you all so stinkin' much.

I'll end with the photo John took of me the night I posted "No Pictures," because hey, get this: I think I really like this one.


Here's to more progress, more love, less hate.


 *******

If you like what I do here and want to help keep Epbot going, then you can shop through my Amazon links: USAUK, Canada. Or you can toss a few dollars my way directly through Paypal, if you're so inclined. Thank you so much, gang, and always remember that just you're being here is enough for me. I don't do this for the money...  the money just helps pay the bills. :)

96 comments:

  1. Thank you. This was beautiful.

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  2. Jen, thank you as always for being open and for this post. We love you, and it's great to hear from you on this!

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  3. Love. So much love. Thank you. I'm nearly 40 and have thought that I am pretty enough, or skinny enough, or... enough. Thank you again for helping me see that I am, and I will work on making sure that I am enough for myself.

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    1. I think you dropped a word in your sentence, because contextually it looks like you were trying to say that you have thought you're NOT pretty/skinny/etc enough... but I love this typo so much because you so ARE enough <3 I'm cheering you on!!

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  4. I love that you inspired so many people to create a beautiful place of support and love by just being us and fans of you. ❤

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  5. Thanks for the Part II post! Lots of good things here; good job!
    I don't remember who posted it, but I once saw a pin on Pinterest that said, "Instead of complaining about yourself, try a total 180 -- Give yourself ridiculously over-the-top compliments. Even if you don't feel it, the positivity will leach into your subconscious. So instead of 'I hate my huge, frizzy hair,' you declare (as straight-faced as you can) 'Yes, I WAS the inspiration for Merida's hair in Brave. Thanks for noticing.'" It helps me. :)

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  6. Thanks for the Battle Plan! I’m starting in the morning.

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  7. Jen, this is beautiful. And just as importantly, it is a realistic approach to a problem so ingrained that most people don't even realize it isn't true. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for building this community (it really is the best part of the internet, and FoE and it's offshoot groups are the reason so many of us still put up with Facebook). Just, thank you.

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  8. My friend runs the Instagram account your_body_is_good I love it! She is religious so it may not be everyone's cup of tea but she always posts about loving your body just the way it is and she posts selfies. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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  9. One thing that has helped me with negative thoughts is to say them out loud, and then to stop and say back to myself the real truth - the truth everyone who loves me knows. There's something very powerful about actually speaking it, and getting it out of my head. My therapist also reminded me that just as it took many years for the lies to get rooted in my head, it will take a long time to dig them up and replant the truth in their place, and just like weeds, they'll pop up from time to time. She had me recite a list of good thoughts to replace the bad ones, and I would speak them out loud over and over again. It felt really, really, really weird at first, but eventually they did take root, and honestly, now it's so much easier to just pluck out the lies as they start to grow again, and I hear the positive things more often than the negative. But it's definitely a long journey...I'm nearing 50 and my body has changed yet again, and I sometimes mourn the body I had in my 20's. Yet thanks to those years of therapy, I can say "thank you" to my body for all that it has done for me, and I'm learning to take care of it instead of fight it.
    Thank you for sharing so vulnerably. It is good to hear each other's stories, and to grieve for each other, and to encourage and support each other. I'm loving the FOE community!

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  10. I have watched this talk many times over the years...In fact, two years ago I tracked down the speaker, and emailed her to thank her. https://youtu.be/gto6w0a13B0 it’s well worth the watch.

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    1. I just watched that today and sobbed through most of it. Wow. Thank you for the link - I'll definitely be sharing this!

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  11. How wonderful that you compiled all this information. Looking forward to seeing more of your lovely face in the future.

    While I occasionally beat myself up for having gained a few pounds in recent years, the fact that I turn 60 this year means I have let go of so many expectations around looks. Instead I feel proud of being my age and still doing all the things I do and appreciate having a healthy enough body and mind to keep going and enjoy the life I have.

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    1. Getting older is the BEST! Shedding all that baggage is so wonderful.

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    2. Agreed! I'm almost 50, and I find that I really don't care as much about what other people think anymore. I stopped wearing makeup years ago, I wear my hair the way I feel most comfortable, I wear the clothes I like whether they look "good" on me or not or are in style or not. Not that I'm thrilled about the extra pounds or extra chin(s) or floppy arms, but it's who I am and the people who love me wouldn't love me any more if I were skinny and toned.

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  12. Jen, you're so beautiful, amazing and have a kind, wise soul. It's still difficult for me to take pictures of myself and be outside but I work on it.
    In fact, everything you describe here is what ultimately led to my cancelling meeting you guys at Universal (7+? Years ago). Love the work you do. Thank you.

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  13. Yes!!!! Be in the pictures. Live life and enjoy doing you ❣️

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  14. I take issue with statements like "it's OK not to be attractive" and "people will like you even if you're not beautiful" - because THOSE VERY STATEMENTS take the "beauty norm" for granted. YOU ARE NOT UNATTRACTIVE. YOU ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL, PHYSICALLY AS WELL AS ON THE INSIDE. I cannot stress this enough. It is not only YOUR self-image that is the issue - it is the unhealthy body-image we as a society has built up, which states that some are objectively pretty and some are not. NOT TRUE. Beauty is a horrible cultural construct.

