Thursday, June 20, 2019

No Pictures, Please: The Thing About My Face

I wrote this post nearly three years ago, but was too embarrassed to publish it. It's been in my drafts folder ever since.

Then a few days ago, I wrote this in my Instagram Story:


Your responses were so immediate, so overwhelming, that I'm *still* wading through my flooded inbox. (Thanks for your patience there, btw.)

Clearly, I am not alone in this struggle.

And I think we should talk about it.

So please consider this Part 1 to some things I've wanted to say for years, things I want to hear your take on. Remember this is from 2016, so I've had both wins and losses since then, but this is still my baseline. This is where I'm coming from. 

Part 2 will be my Battle Plan: the things and people I've found to help me fight. To help us fight. I'm still struggling to write it properly, so I hope you'll check back. 

But first, here's what I wish I'd had the courage to say a long time ago.






******



Last weekend John and I had plans out at Universal with friends, but I was having one of "those" days getting ready. I couldn't find anything to wear for the 90 degree heat. My shoes didn't work. The overshirt was too tight. My eyeliner went wonky. And let's not discuss the hair, please.

After an hour and a half I was snarling and surly and convinced I'd be better suited to climbing skyscrapers and swatting at planes. I grabbed my purse and stomped out the door to the car, hurling myself into the seat and glaring laser death beams at the floor.

As we drove, John mildly remarked that perhaps we should stop at my favorite antique mall along the way, in order to "de-grumpify you a bit." I huffed and grumbled a nothing reply.

A few hours later I was back to my old self, chatting and joking and oohing over Potter merchandise at Universal. I was happy, because I'd forgotten - once again - what I look like.

It's actually quite easy for me to forget what I look like. In fact, I do it every day. When not directly confronted with a mirror or photo, I meander through life blissfully unaware of what my hair is doing, or that new pimple, or how many chins I have while looking down.

That's not to say I don't care what I look like, because I do. Deeply. Unhealthily. But once I've done all I can before leaving the house: donned the most slimming shirt/skirt combo my closet can offer, applied makeup, and stuffed my unruly frizz into a hat and ponytails - I metaphorically wash my hands of my looks and move on.

This approach works pretty well for me, except for the fact that A) cameras exist, and B) sometimes they're pointed at me.

Up until the last few months I'd never once refused a photo opp with a fan, and only rarely refused ones with friends. I'd gamely smile and pose, then do my best to avoid seeing the photo afterward. If the person insisted on showing me, though, I'd get a virtual sledgehammer to the gut. "Sweet Stay Puft, THAT'S what I look like??

There's this odd shock when I see a photo of myself, because I only have the slightest hint of recognition. What I'm seeing never feels like me. The face I see is not the one I imagine myself to have, somehow, though if you asked me what I should look like, I'd have no answer. Just... not that.

Even worse than group selfies are the candid shots so cavalierly shared on Facebook and social media. I know we've all had this problem, but imagine a horrible photo of yourself going out to a million Twitter followers - most of whom have never seen a good photo of you, and so have no idea what you really look like. It stings, y'all. It stings bad. I've sobbed behind locked doors while John oh-so-sweetly e-mailed a fan to ask them to delete a post or photo. I've sworn to myself that next time - next time! - I'll remember to suck in my gut and do that three-quarter turn thing and not smile so hard my cheeks squish my eyes closed - but next time I've forgotten what I look like again, and I get caught up in the moment, laughing and goofing off, and I pull a mug for the camera I won't even know to regret until it pops up later online.

Afterward comes a downward spiral of grief and shame, usually culminating in 3AM searches of local plastic surgeons and idle fantasies of wearing a mask every time I leave the house. Hey, I'm a writer, and writers can be eccentric, right? Maybe a mask could be my "thing."

We can be real with each other here, right? Good. Cool.

'Cuz there's more.

If John is ever irritated with me for one reason or another - if we're arguing or just feeling snippy or frustrated - I often think he wouldn't be if I were prettier. The rest of the time I feel bad for John, having to look at me as often as he does, and worse, without all the makeup and nice clothes and fixed hair to make it more bearable.

For his part, John tells me I'm beautiful half a dozen times a day. He tells me this because he loves me - which, don't get me wrong, is friggin' amazeballs - but that also means he has to lie about how I look a lot. And when my own eyes tell me he's lying, sometimes I get mad. I want him to stop mentioning my appearance all together, because his compliments only serve to remind me that I have looks, if that makes sense, and that makes me sad.

I always figured this feeling - ie hating what you look like - was normal, but then I see so many friends voluntarily taking selfies, and sharing them online. The horror! It never even occurs to me to WANT a photo of myself, and I'm startled every time a friend or fan suggests we get a photo together. I understand the inherent compliment, but even just having my photo taken reminds me of my shame - of my inability to look at myself without spiraling into grief - plus now someone will have a permanent record of how I look at this moment. GAK. All of which jolts me out of my blissful ignorance, and makes me self-conscious and anxious and sad.

I don't know how normal this is. I don't know how aware the average person is of their appearance, or how much they should be. For what it's worth, I am very happy most of the time, because most of the time no one sees me, and I don't have to see myself. I actually resent the time it takes me to get ready to go anywhere, because I'd much rather be writing or crafting or editing cosplay photos instead of fighting the losing battle of trying to be "pretty." And yet, I can't NOT try. I'm too embarrassed. Too ashamed. Too repulsed by my own face and body. And when I think about that, and how nothing I ever do - no amount of dieting or contouring or clothes shopping - will ever make me look as pretty as I want to look, I fall into a very dark, very deep place.

While I'm down there, I think about what a hypocrite I am. I tell all of you that you don't have to be pretty, that appearance has nothing to do with our value. I tell you to cosplay characters you love regardless of your looks or body type. I tell you to never be ashamed of who you are and what you love. I try to be an example, to show you can be geeky and girly and live your life out loud, trying new things, overcoming challenges, and prioritizing your passions so that what others think of you falls away. I want that for every one of you. I want you to be proud of who you are, and I want you to get out there and show it.

But here I am, stuck in my hole, hiding.

I turned down two more photos with fans today. I'm doing that a lot more now. It hurts me to disappoint them, but not nearly as much as seeing a photo of myself would.

Then I come home and wash off the makeup and sit down to write or play or create, and after a little while, I forget what I look like again. So it's mostly OK.

Right?

I mean, I just... please tell me this is mostly OK. 



******


I've been sitting here second-guessing myself over this post all morning, gang, and I can't take the indecision anymore. So I'm hitting "publish." Remember, this isn't the end of the story; I have a more positive, proactive take coming up next. I just want to start the conversation first, hear more of your thoughts. Thanks for understanding.

199 comments:

  1. Thank you for this! I have very similar thoughts each and every day. I try on this shirt and that and then finally throw my hands and leave it be.

    You are beautiful and it's so important for this to be a conversation.

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  2. Felt like I was reading about myself as I read this! I don't have anything helpful to say, but wanted to let you know that Cake Wrecks is on of the things that cheers me up on "those" days. Also, your post about toddler-grandma fashion helped me mentally define myself. Having bad days doesn't negate your positive messages; it makes them stronger! If you can stay positive in spite of internal struggles, who knows? Maybe anyone can! The fact that it isn't easy for you makes you better, like Black Widow or Batman-- no superhuman powers, just the will to kick butt!

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  3. I've been a longtime reader, but have rarely commented because Blogger seems to have trouble with my comments.
    Maybe I have no place saying anything on this post, because I'm a teenager and every time I say I dislike how I look people respond with 'it's because you're at that age' so feel free to ignore anything I say and write me off as a slightly crazy person ;)
    First, I'd just like to say how brave and amazing it was that you posted this. And just the courage that you had to do that makes you beautiful on the inside. (I'm so sorry that sounded so corny)
    It was really nice to know that you, too, forget about what you look like until there are mirrors or cameras. I'm homeschooled, so I spend most of my day at home doing schoolwork, chores, petting my cats, etc. and after brushing my hair in front of a mirror and checking to make sure the part is straight, I just forget about how I look. But I'm a dancer, so most evenings I'm rudely awakened to my appearance because at ballet, I'm surrounded by mirrors. I don't look good in tight buns. I don't look good in leotards. Even when my bun is said 'perfect' without bumps or flyaways and is in the right place, it's still not right because I can't pull off the tight bun look. I know I can't actually know how you feel, but I know how insecurity feels, and that's what I was trying to get across in that mess of a paragraph.
    Please know that in the years I've been reading your blog, I've always thought you looked great, and I do admit to once spending an hour trying to figure out how to make an outfit look as amazing as yours did.
    (I thought this comment would come to some kind of a culminating climax of empowering words, but somehow it didn't, so I guess it ends here)
    ~Natalie

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    1. Just because you're a teenager doesn't mean your thoughts, feelings and comments aren't valid. I think a lot of people write off a lot of what teenagers say, especially when they say things about what they're thinking because people, for some reason don't like teenagers. Personally, I've never quite understood that. Yeah, teenagers can be goofy and silly or loud and obnoxious and sometimes don't quite understand everything. But, ya know what, I'm 43 years old and all those things can sometimes (okay, most of the time) be used to describe me too. Yes, there are some things you may not understand as well some older people. But there are things that us old farts don't understand because we aren't teenagers right now and things were different when we were "that age". You seem like a pretty awesome person. Keep being you! And pet your cats for me. :)

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    2. hey Natalie, I am old enough that my children are not teenagers anymore, and I think your comment is a really valuable contribution to the discussion. I am sure it is hard to deal with self-consciousness and self-image as a dancer.

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    3. Natalie,
      I was a homeschooled kid who became a professional ballet dancer.
      Ballet is so much about aesthetics and requires spending hours in front of a mirror every day for hours on end (those hours only become longer the more serious you get). I told my students something that I myself had difficulty accepting for a long time, but it's SO IMPORTANT: Don't criticize what you were given, critique how you use it. I've seen a lot of injuries in dancers and I've experienced permanent body damage because of trying to actually force the ideal onto a bodies that aren't perfect. I've also had the privilege of moving audiences to tears and laughter because of the artistry I brought to the stage when I left my own insecurities in the dressing room. It was far better, though, when I learned to show those insecurities the door.
      This is the only face, the only body, and the only time I have. I love them all. The more I let go of fear and choose to walk with an open heart and empathy, the more I view myself (and not just others) with generosity and respect, the more I allow love to permeate my existence - and I'm dead serious about this - the more I hear from even absolute strangers that I'm beautiful. And I believe them.
      It turns out even outside beauty is an inside matter. You are valid, you are worthy, and you can be beautiful.

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    4. Natalie, I was going to make a comment, and then I read what Rue and Bec had to say ... I'm not as eloquent as they are. but, I would like to reiterate that anyone who writes you off as "just a teenager" (or any other label) has issues of their own.

      what's important is how you react to that. and you come across as having poise and maturity. don't allow them to bring you to their level (omg, I just wrote my mother 😂).

      be true to yourself. it's those whose opinion we value most that can hurt us the deepest, so choose wisely.

      I'm 40+ years into my time on this Earth, and I'm still figuring things out (like, what I want to be when i grow up, for one). if any "adult" comes across as knowing all the answers, they're doing a darn good job of faking it, in my opinion.

      ((HUGS))

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    5. You people are all amazing.

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  4. I don't have a ton of photos of myself that I don't hate. I could never get a natural looking selfie that doesn't have jowls or me in a weird position. In my youth, I wore clothes larger than I wear now and I was almost 40 lbs lighter, to hide myself. But, I don't wear makeup- barely worn any since the 90s, and only for special occasions in the last 15 years. And I change my hair A LOT. It's very short right now, and parted to the side, in what I'm calling my man-do, but by next year, I may be growing it all back out to chin length.

    Lately, I've been less critical of myself. I take family selfies when we're out having a good time, and we all hate something about how we look, but at RI Pride last weekend, we all looked really happy to be there together, my husband, 14 year old daughter, and me. I don't always cringe when I see myself in a picture anymore. I wear clothes that fit. I still won't wear make up. Can't make me. But sometimes, when I see myself in the mirror, I think "I look cute today" instead of, "Ugh, close enough." Maybe it comes with age, maybe it's my meditation practice and learning to let go. Maybe it's just realizing no one is happy with everything about themselves.

    The short answer is, I completely understand where you're coming from, and if my experience is worth anything, maybe you'll come out the other side. :)

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  5. "There's this odd shock when I see a photo of myself, because I only have the slightest hint of recognition. What I'm seeing never feels like me. The face I see is not the one I imagine myself to have, somehow, though if you asked me what I should look like, I'd have no answer. Just... not that."