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    1. YES. I know an older woman who always talks about how ugly she is, and how she was always ugly even as a child (she uses the phrase "fly monster" to describe herself) and she's gotten used to it, but she hates on every photo of herself. Reader, she is not ugly. If you saw a photo of her you would think she is a handsome 60+ woman who looks happy with her life and herself. And yet she persists in this. It is absolutely not true. Women are trained from very early on that our worth depends on our appearance, and yet the very idea of there being an objective way of determining physical attractiveness is inherently flawed. You are attractive to those who find you attractive, as is everyone else. So don't dwell on how "pretty" or "ugly" you are. Your spouses and parents and children all find you attractive, and no on else's opinion should have any bearing, nor does it carry some kind of objective truth. I know this might not be applicable to this specific blog post, but it has bothered me for a while. And I fully admit to suffering from the same objection to photos, since I am a not-traditionally-attractive person. But I understand that my husband loves me, and my daughters tell me I look pretty when I'm all dressed up, and those should be the opinions that matter, not some a-hole on the internet.

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    2. This is a sticky issue, Konen, and the more I read the more I see great points on both sides. Beauty is both a social construct *and* a hard-wired genetic mandate: biologically we simply enjoy looking at some things and people more than others. It's not helpful to deny this with blanket statements like "EVERYONE is beautiful," because while I understand the good intentions behind it, it can come off as trite and insincere. We all have to make peace with our appearance in our own way; we all have our own path.

      I've heard from women who are so confident, so aware of their own self-worth beyond the physical, that they're actually insulted if others insist they are "beautiful", and at the insinuation that beauty is now a requirement. Because it's not. We don't HAVE to be beautiful - which is amazing and freeing! So who am I to tell that woman differently? If she is happy & confident in who she is, then that's all that matters.




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    4. I think the problem with the whole "everyone is beautiful" sentiment is that it centers physical attractiveness as something that's important and necessary. It's well-intentioned, but it still puts the focus on external beauty, even if it's just saying that everyone is beautiful. Some people are going to find me beautiful and some people aren't and that's all well and good, but society and my own insecurities need to stop telling me that whether or not I am perceived as beautiful is what matters. Human beings are awesome, multi-faced creatures who are capable of creating beauty, (both physical beauty and the deeper, more important sort) and whether or not the bodies that allow us to do all the incredible things that we do are considered beautiful is so far beside the point. Of everything.

      If we break down the expression "it's okay not to be attractive," it's not really saying "I should accept the fact that I'm not beautiful," it's saying "My self-worth shouldn't be defined by my appeal to others." And it's hard to see that as anything other than a positive. Our looks and bodies and styles are going to dramatically shift throughout the course of our lives and we need to live in a society that celebrates our bodies as vessels that get to do amazing things rather than objects that are the amazing things. A pale, rounder woman would have been the beauty ideal a few generations ago. What society deems beautiful is always going to shift. What needs to change is the importance we give that. Because again, it's so beside the point.

      And it's also worth pointing out that the vast majority of this objectification in the name of "beauty" is directed at an already oppressed group: women. Women of color are subjected to an even higher standard. As are queer women. Why? Because if we're busy viewing ourselves as deficient and unworthy, it's a lot easier to oppress us. People are less likely to fight to gain rights if you've convinced them that they don't measure up.

      Yes, of course, ideally it would be nice if societal norms and biological predispositions shifted so drastically that we really saw everyone as equally beautiful, but simply stating that it's the case doesn't address the deeper issues at hand at all. And those issues need to be addressed. Badly. We need to be strong enough to fight many battles these days, and it's difficult to feel powerful and capable if we're constantly tearing ourselves and each other down.

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    5. I understand what you're saying, Konen, and I do know many people who I think are attractive even if they don't tick all of the boxes that society says make someone "beautiful". But I'm with tal on this - physical beauty doesn't have to be a goal at all. (I would write more, but tal's response covers it pretty well.)

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    6. Yes! We are so much more besides beautiful. Our looks are one of the least interesting things about each of us.

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  15. LOVE this!! And you covered the things that have concerned me the most for decades: the cultural trends towards more and more unrealistic images everywhere of what female beauty 'should' look like. And the industries that thrive on keeping us hating ourselves. (rant redacted) My favorite part of your plan is the place to post photos!! I was going to ask for that :) Shopping on places like Holy Clothing and seeing the customer photos is so wonderful, real genuine women happy and feeling beautiful with no filters! This is so great, thank you.

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    1. Yes! The Holy Clothing community is wonderful and affirming! I shop there for my toddler grandma style.

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    2. I used to buy a lot of stuff from Holy Clothing (some of which I still wear) but I have felt very conflicted about shopping there since it was pointed out to me that one of the clothing categories is identified by the racial slur “g*psy” (not sure how many letters I can asterisk out and still keep the word identifiable). YMMV, but that really bothers me and I haven’t bought anything from them in over 2 years.

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  16. I've just started reading Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe, and already it's such powerful reading. She's on instagram as @bodyposipanda, and I really really recommend everyone follow her. Also @mynameisjessamyn @natural.femininty @novafuzzcheeks @harnaamkaur @donthatetheshake @curvynyome @watchshayslay @kateshappinessjourney@selfloveliv to name just a few! My mindset has changed so much by filling my feed with people like this.

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  17. this made me cry harder than the first post, the only way to build ourselves back up is together. and i cant think of a better group of people to help than my FoEs <3

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    1. I'm glad that I wasn't the only one crying. <3

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  18. You are brave and I admire you greatly. (And yes, I totally grok the article. Sigh)

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  20. Same woman, two Instagrams: @studiomucci @tasselfairy! She is a plus size woman who has the MOST colorful style and novelty purses and balloons and rainbows and fun prints and and and and! She's also very open about being diagnosed with autism and identifying as LGBT...and that sometimes, she just doesn't feel as fun as her posts are. I love her photos and they really do inspire me!

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  21. ♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️

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  22. Oh my gosh, Jen. Any time you post a photo I think to myself "she's so pretty! I wish I was as pretty as her but I never will be."

    Thank you for your beautiful post, I was on the verge of tears from about a quarter of the way through it to the end. I am going to try. I will get my fiance on board and my sons, all of whom tell me I'm lovely, and I will do this.

    Love you,
    Jen

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  24. It's almost like I read this post about six years ago and acted on it then! With tiny alterations, this is basically how I've changed my view of myself, from reading up on what I was feeling in great and excruciating detail, to arming myself with things that make me happy (I'm a sewist and I'm happiest with self made clothing on my body as armor against the negative forces of reality!), to exposure therapy of editing and posting pictures of myself and my clothing on my blog...

    I guess because of this I can give testimonial that with this structure and some elbow grease and time, it can definitely work to improve your self confidence!

    Good luck and we-can-do-its to all of us on this journey!

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  25. ❤️❤️❤️

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  26. I can't express how much I needed to read this today. Thank you.

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  27. Beautifully explained, Jen! It's definitely a work in progress for so many of us. So. Many. Thank you for helping to create a starting point to combat the inner voices and demons we fight. Much love and positive vibes to you and everyone taking on this battle! ��

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  28. Thank you for the battle plan and inspiring all of us! I'm looking forward to FOE's Selfie Saturdays. We have a periodic thread on FOE where everyone posts a selfie and then people all compliment the other pics. It's incredibly uplifting, and I'll often start one when I'm feeling down and really need the boost of all that amazing positivity.

    "Stop saving everything for a special occasion!" is advice I try to live! Wear the cute dress, bring out the jewelry you hardly ever wear, use the good china. We're worth using the good stuff for!

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  30. I have a recommendation to share. The blog Weightless by Margarita Tartakovsky is awesome! https://blogs.psychcentral.com/weightless It's all about caring for your body as-is, and being kind to yourself. Love her blog so much!

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  31. This is fantastic. I definitely plan to participate in Selfie Saturday!

    One thing I'll add on the not saying mean things to ourselves, is that it can be helpful to spend a week writing down every negative self-thought. I did this exercise and it was amazingly eye-opening. I just used the notepad app in my phone and at the end of the week asked myself, "would I ever be okay saying any of this to my spouse, kids, or friends? No!" Then I would work to reframe each thought as I recognized them (1. Is it true? 2. is it helpful? 3. reframe to feel more in control). Also a negative mood is a great time to stop and ask "what thought created this mood" and then do the steps to reframe it. (Like, I figured out that I was cranky yesterday because my house was messy and I was thinking "there is *&#% everywhere!" so I reframed it and then cleared up a bit and was much happier.)

    So the thought "Of course he can't like me, I'm gross" could be reframed as 1. thought is not true, he does like me and it has nothing to do with what I look like. 2. Not helpful! 3. Reframe to- "I should believe him when he says he loves me, and I am not gross. My body does all the things it is supposed to do, like carrying me around, getting me oxygen and food, and helping me do all the things I need to do." I have found that if I do this consistently (actually stopping and doing the steps all the way through) then after a while it becomes a habit and I stopped having nearly so many negative thoughts. This has probably been the single most helpful thing I have ever learned and I am not exaggerating when I say that it changed my life.

    Thank you for stepping out and writing these posts!

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  32. I do not have body dysmorphia but I am human, I have gained weight over the years, I am (gulp) pushing 40 and I definitely do not always like what I see in the mirror. And then I see a bad picture of myself and spiral a little into "ugh is that what I look like? I gotta fix that!"

    What helps me is very similar to some of the things you posted, Jen.
    - Exposure for sure - taking pictures of myself, and especially pictures I like, is always good to go back to. Even if it means a different angle or a little help from the filter. And looking at beautiful women of all shapes, sizes and colors to see their self-confidence helps too.
    - Wearing things I like - that make me feel good. Turns out having clothes that FIT and look GOOD on me is a huge ego boost! It's not ME that's bad, it's the clothes.
    - Focusing on the parts of my body I do like: my eyes are super pretty. My skin is smooth. My hair is a great color. My legs are strong.

    It's always a battle and some days are bad ones - but keep fighting. :)

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    1. "It's not ME that's bad, it's the clothes"

      I've been working on this for years, turning phrases like "I look bad in this" into "This doesn't suit me", or "My stomach looks huge in this shirt" into "This shirt isn't cut in a way that's flattering to me". Placing the blame on the object instead of the body beneath it. It's still a work in progress but now that there are more stylish and affordable plus size fashion available, it's been much easier to find things that actually do flatter me which makes the negative self-talk that much easier to banish.

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  33. I cried through most of this post. This battle plan is a winner.

    Regarding Step Six: I'm reminded of something my mom taught me, which surely applies to self-talk as much as any other talk: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

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  34. Jen, I love you. You & Jenny Lawson are my two favorite people on the internet, in no small part because of how open you both have been surrounding your mental health. It's so nice to know we're not alone in our battles. I have three daughters and have worked hard to fight my body image demons so that I can help prevent them from having to fight that same fight. It's not easy, and I still don't love myself the way I wish I did, but it has gotten better. Thank you for your honesty, your sense of humor, and most of all thank you for keeping your blogs going for all this time! Although I'm mostly a silent observer, I've been following Cake Wrecks since back in the days before Epbot (I was there for the original code Epcot bunker), and I have found my people through you! More than once I have told my husband we would be best friends with you & John if we didn't literally live as far from you as possible without leaving the continental US. Keep being you, and know that you have hundreds of us standing beside you!

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  35. Replies
    1. My original comment disappeared completely, but I want you to know that years ago you inspired a group to gather under the banner Ohana Spoons to support each other through all kinds of trials, troubles, and tribulations. Keep fighting the good fight and never, never, never give up.