    This has been me, my entire life. Even when I was a 4-year-old child, so I know it's not that thing where 'the world tells you to hate yourself and work to change yourself to fit some kind of definition of beauty.' Socially-indoctrinated insecurity is it's own thing, it's real, it shouldn't be ignored; but I know it's not this. It's just literally, I look at a picture of myself and I 'know' it's 'me' because 'that's what me looks like,' but it's never, ever felt like me.

    And heaven help if I ever see a video of me speaking; the way I move my body, my face, it's not what I intended to do. What I meant to do and what I actually do are just off-set from each other that I get almost Uncanny-Valley feelings //just from watching my own actual self.// And I sound different! Not even just the 'well, my own ear-bones pick up bass resonances when I speak;' I mean my actual accent is different. It's like watching my understudy mangle my lines and botch my blocking. I 'know' it's 'me' but that is not ME.

    And that's been true my whole life, too. Even as a tiny child who couldn't possibly have swallowed the 'beautify yourself!' bullcrap yet. It's not the same thing as 'hate yourself until you live up to an external expectation.' It's just that THIS.IS.NOT.ME.

    I've tried pointing out actresses who have the face I think I have, and I ask my husband, 'do I look like that? does she look like me? will you tell me when you see someone who looks like me?' I learned NOT QUICKLY ENOUGH to not ask that of people who aren't my husband, because they all hear "am I pretty like her, validate me plz!" and not just "PLEASE BE A VERBAL MIRROR, TELL ME WHAT I AM."

    This is probably related to prosopagnosia/face-blindness, of which I have at least a little. Beyond that, I don't know 'why' this happens. Only that I just want to say, 'you are not alone in this, and thank God that I now know I'm not, either.'

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    1. Hey Ann, I had much the same reaction to that paragraph. I didn't realize other people felt that way, too. My partner says she has often felt the same.

      I wonder about the face-blindness, because I do have a tendency to not recognize people when I encounter them in unfamiliar situations. My job requires me to walk up to clients sitting at their desks, and when I see them in the elevator, a combination of unexpected location and different angle means I rarely recognize them.

      I'm interested to see the next update.

      ~Anissa

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    2. While I'm generally okay with photos of me, videos of me speaking - gak! I've been a software engineer for a few decades. Last year I gave a deeply technical talk at my company's "World" event. Many people came up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed it. It went well, was well rehearsed. No issues, stumbles or other problems during delivery. I have a few photos which are fine with me. When the company released the videos from the event on their website I even proudly emailed the link to friends and colleagues. But I have not and cannot bring myself to watch it. At All. Even a year later. Nope. I'm not even sure why. I don't feel loathing but just weird. For now I just roll with that because I don't see it changing for me.

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  6. We women are taught self-loathing our whole lives. We are shown examples of "pretty" and "perfect" in our toys, our cartoons, our movies, our books, etc, if we are shown at all. We internalize the image of perfection and when we don't live up to it, we feel horrible. Not to mention that we also get judged constantly for our looks from all sides. If you're too pretty, you can't be intelligent or a leader. If you are not pretty enough, well here's a product you can buy to fix all that! The sexism and racism in our society is internalized and it takes HARD work to not succumb.

    I am so proud of you for posting your thoughts and feelings about how this internalized self-loathing affects you. It's hard to admit a struggle so publicly. I am so looking forward to your next post. I believe that my own journey of self-awareness and growth has benefited from reading and following women writers, feminists mostly and POC in particular. I have benefited from reading your blogs, especially the con photos and seeing women of all shapes and colors dressing up and having fun. Thank you!

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  7. This... wow. This is 100% me. I've never articulated it like this but this illustrates so well how I feel when I'm in public. Like you, I'm mostly fine until I remember what I look like and then there's a massive downward spiral to feeling ugly and gross and unlovable. This mostly happens if I happen to catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror or reflective surface, or if I'm in alone in public surrounded by people I view as more attractive or just more socially acceptable than me (i.e. everywhere I go, but especially shopping malls or anywhere with pretty, thin, trendy younger people). I'm so, so glad you shared this because I didn't know anyone else felt this way, and now I have an easier way to explain it. I love your outfit selfies and I hope you can feel confident enough continue to share them! I'm also on the bright colours and neon chucks brigade but nowhere confident enough to ever post anything other than my face, and even then not always (my favourite selfie is where one of my cats is blocking most of my face and you can't see my body at all). Please accept the love from this random internet stranger to keep pushing forward even when we hate every inch of our physical self. <33333

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  8. Checking in as a 40-something year old person here. One of the hardest lessons I've had to learn is that no one cares about my appearance as much as I do. I'll see pictures of people of all sizes and styles online and think "Wow! They're rocking that look," and never notice a tummy pooch, or circles under the eyes, or any of the hundred other things I hate about myself. I do a lot of hiking, and I'm always worried about about how I look in athletic clothing. My hiking buddies and people on the trail? Couldn't care less about how clingy that thin fabric is, or whether or not my bum is sticking out. For me this is only something that comes with the wisdom of age - realizing that others don't give a flip about my foibles and are willing to see the best in me - it's both liberating and something I need to remind myself of daily. So, please, take a moment to shush your inner critic and remind yourself that what registers as a horrible offense on your end doesn't even ping the meter of someone looking at you. Make a conscious effort to turn down the volume of inner criticism and be kind to yourself. Rock your wonderful style without shame!

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    1. I have to second this. It takes a long time to realize this, if you ever manage to, but once you do, it can be kind of freeing. We are hyper-critical of our own appearance, but the odds that our friends, family, or even some rando on the street are noticing even 1% of what we think makes us look awful are about as high as winning the lottery. Honestly, most of them are probably too busy worrying about if anyone's noticing /their/ many flaws to be picking out yours.

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    2. I was in a class recently, and someone said that "we judge ourselves by our intentions, and others by their actions". it's been going around in my head lately, and I think it applies here.

      there have been many times I've thought, "man, I look HOTTT!! everyone *must* be watching me right now!" only to find not a single soul noticed me. and yet, I was hyper focused on myself.

      and there have been many more times when I've looked at myself and thought, "if I only had a magic wand ... I'd change (name a body part)."

      I think that as I've gotten older, I focus less on others' opinions, and more on how I feel. since May, I started wearing hair bows with nerdy / fun fabric, or other con buys. it started as a way to celebrate May the Fourth. and when no one commented on my awesome Chewie ribbon clip (after a week!!), I started wearing them for myself. and I've had a blast doing it.

      I'm also in the "no makeup" camp. I never learned how to apply it, and then it became too much of a hassle. so, I'm "take me as I am". the spousal unit loves me as I am, and is supportive. the occasional "you look cute!" from him goes a long way, but I don't *need* it as I once did.

      I'm not a huge fan of photos of myself. I prefer to be the photographer. and I critique every one I see (of myself). but at the same time, at our local con recently, people wanted a photo of me (!!) in my costume. me, with my plus size chubby self, and no makeup, and hair not done the "right way" ... me!

      I was flattered, and excited, and didn't worry (too much) about the photos on strangers' phones. because I had fun. and the evidence wasn't "mine". but I'm not a blogger with tons of followers, and a social media presence. I cannot imagine the angst that may cause. sending ((HUGS)) your way.

      I am looking forward to your next post, and the next steps. because I believe we can all learn something. and you are incredibly brave to be your true self before all of us here. thank you.

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    3. I'm 50, and still haven't learned this, but...I think you are totally right! So I'm going to try to remember this. (Also feeling better about being in the 'no makeup' camp)

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    4. I'm also in the "no makeup" camp, and I've always been pretty happy with my WYSIWYG face. I know I could look "better," if I wore some, but that's someone else's standard of "better," so I don't want to fall down that rabbit hole! Nice to hear I'm not alone in this :)

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    5. I've worn makeup, at most, a handful of times in my life. When the hubs and I were just affianced, I asked if he had a preference, since he had to look at me more than I ever did. He said, "You're not wearing makeup?", proceeded to stare at me for a long time before adding, " If you wanna wear it for you, it's your call. You never have to wear anything to make you more attractive to me...you're already beautiful to me. " He's a good one, lol, not that I believed him, even then. I knew he loved me, but, was sure he was deluded about my looks.

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  9. “If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.

    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 it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

    -- Roald Dahl

    and
    You Don't Have to Be Pretty.

    You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to you co-workers, especially not to random men on the street.

    You don't owe it to your mother,
    you don't owe it to your children,
    you don't owe it to civilization in general.

    Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked "female".

    -- Erin McKean

    Even if we are the most feminist girl power real woman cheerleader in the world, we live in a society which values a very specific and conventional "prettiness" above almost anything else. This is a silent/invisible message that we are all subject to constantly and it affects everyone. These two quotes have helped me because I am not pretty, I don't need to be pretty, but I can be lovely.

    Jen - you are most certainly lovely. You are kind and real and anyone who has met you is not looking at the "flaws" you see when you look at yourself. They're looking at the smile, not the squished up eyes, and believe me...your lovely thoughts are shining out like sunbeams <3

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    1. so beautiful! thank you for sharing. ((HUGS))

      - another "unconventionally pretty person" 😂

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    2. This is great! I'm going to put this on my wall next to my mirror to remind myself of these things!

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  10. You’ve said exactly what I've felt my whole life, though it's a little different now that I'm older. I know I shouldn't be so concerned about looks because other things are so much more important, but women in particular are taught that looks are the most important thing we have to offer - still, in the 21st century - and it's hard to shake that. I don't fret as much as I used to about certain things but I've gained weight as I've gotten older, which is new, I used to be thin with no effort - and the world really doesn't like overweight women, so it's hard to forget about and be okay with. So yeah, mirrors and cameras are the enemy for sure. My significant other always tells me I'm beautiful and I think he really means it, and it isn't even just because he loves me, but I just look at myself and think, how is that even possible that he could look at me and think that? I have eyes, I see that I'm not beautiful. And telling myself it's in the eye of the beholder and everyone has different ideas of beauty only goes so far when it's about myself. Anyway, all this to say that you most certainly aren't alone in this. But your honesty and willingness to share things about yourself are a big help with this sort of thing, as is your FOE group - so many people living life on their own terms, it's inspirational. That makes you guys the OG inspirations! And you are actually adorable, Jen, so please try not to be so hard on yourself.

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  11. So much of this rang true for me and I'm comforted to see that other people feel that way too. I've never liked the way I look and go out of my way to avoid photos, mirrors, reflections in general, etc. It is always a depressing shock to me when I see myself that way and it sends me into a downwards spiral. Finally deciding to start on medication for my depression has helped that somewhat, but it's always there. I can also totally emphasize about the not feeling pretty enough for John. I get in this horrible spiral of not feeling like I'm pretty enough to be in a relationship and then I comfort myself with food, which just compounds my negative feelings of myself of not being pretty, while also adding a protective layer of fat to hide behind as well. I haven't been brave enough to go to a counselor yet, but I have got to the point that I can acknowledge that's what I'm doing. Thank you so much for sharing so we all don't feel alone.

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    1. I feel the same exact way. I avoid mirrors and reflections at all costs. I've adapted by reflexively looking down closing one eye when I walk past a reflective surface. It's gotten harder since stores have installed security camera videos where you can see yourself walking around or at self-checkouts. I accidentally caught myself on a video screen that was installed at eye level in Walmart's cosmetic department. I was so horrified at my own face, I immediately left the store. I too tell myself I'm too fat for a relationship. The crazy thing is, I've been telling myself this since I was a size 10/12. Back then, I didn't feel worthy of a relationship, but I was really outgoing and had a packed social calendar. I'm now a size 16 and am almost a total recluse expect for work and errands because I don't feel worthy enough to be seen in public. I've tried counselors over the years, but I failed to find one that really helped with this issue. I am on an anti-depressant. I'm slowly making positive changes: joined a gym, walking more, eating better and listening to motivational talks on Youtube. My goal is to one day not be horrified at my own reflection.

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  12. Yup. I get this. Down to getting angry at my husband (also named John) for telling me about my looks. It sucks and I am looking forward to Part 2. I really appreciate you publishing this.

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  13. I read through this thinking how sad I was that you feel that way, and then reading the comments, I realized I feel the same way about pictures. I'm okay with mirrors and video, because I think I look like myself in motion, but photos just never seem to convey "me". But someone else looking at a photo of me does see that as what I look like. So weird to think about how brains work with things like this.

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    1. I have read that part of this is because we are used to looking at mirror-images of ourselves, so in photos our face looks "backwards" to us and it feels off. Also, different lens sizes changes the image, so it may not really look like you!