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  36. Oh man. such a cute and pretty woman with these issues!
    I'm sorry that you feel this way.
    As for me, I spent my teenage years trying to cover as much of my face as possible with my hair, hating my high forehead and my Greek nose.
    What infuriates me though, is that I was called fat since was tiny, and when I look back, I was a cute chubby kid who turned into a curvy and sexy teenager (not even CLOSE to being fat!) who made sure to NEVER wear anything that showed my tummy or thighs.
    All this "you're FAT FAT FAT" became a self fulfilling prophecy, because I certainly did grow and grow and grow to fit the label.
    Damn.

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    1. Oh God yes! I look back at the pictures in junior high or so when I thought I was just sooooo fat, and I had a cute figure! It's so frustrating.

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  37. Much love this is a great list! I’ve been where you & many others are and everything on this list helped me get to the place I am now - mostly confident and hardly ever self abused. One thing that really helped me with negative thinking - would you say that to your mom, sister, friend? Would you accept it if they said it to you? The answer everytime was always a resounding “h*ll no!!” I used it like a mantra everytime I started being self abusive. Leaving the diet culture helped a lot too - look for “Health at Ever Size” - it changed my life.

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  38. This is lovely and I'm so happy to see so many people determined to reclaim a healthy self-image! I went through this fight in college-ish and while I still sometimes catch myself thinking negative thoughts (especially about candid pics of myself), I can genuinely say that I'm a much happier and even healthier person now that I'm not mocking myself in the mirror every day.
    What worked best for me was literally mentally and verbally complimenting myself any time I caught sight of myself. Not even specific things, just general "I'm hot!" and "Wow, that outfit looks great on me!" I know this won't work for everyone — I was one of those little kids who would talk myself into believing myself any time I lied to my parents — but it's worth a shot. :) Fake it 'til you make it is a cliche for a reason.
    The advice about finding clothing items/accessories that make you smile helped me too. I've tried to disconnect myself as much as possible from fashion news/what's trending and focus on wearing things I truly like. :)
    Good luck and much love to everyone!

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  39. I'm 61, and I joke that if my body were sold, it would be sold at Costco. It took me a very long time to figure out the whole body image deal.

    Being in a "family sized" body became a shield to 99% to ward off unwanted attention from others -which reenforced the idea of *living* in a FAT body. It took me until well into my 30s to realize I live in my body, my body houses my spirit and keeps that spirit walking around on the planet, and frankly, without my body -fat or thin, abled or disabled, attractive or otherwise- my body is doing me huge favours every day. And -although my body is fat (and I'm talking literally 100lbs larger than it should be), *I* am not fat, I *have* fat. *I* am a wife, a mom, an artist, I can sing a bit, I am usually pretty hilarious, I am a hard worker, I am organized, I cannot remember names, in essence, I am a lot of things, but I *have* a fat body which serves me everyday, but I *am* other things, and I am finally ok with that. If I want to teach, I teach. If I want to swim, I swim. My body enables me to do these things - even while being fat. Who knew?

    I don't know that anyone will read this, but the take away is this: *YOU DESERVE TO LIVE* like really live. You deserve to do whatever it is you choose to do. Go do it. You have a body that serves you the best it can. There isn't a perfect body on the planet, not one, and that is not only acceptable but planned and necessary in order for the human race to survive. Can you imagine a world that only allowed one colour? Variety is fabulous. Faces, shape, colour, ability, personality, it's all good and BENEFICIAL to the welfare of the human population.

    ->You are loved and acceptable the way you are right this minute and however you choose to *live* at any given moment is fine also. Never allow anything or anyone to steal your ability to *live* as you wish to in your body.

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  40. A lot of my Mirror Distress is tied to gender (what I am doesn't always match what I see in a very real, true way) but a lot of it isn't. I have a brand new baby daughter and spent the three months before her birth fiercely and furiously reconditioning my brain because I will NOT have her growing up with a parent who thinks or talks shit about their body. And friends: it works. The other day I was walking home from work, glanced at my reflection in a glass window, and thought with faint, weary despair, "My torso looks like an egg" -- and then what is essentially my weaponized, positive intrusive thoughts came SCREAMING to my rescue almost instantly, yowling "AN EGG IS A *GOOD* SHAPE". And it is. Eggs are a great shape. My body is a good body. (It also made me laugh -- but it does mean I did it! I taught myself to say only nice things and to refute unkind things!)

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  41. About Exposure Therapy: YES. We have one kind of body shown to us all the time, and we humans are so very good at adapting, that we have adapted our thoughts to "this is the right kind of body; all others, including mine, are wrong." (The impossibility of looking like that due to photoshop notwithstanding, as that's a whole 'nother kettle o' fish.)

    For me, it started years ago with subscribing to blogs featuring people who looked more or less like me - size, shape, and age. At first, it was so weird, because we're all told this is not something that should be in public. Or "glorified" (whatever that means). But being an engineer at heart, I found it fascinating to watch my own perceptions change as day after day I was looking at people wearing nice clothes, doing fun things, etc.

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    1. Adding a second comment because this is getting long: I'm still working on pictures of myself, because I am not photogenic. That does not mean I am ugly; it simply means the way that light reflects off my face is not captured well by current photography equipment. That doesn't mean that there are no "good" pictures of me - there are. It just means it takes more skill to take one of me than of someone whose face planes reflect light in a way the camera captures better.

      So to remind myself there are good photos of me (and my spouse), I had a bunch printed, put into frames, and I have them scattered around the house. This way I see myself not just when I'm peering into a mirror and concentrating on my appearance, but I'm just kind of there looking back when I go around a corner or something. It goes back to when you see something all the time, you get used to it. It becomes normal, usual, nothing out of the ordinary.