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  14. This is why I love Snapchat filters. It lightens my malasma (dark skin patches), makes my jawline smaller, hides my awful acne, etc. i workout, but have students ask if I’m pregnant. I’m 46.

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  16. How would you feel about telling a fan that you aren’t feeling great but your shoes are cute and you could take a fun angle picture of just your feet together? I’m not sure if it’s a fun middle ground or silly.

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    1. ❤️❤️❤️! how fun, and what a great memory that would be!

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    2. I actually love this idea, especially since I wear colorful shoes most of the time! Plus I've heard this called a "shoe-fi," which add an extra degree of ridiculousness that's the cherry on top.

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  17. oh gosh... first of all, let me tell you I reckon you a beautiful person. Not because of looks, but of how you are, your character, your.. realness. I never met you, but I really like you. A lot of what you wrote above rings familiar to me.. just today I looked at photos others took of me that I initially liked.. but after looking at them longer I find more and more things to.. not really hate, but detest.. I'm.. to put it brutally honest, fat.. and although there are days that I am OK with that, most of the time what I think about my appearence isn't very nice.. it took a very long time to minimize that self-loathing, but minimizing it did! I hope for you that it worked out for you too! can't wait to read the next part :)

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  18. I have always thought that you looked adorable, pretty, beautiful (just pick a complimentary adjective) in any picture I have seen of you. I have even seen you in person and thought the same thing. Which leads me to say in the most loving and supportive way possible, that John is NOT lying to you; both because you are objectively pretty and to him both objectively and subjectively pretty. Please do not do him the disservice of thinking that he merely tolerates your looks when it is so obvious that he loves you and truly believes that you are beautiful in myriad ways including your physical appearance. I know my own husband has a higher opinion of my looks than I do, and that's because we can fall into the trap of self-criticism and delusion about our own appearances. If you are getting professional help with your anxiety, please add this to the things you talk about with a professional. You would never criticize a fan or friend for their looks, and yet it seems you are holding yourself to an impossible standard-- and that breaks my heart for you.

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    1. I agree. He is not lying. He is sharing his honest opinion.

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    2. I was thinking this too. All of it, except the the part about seeing Jen in real life. I haven't done that.

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    3. Definitely wanted to say this. So true about John - and I HAVE met you IRL at a book-signing and you're both absolutely adorable, in so many ways.

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    4. I'm going to agree. You are so pretty and when you smile it lights up your face & I want to smile too.

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  19. I both identify with and am surprised by this post. I have felt that way about photos of myself, no question. But any photos of you I've seen I thought you were perfectly adorable and THAT HAIR is to die for. I have no reason to lie to you, so try to believe me when I say, you're beautiful. I swear I don't use that word lightly.

    (I also try to remember things like this when I criticize my own photos. We only see the worst in ourselves. Other people look at us with much less judgement.)

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  20. Wow thanks for sharing. I relate strongly to what you write. I am not at all OK with how I look. In the scheme of things I I believe I don't look too bad, but I weigh about 20some pounds more than I did a few years back, and even then I was not pleased with my top-heavy figure.

    I do very little to try to look better, and I think fundamentally I accept that with my figure I'm not going to look like I want to, so I just throw on some clothes. I have never worn makeup. It seems like a scheme of the patriarchy to get women to spend money and time and feel dissatisfied. Plus I went to a high school that was more than 95% so I just didn't pick up on that stuff in those formative years. I do have a nice haircut every 10 weeks.

    I don't like being in photos but I agree to it when people, mostly my kids (3 daughters ages 20 to 24), want to take them.

    Also even if I don't like the photo, I know that in 5 or 10 years I'll be happier with it because by then I will think "I look so young!"

    I feel bad that you have so much negative emotion about it. To my eyes you're well above average in looks. I wish you could be kinder to yourself. When I look at my friends and family, OK, none of them is Scarlett Johannson but I think they're beautiful and I love them, and I assume they feel the same when they look at me.

    Looking forward to reading your follow-up post!

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    1. ^a high school that was more than 95% boys

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  21. The last time I visited my parents at their house (I normally see them when we're all at my sister's house) I noticed that while they had a bunch of pictures of recent pictures of my sister and her family around the house, the most recent picture they had of me was my high school graduation picture. That one was taken in 1993! I haven't had professional pictures taken of me since then. Partly this is because I'm not married and don't have kids, so there's none of those big "change in life stage" photos that people have taken. I've thought about asking a friend who is a semi-professional photographer to take some pictures of me (offering to pay her, of course...although she'd likely decline and then I'd end up baking her a pie or something and her kids would love me even more. :) ) and getting some printed for my mom for her birthday or something. I'm pretty sure this is something my mom would love. But I keep putting it off because I don't think I look good. I've put on a bit of weight recently and I keep thinking I'll get the pictures taken when I lose it or at least when I get some clothes I like better which I think will make me look better...but, really, I hate clothes shopping and don't think I have much taste in clothing and feel weird when I try to put together and outfit to actually try to look good. And then I get frustrated and annoyed and end up just putting on my cargo shorts and geeky t-shirt and stress eating ice cream and/or buying a new Lego set to try to cheer myself up. And then I think about when I was in first grade and on the playground and some other kid called me fat. Or when I was in second grade and tripped over something in the classroom and one of my friends laughed and said I looked like "a big fat turtle on the floor". Those things happened over 35 years ago (and wow that makes me feel like I sound really old.). And I still remember those days and the kids and how their comments made me feel.

    So, yeah, this is all, unfortunately, normal stuff. Our brains are really good at holding onto these horrible thoughts and a lot of our culture doesn't help any. The key is to do everything we can to drown out these stupid voices. And when we can't do it ourselves (and, let's face it, most of the time it's really hard), we need other people to keep telling us the important truths: That these voices really are stupid. That we are awesome people. That our value is in no way dependent on how we look. That we're loved for who we are, not for what we look like. And we need to keep telling each other that even if we don't feel it's true right at that moment. Because that's the cool thing about things which are true, they don't stop being true just because we're not feeling it right then.

    Jen and everyone else here, you're awesome! You're beautiful and you're valuable and you're amazing not because of what you look like but because of who you are! You're loved even on your worst days (even your worst outfit and/or hair days) because you're you! Keep being awesome and keep being you! (And please keep telling me this because I forget it just as quickly as everyone else does.)

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    1. You're awesome! You're beautiful and you're valuable and you're amazing not because of what you look like but because of who you are! You're loved even on your worst days (even your worst outfit and/or hair days) because you're you! Keep being awesome and keep being you!

      because you said it so well ... back atcha!! ((HUGS)) PS you are "worthy" of professional photos. your mom doesn't care about how much you weigh, she loves you because you're her child. and I'll bet she'd be tickled to have a photo of you to brag about. ((HUGS))

      (I need to do this for my own parents. and I can't wait until (name a thing: I lose 20-50 lbs, get a decent haircut - heck, a hairSTYLE 😂, etc.) I need to do this now.)

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    2. Your idea to get your mom photos of you is brilliant! She will love them. She will love to see them and be reminded of you and how much she loves you. Even if you aren't 100% happy with them (and none of us ever are!), they will mean the world to her.

      Go ahead and get your picture taken. Remember you will always be able to take more photos when you're happier with your weight or wardrobe or hair (for the low price of a pie!). But you can only take today's photos today!

      Unrelated, but I feel you on replaying cruel things that were said to you as a kid. Kids are jerks and it makes my stomach want to curl up and hide sometimes when I remember those things. It can really hurt. Solidarity.

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    3. It would be fun to have pictures with your mom too :)

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  22. This is something I only started to get over after my older daughter was about six. I read an article about mamas needing to be in the photo. We're frumpy and frazzled, hormonal and exhausted; but to our kids, we're Mama. When my daughters are grown, they're going to want photos of their mother. I don't have to be beautiful, or put together, or anything like that (because I rarely am either), because I'm their mama. So I will be in the picture. I'll take all the selfies. I'll ask strangers to take photos for us. I'll do whatever it takes, so my girls will have me when I'm gone. It's hard on the ego sometimes, and sometimes I wish I had done something differently. But I don't regret my girls' smiles. Or my own. I exist in this world. I will be in the picture.

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  23. I get this. I get this SO MUCH. It's always been a problem for me, too, but kicked into overdrive when I had my son. I would look at pictures of us taken together and wonder if eventually he's going to be ashamed to have a mother WHO LOOKS LIKE THAT. Every time we go on vacation, I SWEAR to myself I'm going to lose x number of pounds so we can finally have GOOD pictures, and of course I never do. And it isn't even that I'm THAT overweight, but I think my face looks like a balloon, if I smile I have chins, and and and... No, I don't have a solution, other than I suck it up and have those pictures taken because we're there and we're happy and those are special memories. All this is to say, you are absolutely 100% NOT ALONE in feeling like you do. And I don't think you're a hypocrite at all; you're a wonderful, caring person who wants people to feel good about themselves. You just happen to have more insight into how difficult that can be than most. I'm just so grateful you and John have created this incredible safe space for all of us to discuss these things.

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  24. Girl...same! I cannot stand looking in the mirror or having pictures taken of me. The last one is a bit of a problem, since I'm currently working on immigration paperwork in Canada (hubby is Canadian) and you know they all want to see tons of pics of us together over the years. If you look at my Facebook page or my Instagram, you'll rarely see my mug on there at all. My profile pic is literally just the top 1/3 of my head! I can't understand how folks can post so many selfies either. Not that they look bad (well, the duck lip crap is stupid, but besides that), but I don't understand the need to post a pic of yourself every single day (or more than once)! My pics are usually of things, places, animals...occasionally other people.

    That being said, I recently realized that people do not see me in the way I see myself. My husband tells me I'm beautiful daily...even if my hair is in dire need of washing because I've been too lazy or too busy and it's either the shower or go get a job lubing car engines with the grease on my head. He tells me I'm beautiful, even when my fat rolls are bigger than usual, I'm not wearing makeup and I feel like a giant potato. And you know what? He's not lying. He's not seeing just what's on the surface. He's viewing me through his eyes...eyes that see more than a pimple on my cheek & bags under my eyes. You see, when someone loves someone else, they don't just see someone like the jacket of a book. They see them as the whole novel...the stories, the background, the nuances that make you you...basically, your soul. So when John tells you that you're beautiful, believe him. He's not lying. He's seeing you as who you are to him. His beautiful wife that he loves so much.

    And really, it's not just our spouses or significant others who view us that way. Our friends do as well. And chances are if you meet one of us FoEs in the wild, you will be viewed as a beautiful person too, because you are. You have a beautiful soul and that radiates from deep inside of you!

    I've tried to start thanking my husband when he tells me that I'm beautiful, instead of my normal (guh....are you kidding me? Do you SEE how much my stomach pokes out??). I'm hoping that little by little that will help me maybe start seeing myself a little bit more as he does through his eyes.

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  25. I identify with this post SO HARD!! I have so few photos of myself that I really like. I cringe when I see photos others have posted. I want so badly to ask to have them removed. I feel physically ill when I see how gorgeous, how happy, how smiley, how confident they look.

    But when I see photos of you, I'm actually kind of jealous. You're cute as a button! I love your clothes and your sense of style. I know that, like me, you're a bit of an introvert, I can see your struggle. But I can also see how much you love the people around you and you make such an effort for them, I can see that too.

    You're inspiring, Jen Yates.
    Whatever else you may be struggling with, you're an inspiration to us.

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  26. 2-3 weeks ago, I had a dream that I looked in the mirror, and it was your face looking back at me. It was the most surprising, delightful, ticklish sensation...like the first awesome hill of a roller coaster. That means that even my subconscious happily approves of you and your appearance.

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  27. First of all, John is not lying to you! You are absolutely beautiful! In the rare instances when I’ve gotten to see a picture of your face, I always think, “wow, Jen is soooo pretty. And her eyebrows are amazing!” But I get it. It doesn’t matter how many times you hear it, your anxiety lies to you. I can’t wait to hear the positive take, because dang it, Jen, you deserve to be happy. If for no other reason than the amount of happiness you’ve brought to the world by sharing your story, and creating a safe, happy corner of the internet for those of us who identify with this post far more than we should. (And seriously, I love your eyebrows. I need your secrets.)

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  28. I hate being on camera, which is why I'm thankful my job literally puts me behind it. But I've been working on forcing myself to take selfies more often. They're usually few and far between and typically with a cat. But when I scroll thru my Insta feed and look at my memories, I want to look/feel like I'm part of my life and it's not just something I'm watching happen around me. Sure, I hate my smile; I hate my nose; my hair is too thin/flat/shouldn't be pulled back; ugh, you can see my tummy roll...but I was there. I was happy. I was having fun.
    Also, you're incredibly adorable and I hate that your brain lies to you.

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  29. Not using my usual nickname because this is very... yeah... but I used to feel so much the same. And um. It turns out I'm transgender? So I don't know your situation or the situation of anyone reading this but if that helps anyone, sometimes this can be part of being trans. I like my face So Much More when I cut off all my hair and looked into the mirror and told myself "that's a boy, a handsome lad".

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    1. I was just about to comment with the same thing. I have never felt like my face was "mine" until I was playing with makeup and gave myself a dapper little goatee, darkened my brows, etc -- and suddenly had the "oh, THERE I am!" lightbulb moment. I stopped trying to be pretty right then and there, and started being ME, and my god what a change it made.

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  30. I know you’ve just recently gotten into Critical Role, so I’m not sure if you’ve caught any of the Talks Machina’s or the Between the Sheets episode with Matthew Mercer, but he also has some body dismorphia issues and maybe it might help to hear him talk about them some? https://youtu.be/iN6A82H6VCI

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    1. I just watched that episode recently, and was completely gobsmacked! So yes, *highly* recommend all Critters watch that, Matt is amazing to open up like that. Especially since you rarely hear men discussing this issue.

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  31. You sound how I feel. I know deep down that looks don't matter and that DH loves me for me, but I also look in the mirror and I can't figure out why what I see doesn't match. It is like looking in a fun house mirror and I really want to figure out a way to get an unbiased opinion about whether or not I look okay - and then be able to believe it. I honestly think I could have someone who has been cursed to never lie tell me I am beautiful and I would still brush it off as not being real or true.

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  32. I totally get the forgetting what you look like thing! I'm so proud of you for posting this. You are amazing and I am so HERE for this conversation. I'm going to comment on Facebook now and do some tagging. Love you!

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  33. I totally get it. I absolutely hate having my picture taken because I hate the way I look. My eyes are too squinty when I smile. Why does my head look so tiny? Oh, that's because I have a tiny head (seriously, I can wear a child size hat). Ugh, my weight! I prefer to stand in the back, not just because I am tall (I am), but so I can hide behind people.

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  34. I am NOT the person people come to for blithe compliments. As a matter of fact, if you don't want the truth, even if it hurts, don't come to me. I understand the "I hate the way I look" feelings. But that's because, I am not even 5' tall and weigh nearly 200 pounds, so. You however are so very pretty, and BARELY on the pudgy side. I dress in as feminine a way as possible because I feel I look fairly masculine naturally. I HATE pictures. As for selfies, I need to take 100 just to find ONE I don't think I look like a cow in.
    All that being said, something I've noticed is that a persons' outward appearance has a lot to do with perception. I've seen people that are average, to below in the outward looks department that are just so beautiful. Their heart, their humor, *that* is what makes a person beautiful. I have seen outwardly beautiful people that I can hardly stand to look at their mug, because their personality is just SO toxic, it makes them ugly. While *you* see flaws, the fans, your loving hubby, we all see an amazingly pretty girl, who is absolutely beautiful, because on top of the fact that you are above average in the pretty department, your beautiful, caring and humorful (it can be a word!), personality enhances them.

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  35. I can’t believe how many people are saying what I am about to say- I feel like this came straight out of my brain. I feel this way so many times. And more especially since I’ve started using Marco Polo, an app that is like video chat walkie-talkies with my best friend who lives in Florida. (I live in Utah) I hate seeing myself. I hate most pictures of myself. But there is one thing that keeps me taking those pictures and using that app. When my dad passed away when I was 20, I realized how few pictures I have of him and I absolutely cherish each one. Even the one where he is flipping the camera the bird. Because it does give me the sense of what he looked like in that moment. And I miss those moments. Not really trying to be so morbid here but that’s why I take so many pictures of every one and everything. And when we met at Universal a few years ago, I didn’t get a picture because I was feeling like one of those days and you looked so cute and I just couldn’t. But I’ve regretted it ever since. I sure hope you can realize the impact you have even on “those days” and know that there are a lot of people who would LOVE to look just like you. (I mean, have you seen your hair?!? Drop dead gorgeous!)

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    1. I was just saying this. My mom died when I was little and my kids deserve to have pictures of me. it is pretty morbid but it's real! People love you!

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    2. I was saying the same thing to my mom. I asked her for a picture and she said she didn’t like pictures of herself and I said well maybe my son would like some. She acquiesced.

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  36. I have absolutely been in this place myself, including not always recognizing myself in mirrors or photos because the image in my head doesn't always match what I see. Thank you for speaking up - you are absolutely not alone.

    However, as I have gotten older I have (mostly) managed to detach my sense of self-worth from my self-image. I accept that my natural beauty cannot be captured on film, and any time I catch myself criticizing my belly or other wobbly bits I declare that it is mine and I just need to work with what I've got.

    My standard line is that I love my friends as they are, I should treat myself the same way.

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  37. I’m unsure about how I feel with pictures. I’m too short to take good selfies, so I rarely bother. But I usually like the ones I do take.
    Then in group pictures, I smile, then am told to try again because “That’s not a smile.”
    Uh what?

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  38. I have struggled with eating disorders most of my life. (I'm 32, and I have been struggling since I was 12, so we're really at the over-half-of-my-life point now.)
    I can't even tell you just how much this hits home. (Especially since I still need to lose most of the weight from my just-turned-2 daughter... Losing weight for a recovered anorexic is scary.)

    Thank you for posting this. It's so hard to get some of those words out there... but these discussions should be had.

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  39. Anxiety is a jerk face, and lies so so so hard. I've been trying to come to peace with my looks for years, especially pictures of me. I used to hide from the camera, but then I read a thing where a lady found that hiding from the camera turned into hiding from memories and that she missed feeling like she was a part of her family and their event memories. For me, I try to find *something* I like about me and focus on that and just not look at the other parts. I've learned that I really like my smile, so I try to just look at that part when I'm feeling really frustrated. When I'm not feeling frustrated, I look long and hard at pictures of me and get to know the outside me a little better. I keep hoping pictures will be less of a surprise if I learn the shape of the outside me as well as the inside me. For a long time, I thought my wonderful husband was lying when he said I was beautiful. Then I realized he really does believe it. Now I embrace that his eyes are better than any mirrors hanging around. If he's not upset being seen with me, maybe I shouldn't be upset to be seen with me. Finally, for the last few years, I've been learning about how diet culture sets out to make us all feel bad about how we look, no matter what size we are. I would rather have fun at events than worry about whether I'm sucking in my gut or wearing things that make me look slimmer than I am. My grin may make my face look wider, but my friends have told me how much more they enjoy hanging out with someone who is showing their joy rather than trying to hide it behind a prettier face look.

    for what it's worth, I think you are super cute in the pictures I've seen. I love how your enthusiastic grin makes your whole face light up. I also think you are amazing for wanting to work through this. You rock so hard! <3

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  40. I can't even read most of the comments because my emotions just can't handle it, so sorry if some of this is a repeate of what others have said.

    I am not saying this to just be placating or to give you a false ego boost or anything of that nature, but I've always thought you are so lovely, Jen. John is absolutely not just saying those things because he loves you. And from what I know about John, he would never, ever adjust his behavior towards you (or anyone) regardless of whether you were prettier or less pretty. And you know that.

    While I have never believed people when they pay me a compliment about my appearance (i usually add a "for a girl as fat as you are" to the end of every compliment in my head), I have been trying to be more kind and gentle to myself in the last year, since getting into a serious relationship with someone who is incredibly insecure about her own body, a body that I adore, and I have really had perspective on how different it is when you are looking at someone else instead of at yourself.

    When I start to think negative things about my appearance, I think about the people in my life that I love and I ask myself if I would ever say something like what I am thinking about myself to my girlfriend, or my niece or my mom and I never, ever would.

    So the next time you think something horrible about yourself, ask yourself if you'd say something like that to one of the FoEs, or to someone else in your life. Would you tell John that you would be less frustrated with him when he gets on your nerves if only he were a little more attractive? would you look at the fan who has asked for a picture and tell them that we'd better not, because she has a pimple on her chin that is going to look terrible in the photo? nope. you would never. And what's more, you probably wouldn't even notice the pimple, and John couldn't be more attactive to you if he tried. No one else is looking at you with the same critical lense that you are looking at yourself.

    And again---you are very lovely, and I am not just saying that. You have amazing fashion sense, the most incredible hair, the best eyebrows, deep eyes, a great smile...you have nothing to be ashamed about, no matter what body dysmorphia is telling you. And aside from your appearance, you are an amazing, beautiful, kind, generous, talented and intelligent soul. You have a benevolence towards humanity that is enviable and exude goodness. Please try not to be so hard on yourself! xoxoxoxoxo

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  41. I get this post. I get it so much. Mirrors and selfies and family pics are NOT my friends. I hate the way I look so much I don't even have any pictures of me with my new puppy (and he arrived almost 4 years ago). I know I'm fat (yeah, I said the "F" word), and have serious bags under my eyes (people constantly ask me if I got enough sleep the night before, cause I sure look tired), my hair is falling out (no doctor so far has cared) and I'm also old (which, to be honest, I really don't care about).

    We just moved to an amazing place, and I'm trying so hard to get over myself so I can have selfies with the hubs and dogs when we go do touristy stuff. I'm fixing to be a grandma, and Newbie won't know me any other way, so why should I care? But I do.

    So, Jen, you're far from alone, and I look forward to seeing Chapter 2. Hugs!!!

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  42. This is me. My siblings and their kiddos send me marco polos all the time. The minute their cute little faces disappear I get a glimpse of me. Flat hair, double chin, and eye bags that would make Mary Poppins jealous. And in that moment, instead of replying to these sweet kids who don't care how I look, I close the app and try to pretend I didn't see their message.
    I'm here because the comments on your blog are always so helpful and supportive. Thank you so much for this post!

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  43. I have exactly ONE picture of myself that I like. And what's really messed up, is, I think my sister is good looking, but I'm not. My IDENTICAL TWIN SISTER. So, there's that.

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    1. I'm not a twin, but my sis and I are only a year apart (and many thought we were twins for YEARS) and have had a similar discussion. We both thought the other one was prettier.

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  44. I’ll be honest, this was hard to get through. It was like someone spilled all the things I think about myself all over the Internet and oh God. The Internet is forever. My hurt, broken, twisted-up-on-myself -ness out there. For all time.
    But closing the tab doesn’t make the post go away. Ignoring what’s wrong doesn’t fix it.
    Vulnerability is so painful.
    But there is strength in it. Because by admitting it, we find out we’re not alone and can hold each other up.
    You are so strong even though you don’t feel like you are.
    If you can feel this way and strive for better, then so can I, right?
    All the love and hugs (if you want them) from KY to FL.

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  45. As you recently pointed out here I make some pretty cool things, unicorn corset! Yay! I do not however create things for myself. I am not a fun shape to sew for. I don’t feel like I am the right body to represent my work. I do look in mirrors but the self hate talk is strong. I see myself in pictures and I want to quit everything. I have been battling a lot the last few years and I am tired. I totally get hiding in a hole. Thank you for being honest so that me in my hole doesn’t feel quite so alone.

    I have msged you before and I will say it again, my youngest thinks you are absolutely beautiful. She loves to see your outfits and has commented that you always hide your face, I tell her it’s for privacy reasons. When you do post a full picture she always says how pretty you are. She is 7 and savagely honest, if you pass muster with her it’s real.

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  46. My mother in law has very similar struggles. We can all see that she is both physically and mentally beautiful, and her response is basically "It's nice that you think that; it's just that you're wrong" which becomes frustrating for her and for us. Both side feel like they are telling the truth and the other is being unfair and/or unrealistic. I have not found a way to really help her see what we genuinely see.

    Personally, I have good and bad days. I am very literally obese, have seen some truly terrible pictures of myself, and there are absolutely things I would change about my appearance given the ability, but there are also days I LOVE how I look and feel, photos I'm proud of, and I times in which I keep staring at my eyeshadow in the rearview mirror... which I cannot recommend for safety reasons.