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    2. One more reply: for years I refused to have my picture taken and absolutely was adamant about not having them posted online. What changed was a realization that I deserved representation too. My life was real and just as worthy of documentation as anyone else's. Again, being an engineer, thinking of the pictures as "documentation" instead of "beauty" helped me a lot. YMMV.

      So I have a flickr account, and (when I get around to it) I post pictures of me with my favorite baseball players. Not glamour shots at all, just a fan out having a good time. One of my favorite pictures really isn't very good at all, but I look so HAPPY in the picture. I was - I finally got an autograph just for me from my favorite player! (Maybe that will help someone else too - when you look at a picture of yourself when you were happy, remember the happiness. Happy is a great filter for making so many things look better.)

      I am still very careful about where I post my pictures, though. I had a rough time in childhood, and even though it was many years ago, there are still parts of me and my life I will protect, and that includes not posting or participating fully on certain social media platforms. Self-care and learning to let go of self-hatred has a large component of making sure you take care of yourself, which includes not only recognizing your comfort level, but all the other parts of your life which makes you YOU.

      Sorry this is so long, but it's a complex subject, and I just wanted to reinforce that it takes time to figure out what will work for you personally - and sometimes that changes. It's all good. It's all about the journey. And I'm also reminding myself about all of this as I write this.

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  42. For you Jen, because it is awesome http://thedevilspanties.com/archives/13190

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  43. You're amazing, and beautiful and your heart overflows.
    A loving heart, a pretty face and blush soft as a rose.
    You fill this world with love and joy
    and help us be much kinder
    to other's and to ourselves. Let this be a reminder.

    A message from my heart of hearts:Please take care of yourself.
    Your love and tenderness deserve to not be on a shelf.
    Within my heart I say this true-not just to you but everyone:
    You're worth your love, self-acceptance and lots of compassion.

    You're worth your love and from other's too.
    Please know you're not alone.
    I know that feeling through and through
    but it's not set in stone.

    We can fight it and love ourselves.
    It might be a long struggle
    but slowly we'll get through this hell
    because we're worth the pain and trouble.
    -Zid

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  44. This is such a beautiful post! Also, you are beautiful and I hope that one day you will realise this.
    I have been hiding myself for years. Then, a few months ago I started to deliberately post my selfies on IG, even though I hate seeing photos of myself. You are absolutely right about exposure therapy: it definitely works. I don't use filters or edit my selfies apart from occasionally to crop them so you get less crappy background. I also started wearing clothes that actually fit me and clothes I think are pretty. I can't say that I feel good about myself yet, but I can say that I'm getting there.
    Keep up the good work and keep at the exposure therapy

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  45. That portrait with the unicorn headphones is wonderful -- inspiring all by itself. We should all get and wear those as a sign of solidarity (as well as just fun).

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  46. Love. Just, love. <3 This is perfect.

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  47. Thanks, Jen. I posted several angry posts last week that I then immediately deleted because posting in a state of FURY is never a good thing.

    Not furious AT you, furious FOR you and furious at the folks who went, 'Oh, that's completely normal!' It is not normal. It is sick! And something far too many girls and women have to deal with. I'm grateful for this week's post as a counterweight, because no one should hate themselves for how they look. No one should hate anyone for how they look, but self-hatred for that is the WORST.

    All this is good info, supportive and helpful. Therapy is good. Glad you have/are getting help and here's hoping for a healthier life for you! You're one of the good ones!

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  48. I follow bibbidi bobbidi broke on Instagram. She's always posting colorful selfies from the theme parks. https://instagram.com/bibbidibobbidi_broke?igshid=1u95puq3ufg4v

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  49. Thank you for this. And PS - you look sublime in your pic.

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  50. Jen... I tear up every time I see the image of you in the unicorn headphones. You look so lovely and peaceful and just...it's like you captured an image of your soul and it's absolutely MOVING.

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  51. This came to mind when I read your other post, but I wasn't really sure how to say it. But I'm going to try, especially after seeing the line "The other side of that coin is that you don't have to be attractive to be happy, and it's OK to not be beautiful."

    I think one thing to try to remember is that beautiful/handsome and attractive are *not necessarily synonyms*! Attraction (romantic, platonic, etc.) is subjective and different for different people, and that can includes how physical appearance plays into it. Obviously, appearance plays a role in first impressions, and there are people who put a lot of stock in it, or it wouldn't have developed into this big, obsessive "thing" in society. However, for me, there just isn't that much of a correlation between typical measures of beauty/handsomeness and how attractive I find a person.

    It's *not* that liking/being attracted to a person's personality suddenly makes them look flawless. It just...doesn't matter--the quirks ("flaws") of their appearance are simply part of the whole package that is a person who makes me happy. Maybe it's like classical conditioning--if my mental association with a particular distinctive appearance is a person who makes me happy, then it's going to tend to make me happy to see it. My crush's slightly crooked nose didn't look less crooked because I liked him, but it looks distinctly like *him*, so it's good. My friend's vitiligo (that she hates) doesn't vanish from my sight because I love her, it just makes me happy because that is a feature of her face, and I love her face! (Actually, I've seen pictures of friends, including her, with professional "makeovers" by professional make-up artists, and I secretly find those pictures deeply unsettling, because the slick make-up job with "perfect" even skin, contouring, etc., which I'm sure would look fine on a stranger, doesn't look "right" to me as my friend!)