    My prayer for you, my mother-in-law, and all of those who have low body confidence, is for a few more good days.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Also, this conversation reminds me of a twitter thread I reference often:

      https://twitter.com/alexdurog/status/1014362718713753600

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  47. Robin GoodfellowJune 20, 2019 at 3:49 PM

    I’m crying at my desk. Because I’ve seen pictures of you, and you’re super cute (and here I’m thinking specifically about that time you cut your hair and were concerned you had done it badly and I cane in to say the usual things you say to a woman who just cut your own hair and I saw your after picture and remember thinking “I would slay a tribe of bunnies for hair like that” (not really) and how lucky a person must be to just...take a picture and post it. Because I post outfit pictures on the FoE page most days. Let me tell you: they are taken under the most carefully lit and contrived circumstances I can achieve. And, generally speaking, I’ve started to believe that’s what I look like. Then, last week, I paid a photographer to take some cosplay pictures for me. I got them back today. I’ve never felt worse.
    It’s true, I don’t sew, but I still put a ton of time and effort into costumes only to find that I do not, in fact, look like Natasha Romanoff, unless it’s the version played by Jabba the Hutt. And I have no idea how to say to the photographer “they are very well executed. I hate them.” Because I don’t want her to feel bad, and she put so much effort into them that I’m certainly not angling for a refund, but I can’t show these to anyone. And I wore eyeliner!
    So, yeah. Maybe this is a thing we should talk about.

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    1. I love your outfit posts on FOE, Robin, and it's eye-opening to hear you're one of us, too. (I've actually heard from at least 3-4 fashion 'grammers I follow saying much the same thing! The past few days have been one long shock.)

      That's so rough with the photos; I've had at least one cosplay shoot turn out like that, oof. TEARS. I hope we can both learn to recognize that one bad photo shoot is just that, and there will be better ones where we DO feel like Natasha, heh.

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  48. Wow, I get it so much, I too completely forget what I look like, just about as soon as I walk away from the mirror. I also contort my body (suck in my stomach, tilt my head at an angle to make the extra chins disappear, etc.) while in front of the mirror, so I almost truck myself into thinking I look fine, go out into the world semi-confidently, and forget completely what I look like. Then I see a picture and it's jarring. Like, why does my eye do that thing, or how come I still look pregnant even though my youngest is 9 months old, or how come I didn't realize my legs look like that? I don't know how, but I usually just kind of get sad for a moment then move on and forget again. I think I somewhat believe that everyone is more concerned about themselves in a picture, and that they are used to how you look (if that's the right way to say it) so if it's someone who knows/likes me, they aren't going to be judging or anything. Plus it's not like my failures in appearance hurt them, so that kind of helps me get over it. It is so frustrating though that I put time and effort into how I look, I'm enjoying myself and life, and then I get a sudden reminder of my self consciousness. Then again, I'm not as well known as you so... It's a different realm maybe!

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  49. Are you me? Cos you sound so much like me.

    I've never been happy with my appearance at all. Chubby face, struggled with my weight no matter what I tried (turns out it was linked to my allergies), hair a nondescript colour which wouldn't hold any style for longer than 5 mins. Weird body from horse riding (lower abs for days, no upper abs at all XD).

    But I'm slowly working at it. A friend has made me say something good about myself, even if it's something like "I don't hate my _insert body part here_" every day. Getting my allergies under control, and by extension my weight (grains, it's all their fault) has made a difference in my confidence. I took a part time job at Starbucks (on top of my drafting job) as a way to force myself out of my shell and deal with this horrible social anxiety. Best decision I've ever made.

    I'm your age - maybe a few months older. I can empathize with what you're dealing with cos I was there. I can't tell you how to change it but I know that it will - cos you want it to.
    The fun thing about all of this anxiety is that what you're anxious about on yourself is something someone is envious about (like I could kill for hair like yours)

    Best part of this blog is your bravery and the way we can relate to you. You share in ways I don't think I could be brave enough to normally.
    Thanks for all the sharing and inspiring you do

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  50. Same! I stress over every little thing. At least for work I have it covered. Nails, hair, makeup and clothes that are professional but really I kind of wear the same thing over and over again in different colors and prints. I am going to Disney World in September and am totally stressing about what to wear. I want to look like Jackie O in the Greek Isles. I'll probably look like a pudgy roly poly in jeans and a t-shirt. LOL!!

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  51. I can relate to this in so many ways. I have albums of pictures of my kids but I am in maybe one of every 500 pictures because of this. You are brave and beautiful and thank you for sharing.

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  52. Jen, I can absolutely relate to that feeling of surprise when you see your reflection or your picture. I've always had a "more handsome" face in my head than the one I see reflected back at me. For that reason I've always disliked having my picture taken. In fact, my wife is frequently annoyed with me because I bristle at her calling me handsome or any other compliment based on how I look. It's odd to type about this because I've been in therapy for years and I don't think I've ever talked about this, mainly because there's always been something more "important" to talk about. However, even without talking about that specifically, I know that medication for my anxiety and, more importantly, talk therapy has helped me immensely. Just having to articulate those feelings out loud forces a certain amount of re-contextualization. That's why I'm so glad that you pushed that Publish button to let all of us who care so much about you (even from afar and silently) to let you know that you're not alone.

    More importantly, I've decided to pop out of my little lurker hole to remind you of what a beautiful person you are. This community here and the one in the FOE group is because of you and John. Reading about your Exemplars, seeing your cosplay photos, reading stories about the AMAZING positivity that still exists out there in the world has helped me on some of my worst days. Heck, even seeing you conquer things like installing a ceiling fan helped me feel like I could be less afraid of being handy! This beacon of love, friendship, and positivity that you've created doesn't happen by accident; it's because of the awesome person you are! You're spreading hope and love and friendship just by being out in the world and sharing these things with us.

    I know lots of people who look different in lots of ways, but what makes them beautiful is who they are and, if you don't mind an internet stranger's opinion, the person you are is a knockout. Keep putting yourself out there. We love you.

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  53. Thing the first- you are brave and amazing for saying all of that in a public forum. I think your lovely,you have awesome hair I wish for, and you eyebrows are so on point you look like a super model. But a thousand people could tell you these things and there is only the one that matters - yourself. I haven’t read through all the comments so someone may have mentioned this already but there is a thing called body dysmorphia which aligns with a lot of what your saying. Not liking a candid photo or a picture your weren’t “armed” for is fairly normal but what your talking about sounds way deeper than that. Just a thought to consider. I think your fabulous and you should find a way to think that too.

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  54. Oh man. I identify with this so much. I need to go back and read everyone else's comments.
    I don't recognize the self I see in photos anymore. It feels like she's a different person. And in many ways, she is. I had twins almost 5 years ago and they almost broke me. I gained a ton of weight after their birth, due to extreme sleep deprivation (for several YEARS), stress due to off the charts high needs babies, etc. I knew they were hard but didn't realize how much it all was affecting me physically. And it's so hard. In my mind I still look the same way I did before I got pregnant with them (and that was post-two kids, so it's not like I'm mourning my pre-kids body or anything!) But in so many ways, their first few years just seem like something I want to forget, and this body is a reminder of the way that it all affected me. I have the emotional energy, finally, to start concentrating on my health, and realizing that even if my body looks like this for the rest of my life, it's a strong body that has brought me through so much. But at the same time, I have a hard time recognizing myself.

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  55. I will come back and read all the amazing comments later, but I have to share this NOW, before I forget. Don’t ever tell yourself that John is lying to you about your beauty. He sees your beauty ALL of the time. Even if it is buried beneath layers of self loathing and unflattering clothing. Because no matter what, you are always beautiful. Even when you don’t look your best, that beauty is still there. And those that know you and love you see it radiating through, even if you can only focus on the negative. So when he tells you you’re beautiful, accept it as truth with your whole heart and be grateful for your amazing man who tells you the truth, even when you don’t want to hear it. ;)

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  56. I feel this so much. Selfies are usually OK because there's that, you know, almost-perfect angle that works for the face/neck area. But when I look at full-length photos of myself I HATE them.

    My clothes, while they look cute in front of a mirror, look strangely ill-fitting for my body in photos..shorts make me look like I have stumps for legs, t-shirt is riding up at an odd angle, things like that. And don't even get me started when I actually smile with TEETH. I have nice teeth, a little big in front, but my god when I see myself with a full toothy smile in a photo I want to just cry. And then all those things come together- why did I stand at that angle, why did I smile like that, why didn't I put sunglasses on...and then on, and on, and on, into that pit until you're just exhausted.

    I had a bad example of this on my last Disney trip. Met my favorite vloggers by total chance, they were sweet enough to want to get a picture with me...and they look great but I just look like a total mess. It was a photo I actually wanted to share, and I was convinced I looked like a sack of garbage...because, you know, I was too excited and happy to worry about my photo appearance!

    Awful. It's so frustrating and, ultimately, stupid. So please just know there's SO MANY PEOPLE doing the exact same thing all the time.

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  57. You are not alone in this, not weird in this, not bad in this. You are like many, many other people in feeling this way! And it's good that you feel like you can work on it, but it's a totally normal thing many of us struggle with, so please don't feel like you're alone.

    For years, I was very overweight. (I still am overweight, but less so since I've worked hard and lost some weight over the last 2 years, for health reasons). I would get dressed in the morning, fuss and fume over how I couldn't hide the weight I hated, hate on my hair, which I've never figured out how to "do" right, and put on just concealer and foundation and blush because I've also never been good at "doing" makeup but I'd have a zit or whatever and need to cover it up and I'm always so pale. And then I'd go out into the world and after 30 minutes, I'd forget how I looked and just exist. Until I bumped my hip on something because I'd forgotten how wide they were, which happened all the time, or look down in a meeting while sitting and see the fat rolls, or walk by a mirror and see strands of my hair had blown over all funny and god how long had it BEEN like that and man my eyes look terrible with those bags under them. And my teeth are discolored though I never drink coffee and I should do something about that and I hate my smile and and and

    In my brain, I don't exist as a fat, ugly person, but I never like how I look in photos, either, and used to refuse all the time to be in them. Even days where I look in the mirror and marvel that my face looks thinner now and hey, look, a good hair day, if you took a photo that moment, I wouldn't like how I look. I try to work on it, but also I too never remember to suck in my gut or check my hair or smile in the way that doesn't feel natural but makes my teeth look better to me, because I forget that I'll hate the photo till I see the photo. So I totally, totally get you, and thank you for talking about it!

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  58. I'm so looking forward to hearing what you have to say in Part 2. I often hear similar sentiments from my close friend, S, too, and it makes me so sad for both you and her. And so confused and baffled, because when I think of beautiful people in my life, you two are always among those who first come to mind. And I don't just mean "inner beauty" or "inspiration" (although those are both also there in spades, too!), but literal physical beauty as well - When I see the pictures that you post, I think how I'd love for my pictures to look like yours. When I struggle with putting on makeup or getting my hair to behave, I think of how beautiful you and she are and how much I'd love for those things to be as effortless for me as they look like they are for you two (even though I know from things said before that it's not actually effortless for either of you at all). When I'm next to you in person, I wonder if my appearance could ever measure up.

    It breaks my heart when I hear S talk about how much she doesn't like herself, and when she so clearly doesn't believe me when I say she's beautiful, and it breaks my heart to read this from you, when you are someone I think of as an example of real beauty. I hear you both saying these things and I honestly struggle to understand what you're saying because I look at you both in person and in your pictures and I see absolutely nothing to criticize and everything to admire! I legitimately can't see the supposed flaws that you see. I wish you both could see yourselves through my eyes and others who look at you and see only beauty.

    No one deserves the way that our society makes us feel about our appearances in general or the importance that our culture has put on something that matters so little. But even beyond that, you and S seem to actually see something different when looking at yourselves than I do, because I don't have to ignore anything at all to see your beauty. I hate to see you both struggling with this and I can't bear the thought of you hating yourselves for any reason, especially something that, to me, seems so opposite what I see.

    So much love to you, Jen.

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    1. (My phone accidentally posted before I changed my profile, but this is me.)

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  59. I know exactly how you feel. I'm friends with a lot of beautiful people who love selfies. And they love to post them online even more. They always include me in the group picture because they're nice people. But I'm not photogenic at all. And 9 times out of 10, the group shots with me in them never appear online or the pictures are severely cropped. I've been spending this year working on me and maybe it's getting better.

    I think you're amazing and your the only online person I've bothered to keep up with over the years because I'm pretty sure we're the same person. Or you're my spirit animal or something. I'm in Mt. Dora 2x a year and if you ever need support, I'll do my best to help you out. But I know it's weird for some random on the internet to say that, but you taught me how to buy a bra...in my 30's! Haha. At any rate, you keep being you because you're awesome.