    Years ago, I was in a group with a lot of fun, kind, and zany folks. One day, the topic of guys' looks and guys we were attracted to was brought up among a group of the gals, and a few of the guys in the group were mentioned. It struck me that day as I thought about three of the guys, that if I had to rank them on what I usually considered physically "handsome," it would probably be the exact opposite to my ranking of how *attractive* I found those same guys (both as friends and possible romantic/sexual attraction). I can't even remember the name of the "pretty" guy, who was pretty classically handsome--nice symmetric face, strong jawline, lovely blue eyes, etc., but just struck me as kind of bland personality-wise. The other guys weren't as "objectively" pretty, but they were *fun* and sweet and thoughtful...and I had a massive crush on one of them. ;-) His face still makes me happy when I come across an old picture.

    There are certainly appearances I tend to find aesthetically pleasing, and people who are "pretty" can be enjoyable to look at, but that's far from the only thing that makes people pleasant to see.

    People who know you through your blogs aren't attracted to your blogs because you are or are not physically "pretty." They're here because you're really cool. And creative, and sweet, and funny. I really hope you can find what makes you feel pretty, for yourself, because it matters to you (it matters to me to feel pretty, too). But as far as your fans go, I'm pretty sure they don't want pictures with you because your physical appearance is "pretty" or "not pretty" by any particular standard--they want pictures with you because you are a person who makes them happy. (Or possibly because you're wearing something really cool, and your fashion sense makes them happy. ;-))

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  52. While I think it's great that you've come up with a battle plan that works for you to help your self esteem, I am concerned that you're advising taking and posting more selfies, which have been shown in multiple studies to have serious and lasting negative consequences for self-esteem. I think it is worth considering less damaging alternatives - if participating in selfie culture works for you, great! But please don't suggest it to a group of already vulnerable people who are likely to become more damaged, not less.

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  53. One truth you haven't mentioned is that still photos lie. I still make my daughter pose for me because a screen image isn't really the thing you're trying to draw.

    I know people whose faces (and forms) I find intriguing and pretty. Yet these people I enjoy looking at whose pictures look mediocre or unappealing.

    Three dimensional people moving through time are not the same set as people whose photos look good. The sets can and do intersect, and a really brilliant artist (photo or other medium) can sometimes capture the sense of that fourth dimension: the movement, colour, and expressions.

    Think of grainy screencaps of YouTube videos - that's what photos are to the real you.

    I'm sorry your pictures make you sad, and I hope that your plan fixes that for you, but your gut feeling was right. Your image reflected in the eyes of the people who are enjoying your company IS the REAL you. That's what your fans are trying to capture (and fail) in those photos. What you see in the photo isn't the reality you all experienced when the photo was taken.

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  54. I really love this.

    And also, I sang (in my head) “My body is Switzerland” รก la “Your Body Is A Wonderland” and I think I’m gonna keep that to remind myself! :) Thanks, Jen.

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  55. I don't struggle with loving my body, but I do loathe pictures. The most helpful thing I ever did was do a month long selfie challenge. I'm in a tiny FB group with just my mom and sisters, and I just posted a selfie every morning, even if I was a disaster and in painting clothes. By the end of the month I was so much more comfortable with pictures I was occasionally posting them on FB at large. I highly recommend it.

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    1. I've been thinking about this since I read these posts and I realized... how long has human civilization been going on? Literally millennia.

      How long has photography been a thing? A hundred years?

      We aren't adapted to perceive beauty in photos.

      We're adapted for beauty in experience.


      Someone like Mrs Yates who has to live and work within a medium of photographs has to cope with this alien 2D perception of beauty. I hope she finds a way up, over and out to peace and joy.

      But unless you're like her, making a living in this environment consider that you don't have to force yourself to adapt to this new-fangled thing.

      See yourself in the eyes of the people who love you and let photos go hang.

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  56. I am a person who can take selfies and love them, but it takes a few tries and I hate almost every photo someone else takes. I am basically in the mindset that I am pretty, not the prettiest, and that is more than okay! That way I can enjoy myself and life and not judge myself based on others as much. It's a battle but it has gotten much easier

    I love that you included one of the people showing all the photoshopping and such. A handful of people I follow on Instagram have been breaking the stigma of posing and some of the fitness "community " fake outs.
    Blossomandbuttercups has a great figure but she also knows how to pose to make it look amazing in a photo and has a highlight of stories saved showing what she does.
    Seeing the difference posing can make starts turning on the light bulb when you see other pics so you dont compare yourself to unobtainable standards. I seriously recommend checking out the posed/unposed photos or videos people have been posting (Because we cant walk around with our waist sucked in and our hips jutting out at odd angles)

    Mykie (of the Glam and Gore YT) is putting her fitness journey out there for everyone and talking about how a lot of the "fitness inspo" people leave a bunch of info out in their posts. Which leads people to believing they are failing because they cant achieve what this person did when in reality it's because they take something or had surgery along with their "routine" which is okay for them to do but not okay for them to trick people and continue this cycle.

    An Instagram recommendation I have is bodyposipanda, she is so happy and colorful and also very open and honest and she shares great inspo and such.

    I am in a great ladies only group on Facebook and we also have a selfie thread each week, never thought about it being such a positive thing but it does help being able to put yourself out there to a trusted group that you know will throw positive vibes your way!

    Finally I am totally going to suggest using snapchat! Add like 2 close friends and send pics of yourself all the time. They dont have to be cute, it doesnt have to be your face but being able to send off a quick picture of that dress you are trying on or even that bra that makes you feel cute is amazing and it can be silly and fun so you dont even think about it. (Like there is games now and you can play pool with a friend and just send off a silly face at the end of each round)

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  57. You are amazing and I love you! This applies to everyone who can read this. Anxiety & depression lie. You are amazing!

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  58. I love this so much. Hugely seconding the advice to Surround Yourself With Real Life Beauty Inspirations. I highly recommend instagram accounts like Shooglet and FatGirlFlow who have totally re-trained my brain to see rolls and large bodies as incredibly beautiful.

    On the important note that *you do not have to be beautiful* I have come back over and over to Mia Mingus' incredibly powerful battle cry: "Move Toward the Ugly," in which she asks "Where is the ugly in you? What is it trying to teach you?"
    The full speech is here: https://leavingevidence.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/moving-toward-the-ugly-a-politic-beyond-desirability/

    I did an illustrated blog post about it here: https://drawmedy.wordpress.com/2011/08/28/buona-ma-brutti/

    Lots of love to you, Jen, and to everyone here.

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  59. I've been thinking over this a lot, and I think the root of the problem is that humans are hard-wired to seek out beauty. This is actually a good thing, except then our perceptions get distorted and we start obsessing over the wrong kind. Real beauty comes from the inside, but it tends to get overshadowed or deliberately belittled by those who focus on the highly subjective world of physical beauty. I'll let Roald Dahl explain this:
    “A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
    Basically, the final verdict on how you look comes from your attitude and actions, not your physical appearance (P.S. this goes for guys too).
    Yeah, I know all this sounds kind of corny, but I'm serious about this. If you want to look nice, great! But don't go looking in the wrong places - that never leads anywhere good.

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  60. Weird synchronicity, with this popping up tonight...
    https://www.facebook.com/ProjectNightfall/videos/1025371074520830/

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  61. I'm just putting this up because I have seen several people here claim that selfies lead to poor self-esteem (implying that your selfie challenge would be counterproductive)
    https://www.learning-mind.com/selfies-lack-of-self-confidence/
    TLDR: selfies improve the self-confidence of the taker, obsessing over other peoples selfies is a sign of poor self-esteeem.

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  62. Such a wonderful post, thank you Jen! My husband had a very good point once when I pointed out I didn't like what I saw in the mirror. He told me that because to see myself I have to use a lens or a mirror I'm don't get to see what I actually look like. That was the gist, he was much more eloquent about it.

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  63. I encourage everyone struggling with body issues to go on Insta or Flikr and check out pics from this weekend's Coney Island Mermaid Parade. We have over 3000 marchers of all ages, sizes and races in all states of undress and there's nothing but love and positivity from the crowd of 800,000+.

    My mom is 70 and she gets so much love from the older ladies in the crowd, there's a group called the Big Beautiful Black Goddesses who look fierce, a gay marching band and on and on. The amount of positive energy is staggering and I wish everyone could have a little bottle of that feeling.

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  64. I take pictures of my kids all the time, but I hardly ever include myself because I don't like the way I look these days. But someday, when I'm gone, my kids will treasure the pictures they have of us together, and they won't care I have a double chin, or wore an unflattering shirt, or have wonky hair I'm too lazy to mess with. They'll love the pictures because they love me. And I have to keep reminding myself of that.

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  65. I'm glad you like that one (the unicorn headphones) because its gorgeous. Your so peaceful and you can tell you rally love those headphones. Who wouldn't, they are amazing. I don't struggle with this exactly but that only changed 4 years ago when I dyed my hair pink. I feel more like me when it's pink. I don't know why, just do, lol. It's been a struggle this summer as I've been swimming weekly and the chlorine and I are in a battle, but I still pink it up every 2 weeks. I also try to remember that cameras flip what we see, and mirrors are our reverse, so it's never exactly who we are when we look at an image or a mirror. I am totally following all those lovely instas now!

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  66. Just wanted to say I have loved seeing the selfies you've been posting on your Instagram. I love that you're inspiring people to try and be comfortable with themselves.

    I had an interesting experience this weekend at Disneyland. I have a love-hate relationship with my hair. When I have lots of time to spend on it I love it, but on most days (and especially during summer when ponytails are my norm and it feels greasier from sweat and sunscreen) I feel self-conscious. But as I looked around at other people, I started to realize that there were plenty of people with hair like mine. Some were pulled back in ponytails in various states of neatness, some had straight hair like me with no volume, etc. And you know what I realized as I consciously thought about their hair? I had no problem with how anyone else wore their hair. I wasn't walking around thinking, "Ugh, I can't believe she let her hair look that way". It was just . . . someone else's hair. It was just there. I think for the most part that's how people see me too. They're not going to care if my hair is perfect or not. I'm just another person they're passing in their day.

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  67. Soooo glad you posted this awesome follow up and that you are fighting with all of the tools available! Love the Unicorn photo! :)

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  68. These two posts are amazing, Jen. The thing that messed with my head & how I feel about how I look is being told my entire life, "You look just like your mother." All. The. Time. (And yes, it's mostly true.) Then I'd see and hear my mom pile on the makeup, take hours on her hair, and complain about how she looked. It's taken a long time to get mostly past it, but I still hate it & I cringe every time I see friends and other women that call their daughters their "mini-me" & then say they don't like how they look. Those daughters are watching and listening (& can't escape the "You look just like your mom!" comments- unless, of course, people will start refraining from that.)