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  60. I really struggled with my looks and have always been happiest when avoiding mirrors. Then, I got Bells Palsy and had half my face paralyzed and looked like a Batman villain for 6 months. Then I REALLY Struggled with my looks. Because people would openly gape and stare at my crazy face. A functional face is an important part of being in civil society. Anyway, my face has come back to normal, more or less, 3 years after having Bells Palsy. Still assymetrical. Still have trouble blinking. But what I learned then is even with that I was grateful to have all my limbs and my life. I learned to live without a functional face, period. I went out of the house and created fun memories dealt with it and forced myself to feel like me, and now I feel much more free about my face since.

    Having kids is an interesting dynamic - similar to a spouse but a little different too. My kids think I'm beautiful and want more pictures of me. They deserve pictures of me. It is selfish of me not to give them memories of their mom. Our photo album from when my bells palsy was the worst has no pictures of my face (some of my from behind etc.) and my daughter always notices I'm missing from it. I honestly don't regret that. It still makes me want to throw up seeing those pictures. But now I am a bit better I get in the pictures. I am still surprised at my asymmetrical face, but I am getting to a place of peace about it.

    I remember a friend (who was stunningly beautiful and had severe eating disorders) used to say "There is a LOT of distance and a LOT happening between your eyes and a picture of yourself"

    I am excited to hear your action plan. Mine kind of starts and ends with "If anyone has an issue with my face that is their problem and I don't want to know them or talk to them anyway." at this point :)

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  61. Jen, you adorable lovely geeky girl, you.

    You couldn't look bad if they dressed you in an old rag bag.
    You have long, thick curly brown hair that most of us ( well maybe just me) would KILL to have. Your body is petite and trim so you can wear stuff us tall girls can only dream about. Your shoe collection is inspiring to say the least. You look great with of without makeup, and in the Florida heat too.

    You are geeky, and funny, and so real and honest and I love you for it. Please realize that no one is seeing these flaws in you. We all think you are fantastic.

    And as for John telling you that you are beautiful... he couldn't lie about that. He is seeing you as beautiful because for him, there is no one more beautiful than you.

    I had issues with my self image.. still do on somedays. I feel I'm too fat still (my scale read 239 on my 5'7" frame) I hate my hair color ( went back to my natural color after spending 3 months HOT HOT PINK.) I have more stretch marks than I can count, but they are reminders that I conceived, grew, and birthed 5 wonderful kids.

    I have told my daughter and myself that it's not about how you look but how you feel.

    You have overcome lots of things and I know you can overcome this too.

    And all of us will be right here supporting you, cheering you on, and offering the best of our mismatched socks. Love you jen!

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  62. This is me. 100%. But with much less leaving the house.

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  63. Totally get it. I take the pics so I can control them. I avoid mirrors even in my bathroom, don't really look while brushing my teeth. I describe myself as a short squat square shape. I am in my 40's but I've always been very critical of myself. I do now wish I had not avoided so many pics with my dad. I lost him in 2017 and wish I had more time and pics with him. I know what I NEED to do to feel better about my body, but the depression keeps me in the cycle and in my house avoiding pics and friends that might judge. When you have posted pics of yourself I've thought to myself how pretty you are, you have awesome hair or that I could never post a full body selfie of myself and of course I wish I could DIY! Thank you for sharing.

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  64. I used to have super terribly bad self-esteem due in part to many comments my mother made about my body when I was growing up (I assumed everyone saw me the way she did). I've learned to overcome a lot of my self-loathing and can accept myself most of the time now. I think I just have more "I don't give a fuck" now at 36 than I used to. HOWEVER, I still don't like having my picture taken and posted online. I'm not sure any of us will ever get over that, if every day we see "perfect" women posted everywhere for all to see. I can't wait to hear the rest of your story!

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  65. Yes. Just yes. I was the skinniest kid and teenager and young adult ever. Often people worried that I was anorexic. Then I turned 25 and got pregnant. And then I got pregnant again. And then I lost a lot of weight (100 lbs to exact). And then I gained it back. And then I lost 150 lbs. And then I gained it back. And now I'm 50 and I weigh more than 300 lbs and I forget. Every single freaking day. I'll bash my hips into a doorway because I 'forget' that they are stupid wide. I jump up off the couch because I forget that my knees don't like that. I try to play on the floor with my niece and nephew because I forgot that I can't get back up. It's so freaking frustrating. I still FEEL like a skinny person. I still FEEL happy and lucky and like I can run, jump and dance. Except I can't. Not really. And my husband loves me and thinks I'm beautiful and I can't for the life of me figure out why. My kids think I'm amazing and love me. They don't care that I'm fat. And I try to remind myself of that when they want to take pictures (because when I'm gone that's all they will have). To remind myself that all they see if someone who loves them absolutely and who they love absolutely back. But it's SO HARD to turn a blind eye and ear when I hear people walking behind me at Disney who make snide comments about moving slow. Or to imagine on the days when I just can't TAKE the walking and I break down and get the wheel chair that I'm not being judged from every corner.

    But I'm going to be 51 in a week and I'm going to go out and party and play and enjoy myself. And I'm going to do my damnest to not pay attention or care what other people think. And I thank you - thank you for all that you right. All that you put out there. All that share. Because you are not alone. And neither am I. And thank God we all have a place that we can be a tribe. A community. And know, even when we feel alone, we are not. And you know what - that picture that you think is so bad - others don't think so. They see someone happy, posing with a fan. And if they are judging? Well...screw them. Who cares?

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  66. Holy shit. No, it's not okay. Those photos are and will be important to the people that love you. Even more importantly, you need to love you and you are the inhabitant of the skin you're in.
    I'm a photographer. Recently, I've had a couple of women approach me about photographs of themselves. They want to do sessions where they feel empowered and confident. They might be in various stages of undress for said photographs but they haven't previously felt comfortable enough to do so and really aren't sure they feel comfortable with it now. These ladies are wanting these photos just for themselves. It's got me thinking a lot about how we so often get caught up in our own skin. And the sad part is that most of the time, we think it's what other people see and think of us. Those other people don't judge us nearly so harshly as we judge ourselves. Those people that love us don't care about the belly or the extra chins or the blemish. They are far too busy worrying about their own perceived imperfections to notice yours or mine. Seriously, I wear a size 2 and I still try and suck in my "gut" and tilt my head in such a way as to be flattering. We've really got to stop. It's not a fault in our bodies that makes us not measure up. The flaw is our ridiculous standard. You are wonderful and beautiful. Everyone that wants a picture of you or with you believes you are worth having a image of. You know what you need to feed a camera? Light and memories.

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  67. First of all - I'd read your self deprecation for ages (both implied and direct) before I ever saw an actual picture of your face and I was ... really quite surprised at how... pretty you are!! Not that looks even matter, but you should probably know that this is the opinion of one reader/fan/person who would totally try to be your best friend if she lived anywhere near Florida.... ANYWAY, not important except to show while everyone has to a degree a distorted view of their own self (both physical, psychological and all the inside ways) it's possible yours is a bit larger. So normal though? Which is your basic question? Absolutely.

    Moving on - to you know, talk about myself, I am a lot of the same but without the loathing, and the real caring. I can go back and forth in the getting ready to totally forget it mattered once I leave the mirror. (and then sometimes am rudely awakened as I wash my hands in a bathroom wherever I am now far from home) Do pictures look like me? Nope, neither the good ones nor the bad ones look like me, to me anyway. And even other people have commented that my pictures don't really capture me, and I think it's at least because for many of us we're so much more than the two dimensional inverted representations of ourselves that are documented FOREVER. We are a lot more. We feel that deeply and so it's annoying when those parts of who we truly are aren't conveyed. (so maybe .. maybe we're the actual vampires since they'll NEVER get our true selves!) People who are captured, are they that superficial or merely gifted with a genetic package that's capable of such feats or do they lose that much of their life caring just that much?

    The worst though, the worst is when I think I have done a great job prettifying myself and then the pictorial evidence shows what a delusional lie that really was.

    Recently, I've been looking at some pictures of my grandmother and great great grandfather and realizing that not only do I have the same skull, (family is messy that way and all) but they actually knew how to take a good picture. I need to practice/try it. They looked TOTALLY different at different angles. And if I have the same head ... surely this should apply to me as well right? (so much so, I really didn't realize until fairly recently that I look anything like my grandmother because all the pictures of her were not head on, and I really only look at my own self directly). It also made me wonder how many people is that true of throughout history? How can a person look so different at a different angle? Is our understanding of appearance that static? Have we changed our understanding with the over saturation of digital media? There's a modern anthropology paper here just waiting to be found.

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  68. I feel this. I feel this almost every day, in little ways or big ways or sometimes full out don't wanna leave the house ways. In all honesty, the only thing I've found that's helped me with this kind of struggle is...not quite being myself.

    Cosplay and alternative fashion have been havens for me when my outside doesn't quite match my inside. I always feel better in a crazy dress or a swooshy cape, partially because I'm proud of what I made, I'm proud of how much effort went into things, and I suspect partially because folks don't pay quite as much attention to your face when you're wearing a ball gown and a giant wig.

    It's also gotten me a lot more comfortable in front of a camera, because of talented photographers like you who know what they're doing and bring out the best in us cosplayers! I can't tell you how many times I've received beautifully edited photos and thought "oh that's me???" instead of my usual dread in being tagged in something godawful in bad lighting on somebody's phone.

    It's still a daily uphill battle though, and I'm striving to be kinder to myself. I'd never speak to a friend the way I comment on my own appearance, and I need to be my own friend too. Thank you so much for sharing, Jen.

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  69. I have to admit I’m very conflicted about this. I too hate what I look like most of the time. Being 100 lbs overweight doesn’t lead to nice sharp jawlines or thin profiles. I am fat and I look it. I have learned how to do some makeup tricks for my face, and pose to my best advantage for pictures. But that’s when I know about a picture being taken of me and I pose for it. I’m a photographer and people take photos of me in action at events I do. It shocks me every time how HUGE I look. Because I forget... and I don’t think of myself as ‘that’ fat, because my internal view of myself is thinner than reality. Until i see pictures of side and back photos. Ugh ugh ugh. On the other side of that, I do not understand refusing a picture. I am not an internet celebrity like you, with thousands of fans. Maybe I would feel different if I were. The way I think of it is this.... think of your loved ones. Do you have photos of them and of yourself with them (supposing you didn’t hate what you looked like then) that you cherish? What if that person you loved so much would never let you take a photo of them? When someone dies, what is the first thing people look for? PICTURES. They love their family member or friend. What they look like doesn’t determine someone’s level of love or like for another person. The inside does. Pretty is as pretty does is not just a saying. And you are one of the most compassionate, caring, giving people I know.... and I don’t really even know you. Only through what you share on your blogs. You are one of the good eggs, kiddo. I do so hope you work your way through this. I hate it when kind, sweet people suffer for no good reason.

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  70. When someone is photographed in the moment of doing something they love, something that brings them joy, something that moves them to tears, something that makes them laugh or sing or dance or express themselves--there isn't anything ugly about it. I'd so much rather have 100 photos of me enjoying my life with all my wrinkles, gray hair and double chins hanging out than 1 photo of me looking "perfect"ly miserable.
    Life flashes by in an instant. Get out of your head and let her beauty shine.

    My dad used so say, Beauty is skin deep. Ugly goes to the bone.

    I'm not being flip or dismissive--I'm 57 and have travelled through my own head and doubts and insecurities too. I'm tall and overweight and am always one of the biggest people in the room. I take up space. Guess what? I got incredibly tired of trying to make myself seem smaller. So I square my shoulders, straighten my back, widen my stance and FREAKIN own the place I take in the world. If someone doesn't like it...well, they can look away.

    Love yourself Jen. You are a beautiful person inside and out. Don't let another day go by with your doubts taking up space in your head--they aren't paying you enough rent to take up any space.

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    1. I think something happens in our 50s. I am also 57 and find myself saying, If someone doesn't like what they see, they can look the other way. I'm not here for their visual enjoyment. I have also been talking with my daughter about "taking up space in the room." I want her to be confident in her body, so despite sometimes not feeling it myself, that is what I model for her.
      Jen, every time I see a photo of you, I think about how young and pretty and talented you are! John isn't wrong, and he isn't lying.
      The great thing is that when you tell yourself you are ugly, that's just a thought. It's a story you tell yourself, and have been telling yourself for years. There are other thoughts to be had and other stories to be told. You can choose whether to keep those same thoughts and stories or whether to start saying new ones. It's hard work, but can be done! I suggest the podcast "Unf*ck Your Brain" to help with this. Love you and both your blogs, Jen!

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  71. This goes to a thing that I've had to remind myself of DAILY.... I lost a LOT of weight several years ago - almost 100 pounds. It sucked and still sucks to have to be careful about what I eat all the time in order to not put the weight back on. I remember when I was heavy - I always assumed that these thin, perfect (in my head) women had it so friggen easy. They could eat what they want and do whatever they wanted. And then I lost the weight... And I have a CONSTANT struggle in my head with the meanest voice snapping at me any time I want to eat something delicious or when my pants get too tight.... And I realized that there are probably people that look at me and see me how I am now with the vanity pounds to lose and assume that I have it so easy. They don't know how far I came or what I struggle with... And I have no idea what they struggle with.

    If you hadn't posted things like this in the past - I would assume that you are an adorable, quirky, effortlessly fashionable woman with incredible hair and ridiculously gorgeous eyes that doesn't have to think about this crap. But here you are - a real person. Just like all of us.

    I think we all need to keep reminding ourselves that we need to be as nice to ourselves as we are to our friends or strangers. I would NEVER say the things that I say to myself to anyone else, so why can't I be nicer to me? It's a constant battle. I try to stop when I'm bullying myself and think of at least three things that I truly like about myself instead. It doesn't fix it, but it stops the mean girl up there for a second and it helps.

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  72. Can I add a ditto to everyone else’s posts? I feel the same way. For the last 20-odd years I have worked in the veterinary field, wearing scrubs 6 days a week, no makeup, and a ponytail to keep my hair out of the way. I just changed to a job where I have to dress “business casual”- I don’t even know what that means! Wearing makeup and choosing clothes is all new to me, even though I’m over 40 years old. And I, too, HATE pictures of myself. All of my profile pics are photos of my dogs. I do want to extend a very sincere compliment to you, Jen. I remember meeting you during a book tour, before epbot was around and we had no idea what you looked like. I remember thinking how adorable your style was and how pretty you were! (In a total not-weird-or-stalkery kind of way). I have always loved your style and wished I could pull it off, and wished I could get my hair to look like yours. I totally understand the fight with the frizzies! Just remember that no matter how bad you are feeling, you have fans out here who are in awe of how cute you look, and even if you’re having a bad hair/body/brain day, we still love you!

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  73. Wow. So good, Jen. So real, so inspiring, so much that makes me feel I am not alone...And then I read the comments. Again, not alone.
    I am 56 years old. I have finally let my hair go grey. It is curly, frizzy, wings out when I want it to lay down and in general frustrates the snot out of me. I am overweight. I have hair in place hair shouldn't grow (at least not on pre-menopausal women). I have a scar from a ileostomy that runs from under my breast bone to the top of my pubic bone. I poop in a bag. I have a really great scar (according to my grandchildren) on my knee from replacement surgery. I sag, bag and slope in all the wrong places...
    But my identity isn't in what I look like. It is in who created me. I am loved. In all my scars, sags and bags.
    I am someone's babe, darling and hot mama (for 36 years). I am grandma (the sweetest name on earth) I am friend, sister, librarian, daughter, mother.
    I am not ever perfect. Nor do I want to fit in with the normal.

    You (and I speak collectively) are all those things. You are loved by someone special who sees your faults and doesn't care.

    And yet, I struggle looking in the mirror and I think, my face if so fat, I have wrinkles and I need a new bra so the girls are perky again. I need to wear make-up even though I hate it, I need new clothes that hide the rolls, I need to...I need to... I need to...

    So, I don't write these to discourage anyone, but to know that we can change, we do have the power to love ourselves in a proper way. We can choose to focus on what is really important - that we are kind, loving, caring and compassionate. That we love other well and reach out to those who hurt. Those are the things that really matter.
    I don't know any of you personally, but I bet you are fantastic people.

    Okay, I am done. This pep talk (to myself) is over.
    Cindy

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  74. I think you're beautiful! What works for me, and maybe this will work for you too, is to not force yourself to take selfies. Wait for those days when you feel awesome and then take a selfie. Capture that moment. I find when I do that, I can look at them with no problem.

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  75. Hi, Jen! 49-year-old guy here. This bit really resonates for me: "What I'm seeing never feels like me. The face I see is not the one I imagine myself to have, somehow, though if you asked me what I should look like, I'd have no answer."

    When I was a kid, I did some Halloween costume with a lot of face makeup. As I was taking it off, I realized I had no idea what I looked like under it. How I would know when I was done? I had just never paid much attention to what I looked like to others. I was too busy being in the world to devote much brainpower to how I appeared to others. But also, in retrospect, I was averse. I didn't want to form that self-image that means so much to others. As if I wanted to be some sort of pure consciousness floating in space.

    Like you, I spent a lot of time avoiding photos, and hating the results when I failed to. I'd give a talk and then basically have panic attacks trying to watch the video of it. It was unendurable. But over the years this has faded. I don't know exactly why. Surely a lot of it is a dozen years of medication and therapy for an anxiety disorder. Some of it's conscious practice; I try to take more selfies, to spend more time in front of mirrors, to slow down and just accept and appreciate. Some of it's definitely from regular meditation, where I learn to notice reactions but let them go. But mostly, I have no idea.

    What I'm trying to say here is that you're not alone. This makes sense. I can't tell you how to change it, but I can tell you that sometimes it changes.

    And I guess there's one other thing I want to say. You share so many photos of people and their costumes. You clearly have a sharp eye; you could be incredibly critical of them if you wanted. But that's not you! You're enormously positive. You celebrate them. You might ask yourself where all that charity, that generosity, that appreciation of the good goes when suddenly you're in the frame. Maybe you shouldn't treat yourself way better than everybody else. But I don't think you should treat yourself any worse, either.

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  76. What you're describing is exactly how I've felt for years! Like I have a mental image of myself and then I see myself in a mirror or a photo and it's a punch to the gut because I'm confronted with harsh, unsoftened reality. I haven't yet figured out how to combat the feelings but I have, for the sake of my kids, started accepting pictures more and initiating them more. Even if it's not "for" me it does seem to help some. At least then I have a more accurate idea of what I look like on a day to day basis. That plus picking up journaling again and starting therapy has been good and helpful to stem the self-loathing.

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  77. I too forget what I look like. (>300lbs, bride of Frankenstein bright red, turning white hair, farthingale backside, and unable to wear any makeup due to allergies) But I take great hope in the statement posted above:
    "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 it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
    And you know what? Anyone that doesn't like the way I look, doesn't have to look in my direction.
    The challenge then becomes being grateful for the '200k mile minivan' body I'm inhabiting, and trying to care for it just as carefully as someone would care for their brand new Bugatti. My 'minivan' does what I need it to do, most days, which is to bake bread for a neighbor, hug a friend, and bend to lift a child. And so I'm fine with forgetting what I'm driving...

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  78. I have been very much this way, and still am sometimes. But as much as I often hate pictures in the moment, when I look back at them with a little distance I am always happy about having them. A few years ago I read the blog post that goes around about being in the picture instead of always hiding from the camera and taking the pictures. And then my grandma’s sister died and her daughter was sad to discover how few photos she had of her mom. So, I started making sure I was in the picture more. And my husband likes to take “action photos” that are the kind of candid shots we all hate. Also, I’ve been working on losing weight for the last 18 months off and on, and so I take full body shots every month or two for comparison. And I have started enjoying selfies, because I figured out how to hold the camera to minimize my chins. And on that note, I did an autograph and photo with Ricky Whittle from American Gods, and he had control of my phone, I am sure to make sure he got his best angles. But FWIW, I think you look great in every photo I’ve seen you post. I know that doesn’t change what your brain tells you, but it’s what I see.

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  79. For what it's worth, I think you're very pretty. I am also jealous of your fashion sense. I feel like I have none.

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  80. I realize I’m late to the game, by what you described is basically body dysmorphia, and yes it’s completely normal. I do want to say that I think you’re gorgeous inside and out, but I know hearing/reading it means very little when confronted with how much your brain can lie to you. Just know you have a giant support group, you are loved for /who/ you are and not what you look like. I believe in you!

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  81. My whole life I've struggled with weight and in the past year I've gained 30 pounds. When I see pictures of myself, I feel the disconnect. And it's painful. I spent time yesterday googling cheek implants. I've been binge eating foods that I know my body does not like. It's so hard to break away from those inner voices. I'm looking forward to reading the next post.

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  82. Jen, you are such a great writer. You have articulated with amazing clarity exactly what I - and, apparently, loads of other women - think and feel about their looks. I'm really looking forward to the next bit! Rock on!

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  83. I feel like I could have written this myself <3

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  84. Jen, I could have written this entire post myself (without the fans bit, of course). Even the same feelings about my husband and thinking he has to tell me I'm pretty or sexy because he married me. That I'm fat, and frumpy, and will never look "right." The hardest part is there are days where I think I look gosh darn adorable in the mirror before I leave the house, and walk around all day thinking I'm cute, that I'm together, and then I see photos later and holy cow that's not at ALL what I thought I looked like, and in a bad way. I hate most photos of myself. To the point where my husband cringes when I ask him to take my photo during an event, because he knows I'll hate it and he doesn't want me to hurt. I'm trying to let it go. Seeing people post more candid photos on FoE, and thinking they all look great, I'm trying to do that to my own photos. To live in the moment more, to work on being healthy, and be ok with my hair doing whatever it wants most of the time. You're not alone. For what it's worth, I think you're beautiful, and an amazing person.

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  85. Thank you so much for sharing this, Jen. Your bravery is as great as the constant humor that you share with us every day.

    I share a lot of the same feelings about my appearance. I get uncomfortable looking at myself in the mirror. I try not to look at the whole thing at once- if I'm combing my hair I will just look at my hair. If I'm brushing my teeth I will only look at my teeth.

    When I do look at the whole picture I often think to myself, "you look ok enough to walk out the door. Not great, but ok." But then if a picture is taken of me not long after I am horrified by the beast that I see. Much worse than what I thought I saw in the mirror.

    I only pose for pictures if the camera is a few feet back. I never take selfies because the close up of my appearance is just too much to take.
    I envy the people that just look great in pictures with seemingly little effort. That never happens with me.

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  87. You are not alone. I avoid cameras like the plague and cringe when I see people posting selfies all the time, because I'm projecting my insecurities and hatred of my image into them. I would rather forget what I look like and just be blissfully ignorant - but I can't and I'm not. I just do my best to duck and roll through this picture-obsessed world we live in right now. That's all anyone can do. I'm really glad you shared your story, as you are showing others, and yourself, what you feel isn't totally off the wall. There are others who feel the same, so now we all know we're not the only ones. (((Hugs)))

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  88. Test. I had written a comment but it doesn't appear...

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  89. I cringe when pictures of me are taken - there are very few pictures of me with my children and it makes me sad now that they don’t have happy pictures to look at and the few there are I’m doing under protest and it’s written on my face. I have fewer still with my granddaughter - is she going to look back someday and wonder why does gramma look mad in all the pictures. At one point in my life I was anorexic and even in those pictures still I feel like I look fat. I have tried therapy and acceptance- doesn’t make me want to get in front of a camera. I try to be more cooperative these days for my granddaughter’s sake but ti’s so hard. You are not alone.

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  90. I hear you. I don't wear make up or have nice clothes because I feel like at the root of things I'll still look like me except now I look like I'm trying and failing. I'm not hideous, but my hair is super thin - like you can see my scalp over my forehead on top - and ridiculouly frizzy. I fix what I can in the morning and then just don't think about it because what can you do? If it helps, when I see blow dried women with their liquid eyeliner, they sort of look all the same to me and kind of boring. In a sea of Bachelor contestants, there's no mistaking me ;) Also I think it's ok to have insecurities. That's life. :P

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  91. I wanted to stop wearing makeup every day to work to save me both time and money, but on Day 1 I was so shocked (read: disappointed) by my appearance in the work bathroom mirror that I ended the experiment immediately. I haven't worked up the courage to try again and am not sure if I'd be able to have the same level of professional influence if I wasn't wearing makeup.

    I try to champion body positivity with my family and friends and would never say to them the things I say to myself. I gained weight recently and have a hard time fitting comfortably into my existing wardrobe, so the avoiding pictures thing is real. I'm in charge of our employee bulletin board, and so far I've managed to stay out of all the pictures. I did manage to take a few with family this weekend, so maybe that's a good start. Looking forward to reading more comments and the Part II post.

    And for Jen - our internal dialogue can strengthen us or destroy us with twisted perceptions that seem so real. Your John thinks you're beautiful in every way possible; we see his love and dedication to you with every "Look what John and I did!" craft, con, and kitty cat post.

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  92. I am too tired to rewrite the full comment.