    Also, my contribution to positive IG stuff- I'm in my mid-40s and decided a couple of years ago to let the silver hair take over as it comes in. I found the hashtags #silversisters #silverhairdontcare #silverhairwithbangs and many others & it's WONDERFUL! Lots of gorgeous ladies (a few influencers appear, but I can either hide them out or scroll by) & lots of positive feedback. I've found one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen (@vickie_heath) & the pic that caught my attention was her beautiful smile first and foremost, before her silver hair. Also, it's been great to learn some comebacks at ppl that think they need to comment on my hair color and when I posted once about getting my first awful things said about my hair, #silversisters were right there lifting me out of it. :)

    And I guess this fits here and I'm excited about it- last night, I had to get a new phone case & I went, "Damn it, I"m getting the glitter one." :) Usually, I"ve been so self-conscious of how "professional" or unassuming my *phone case* looked. *eyeroll* That's how far this trickles down, as you've mentioned, so for once, I opted for something small that makes me smile every time I see it. :) We'll all get this if we keep helping each other up. :)

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  69. OK, clearing my spam filter and finding a trapped genuine email has never been more timely. Having read both posts, you need to see the Embrace documentary, made by Taryn Brumfitt from the Body Image Movement. I saw it 2 years ago with my then 14 year old daughter and it has been great for both of us. I've struggled with my weight for years, and this helped me to finally accept the way things are.

    The Body Image Movement (https://bodyimagemovement.com/) has a new 4 week self-respect course starting shortly and it's on sale at the moment. Disclaimer - I have no affiliation with the organisation, other than having seen the documentary, but it *was* life changing for me.

    I hope this helps at least one other person to love (or at least, tolerate) the way they are.

    FWIW, I think your selfies are great (I only thought you were trying to keep a semblance of privacy) and I love the unicorn headphones.

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  70. I love @celestebarber for a good laugh, @thebirdspapaya, @jublyumph, @iskra, @missmayim, @styleatacertainage, @kategabrielle, @lipglossandcrayons, @.otherhoodinhollywood, @aprilgolightly, @rachelmmolenda, @thethriftytomboy, @abc_mom_style, @stylishprofessor, @piesandplots, @curlsandhighheels, @thriftedthreds, & @panjazzhands, but most of my irl friends have positive and real ig accounts, too. Mine's mostly flowers, but I take an occasional selfie or outfit photo to remind myself that I'm not gross.

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  71. Thanks for all that you do!

    I’m currently reading “The Happiness Trap” by Russ Harris and it offers a lot of concrete exercises for what he terms “unhelpful thoughts. Highly recommend!

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  72. Yeah. Tears. I might just post my 'fat picture' of me with Donny Osmond on FB now....

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  73. I came to your blog to show my hubby your awesome black background con photos and got distracted by this post. I have many similar issues with never being fully happy with how I look. Is gotten worse this year as I have thyroid issues that make it hard for my body to regulate temperature, so as the summer heats up I am constantly hot, sweaty, sticky feeling and hate every article of clothing that I own. I also have a darkening of the skin on my upper lip because of pregnancy, so it looks like I have a mustache. I've never been a fan of my body shape, but these recent developments have me feeling as you do, hating pictures, mirrors and just being grumpy and surly more than I would like. I also do not believe my husband when he says I look beautiful since I've had my son. This post had been ruminating in my mind and helping change my attitude. Firstly, I thought of all my friends from church, none of whom are perfect and while I could identify things about them I bet they don't like, I don't see that when I look at them or think about them. I think they are beautiful and funny and sweet and caring and I love them as they are. So while I detest things about myself and think others must too, I try to remember how I feel about them and remind myself that is what they see and feel.

    Your battle plan has been so helpful and I'm working on finding and doing things to make myself feel better - nails, earrings, new makeup - and working from there. I also took a good hard look in the mirror and was critical and truthful with myself. I like what I see, mostly, and I'm working on taking more photos of myself to keep that exposure up instead of shrinking away from it. I feel like this post caught me at the start of this downward spiral I was falling into and I thank you so much for being so open with us all. It's easy to look back at life and blame my mother for always being critical and advertisements, tv, etc for presenting this image of perfectness instead of reality, and I hope we can change that. But I can change my thinking and attitude now, accept me as I am not as I could be with less pounds, better hair, even skin, and be the content, loving mom to my son I want to be; one who doesn't complain about my appearance and who is in pictures with him.

    I love you, crazy lady, and am praying for you and all of us!

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  74. You've amassed a great group of friends and supporters to lean on :) I'm late to your sites and am reading in reverse order, so, I've not yet read your "No pictures" post...I may have to wait on reading it until I'm emotionally able to deal...and have purchased more tissues :) I mainly, decided to comment to share a link to a Dove campaign video, wherein, women were instructed to describe themselves to a sketch artist who drew them, sight unseen. Then, another woman, whom they'd only just met, gave a description to the artist. It's a commercial, but, it did make me choke up, and was enlightening about the harsh way we perceive ourselves https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=litXW91UauE.

    Although I've never been aesthetically pleasing to some people, and, did fairly well at coping with the resultant anxieties, I'm currently trying to get used to a different body. I recently survived a year long bout with breast cancer,and have been in an internal fugue from finding the lump, tests, more tests, diagnosis, meeting my treatment team while still trying to come to terms with it, trying to be supportive to my SO and family while reeling, biopsy, surgery, congrats great prognosis!, uh, sorry, second surgery needed, prognosis still good, though, honest, chemo, lab tests chemo lab tests, lather rinse repeat, oh wait, don't bother you have no hair!, radiation eeeeeevery day, and just general exhaustion...now, on the other side of it, I'm glad to be alive, but also, I'm just depleted. I have good days and bad days, I wanna see eeeerrbodeh and OMG don't answer the door, I might have to talk to the mailman! days, long sleeved, thanos hoodie almost covering my whole face days and technicolor, Deadpool riding on a wave of tacos, tank days, let's hit every antique store from here to the coast days and I don't think I can go to the grocery store with you even if you can pry me out of my chair and get some shoes on my feet! days. A touch of over share, lol, but, it is what it is.

    My brain knows I'm awesome, I just have to keep reminding my heart that I am.

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