    The gist was: I can understand where you come from, though I have a different experience. In my case, sometimes I feel my face is pretty, other times ugly... but other times I feel like it is invisible. Like there is nothing memorable and all my features are bland and it's like it's not even my face or a face. It's just... blank. It may be a mild form of depersonalization/derealization, I don't really know.

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  93. I hope I’m not repeating anything anyone else has already said, other than the part that you are beautiful and we all love to see pictures of you. I have felt the exact same way as you for most of my life. I am only 4’8” and significantly overweight. When I was younger and thin, I hated my height because all I saw was the “little kid” in a room/photo of all adults. Once I got older and, let’s face it...fat, I constantly feel like I’m not attractive enough or skinny enough to be good enough for my husband. After struggling for years with self confidence, I decided to go out on a limb and start my own photography business and I’ve found that the vast majority of woman that I’ve photographed felt the same way.

    I had an epiphany. Those photographs that we hate having taken? They aren’t for us. It doesn’t matter what we don’t like about them or that we can’t stand looking at them. They exist because they make other people happy. Our friends, our family, our fans. When my grandfather passed away, we had so much fun scouting those old photo albums and laughing at the memories they brought up. I want that same thing for my family when I’m gone. Oddly enough when I stopped thinking about the photos in terms of myself they became easier to look at. I quit judging how I looked. I find myself more and more often seeing pictures of myself and, believe it or not, liking them. It is possible to like those photos. It just takes time and a different mindset and you are well on your way. Can’t wait to hear part 2!

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  94. Jen, thank you for sharing your story. As you can see from all the comments and emails you are getting about this that you are not alone. This is very common. In my family we have a version of this. My grandma would tear up any pictures of herself that she didn't approve of. My mom also just last week got mad at my dad for posting a super cute pic of her. I don't love it and avoid pics, mainly because I've gained some weight, but partly because this is an ongoing family thing.It's great that you not only acknowledge this about yourself, but also have a plan. I can't wait to hear it and support you in it.

    I hope you make it to my comment because if someone else hasn't said this yet I want you to hear it and begin to open the door on the possibility these two points true.

    You said John has to lie a lot saying you are beautiful when your eyes say it's not true. I want to challenge that. It is very possible, science has actually proven this, that your eyes are lying. The mirror can lie for some people who struggle with self image. It is also possible likely probable that John loves how you look when you are scruffy and frizzy or even just not quite possibly not quite perfect, just as much as when you are polished and gleaming. Genuinely loves, genuinely believes you are beautiful then too, even when you feel you are not. This is real too.

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  95. Oh my God. I started reading this thinking, "man can I relate!" And then I get to the part where you thought it was normal but decide it isn't. I have always felt this way. Even if I'm feeling cute I take a selfie and realize that I was clearly mistaken. Or someone posts pics of a family gathering where I thought I looked good and wow, wrong again. I, too, thought this was normal, but I'm starting to think not. However, seeing that others feel the same way makes me feel less alone.

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  96. But you have grown space for humans of all forms as cosplayers, artists, as creative, amazing people! You make so many people happy - we love you for you, and photos of you are lovely to look at because they show us a wonderful person. You made many of us reconsider whether we had to relinquish dreams because our bodies didn't match conventional models. You stirred up crafty magic in so many people - some of them surely thinking, "But my work isn't good enough," but going forward anyway because of your enthusiasm. But I suppose many others have said this and it's hard for you to believe, even if you read it 100 times.

    When I saw that IG story, it felt like a punch to the gut. I was angry (for you) and confused. It seems so unfair, that a beautiful person, a giver of wisdom, courage and heart (like that wizard, but much kinder) should be unable to give those things to herself.

    Feeling shame or dread at "what I look like" may or may not be normal; maybe it doesn't matter if it is nor not, so much as whether it hurts you and costs you energy and happiness. It sounds like it does. If you need to have others remove images from public space, then that is what you need.

    I'm pretty sure that my inability to focus on or worry about my appearance, either from my view or others, is not "normal" either. It has likely cost me as well, given the steep price women (especially) pay for not striving to "look nice." However, it is how I'm made. We all need to make room for all of the ways we are made.

    It still causes almost physical pain to read of your pain, and since I can't make it better, I will end by sending hugs.

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  97. Thank you for saying the Thing. This is also my Thing. I don't know what the answer is, but it helps to know I'm not the only one. I do not have ANY social media primarily because of the Thing, and I run from cameras/phones when they're out. I have asked friends & family to remove pics that I'm in from their social media accounts (even wedding pics). I have days where I work SO hard to put on an outfit, do the hair and makeup, and then think I look okay, only to stumble into a picture and be proven very, very wrong. I'm sorry you feel this way too, but thank you for sharing this with us.

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  98. Oh sweet lady. I am a 56 year old fat lady who was skinny her whole life until she hit her late 30s. I just didn't have mirrors in my house for years, denial is a powerful thing. But like you say, a photo that I didn't manage to turn by back in time and UGH. Worst was one morning when for some reason my cell phone took a picture of me staring down at it. Completely horrifying, I was so traumatized I was crying. Fortunately, like you I have an amazing and wonderful husband who loves me madly. Who tells me I am beautiful - not because he is lying, but because I AM beautiful to him. And I see beautiful women like you who are so tangled up by the stupid culture we live in, and it makes me mad. I got so mad that I decided that if only pretty people who look perfect are willing to put their photos out there, then all the beautiful women who think they are not pretty in the right ways are going to feel just like I do. So I took my husband to the park and we did a photo shoot of me. With makeup of course, I am not a masochist! And obviously the number of people who are gonna see my face is pretty limited, and those people are folks who love me. Being a woman on the internet is a very vulnerable place to be. You do what makes you feel safe. But please don't believe that you aren't beautiful, even if you can't always see it yourself. John is a Beholder, so his eyes are the ones that matter ;)

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  99. Ever since I gained weight (I say that but it's more like ever since I was no longer in my mid twenties (and thinner)). I have avoided the camera as much as possible. Until 3 years ago. I had been avoiding the camera mostly for at lest 15 years. Then for my father's memorial we did something a little different, and had framed photos of him all over the funeral home (instead of a collage) there were dozens. Everywhere. People loved it. But there were only 2 of us together. One, when I helped him build his house, and one with me, him and the dogs. Only 2 pictures with my father in the last 15 years. That really sucks. You have to see those photos as the memories that they represent, and not as an opportunity for criticism. Don't look at them now if you don't want to, but don't stop them from existing when you need them to be there.

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  100. Yes, Jen, yes. We get it. We so totally get it.
    And we're all wrong. We're not unattractive or horrible to look at. When our partners tell us we're beautiful, THEY ACTUALLY MEAN IT. It's crazy, but it's true. It really is. Because here's the thing - when we love someone, they look beautiful to us. They just do. And this society has messed us up so badly. And it's hard.

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  101. Jen- I know you've started watching/listening to Critical Role lately. Matthew Mercer has talked about this similar feeling in an interview on Between the Sheets (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iN6A82H6VCI) for him speficially it falls under the diagnosis of Body Dysmorphia. I'm not going to play internet doctor for you (or anyone else) but maybe just hearing him talk about it as it applies to his life might give some insight for you - or any others who might come across this comment. Lots of love.

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  102. Everyone seems to be right on in their comments, so I'll just add one about worrying about being a hypocrite. I also rarely see other people as anything negative when it comes to appearance, regardless of size or shape or whatever (only people who act ugly towards others, if that makes sense). It's like the filter that I have for myself that is super critical and horrified at many things (including photos, man, I am not a fan of having my photo taken), turns genuinely off for everyone else, who I do see as pretty, interesting, happy, and all the things I often don't see for myself. So, I don't think you are a hypocrite in any way, you just need to figure out how to see yourself the way you see others (and then let the rest of us know what you did to make it stick). Brave post - thank you for sharing!

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  103. It has helped me a lot to shift my view of what pictures are for--they are not for showing people how you look. They are for proving that You Were Here. You existed on this planet, in this moment, with these people, and how precious it will be to look back when that moment is gone. A photograph is a giant middle finger to Time and to Entropy.

    Of course I still prefer pictures where I look nice to those where I don't. I can't fully shake off the desire to be gorgeous. But above all I do not look at pictures to scrutinize the way I appear. I look at them to remember what good times I've had, and to remind me that time is fleeting. We are so incredibly lucky to be here at all.

    Thank you for being here. Thank you for showing up.

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    1. That might actually convince me to allow more photos of myself. I very rarely allow anyone to take pictures. I should do it more, or there won't be any record of the cool stuff I've done.

      Thank you!

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  104. Women (and increasingly men) have a whole culture telling them constantly that they are not good enough as-is--hair color or texture, eyelash length, eyebrow width/bushiness, and god forbid body size--can never be considered good or pleasing or acceptable, because then how would they sell you things? It's no wonder so many of us hate looking at ourselves. But depression lies, and so does advertising. So you can't necessarily trust your brain to tell you the truth, and you definitely can't trust the culture.

    So you have to trust the people who love you. John is not lying--he sees what you can't see, what depression, anxiety and culture have told you are not acceptable. He sees the reality, the lovely woman with beautiful eyes and thick hair and a great smile.

    I hope some day you have eyes to see the truth, not the lies of a culture that wants you to be perpetually dissatisfied or the anxiety that says you're not the fairest in the land. I'm cheering you on from way over here in California--I hope your new strategies work and you come not to dread seeing yourself. It's such a lie that the world loves to tell women to keep them from using their power fully.

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  105. It's like you got into my brain and wrote this post as me. What is up with my face?? But my husband and parents assure me I am pretty... lies!
    My husband once said "I like the way your face looks. I like my parents' faces even though they're wrinkly and not pretty any more. It's because I like you." which made me feel better around him, but I pity everyone else in the world!

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  106. I weigh over 300 pounds. At my heaviest., I was almost 400. This is “good” for me. This is “pretty” for me. It’s not anyone else’s definition of “good” or “pretty.” And at my size, you can’t hide anywhere. So I get up and I go out. I spend time with friends and do as many different types of things as I dare. I worked with a counselor for several months to get the courage to try online dating, and five years ago found my husband. I was 47 and had never been on a true date because I simply believed it was impossible for someone to love me. I guess I’m just saying that we all have something that we hate about ourselves. And we are all wrong about it because we are truly amazing and wonderful just as we are.

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  107. First I have to say, I'm sad you feel this way. Because when I see all of your posts, and your costumes, I just think "I wish I was that cool and interesting" or maybe "she looks really pretty in that dress". I hope you can get to a better mental place with your plan.

    Second, echoing the sentiments of many on here, I've never really felt particularly "pretty" either. My curly hair just kinda does what it wants; my nose is nicely described as "ethnic"; I'm curvy enough that no pants just "fit". I used to let these things bother me. And then one day I realized I wasn't exactly sure why they did. Some days my hair cooperates and looks nice, other days, not so much. But I don't really have to look at it, and pictures hide the frizz. I took it as a compliment when someone asked if I was German upon meeting me - that's so much more interesting than just "American", so the nose is fine. The pants thing doesn't really have an upside, other than I can support a local business with every pair I get altered. I make "one day" sound flippant, but that was rather late in my life. It's good that it did, though, because at my grandfather's funeral, it was with amusement that I realized I look almost just like him.

    Just wanted to toss out some words of support, since I'm a big fan of the blog.

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  108. Jen, you are lovely. Not because of what you look like (though you are beautiful and I so envy your hair!) but because of who you are. I know that's become cliche to say, but I firmly believe it. I have the same issue. That's not me in pics, that's not my voice, ugh I don't see myself that way.

    But.
    I hate that I have so few pictures of myself with my kid. With my husband. I hate that I hate my pics. And I've found a way to (mostly) get over it that works for me. I focus on one positive in the picture. It might be my smile. It might be the person I'm with. It might be the memory of the experience. I've found, when I look at a picture for the feelings and situation behind it, I forget to look at my flaws (or at least put less emphasis on them).

    And I think that's what it's about. It's about trying your very hardest to stop looking at yourself and look at those with you or the experience in general. It's so so hard. But it has great payoffs. One of my favorite authors, C.S.Lewis, once said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less.” Hard hitting, hard to follow, but I think he was on to something.

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  109. I'm sorry that you are going through this. I was talking to my sister recently and she said the same thing about compliments being damaging because they reminded her that she had an appearance that others could see. I don't know a lot about body dysmorphia, but it sounds like it could be this. You are not alone.

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  110. I...understand this completely. For me, even in mirrors I look different (never good or pretty, just "better") than I do in photos, where I feel like I look like a whale. I suck it up and take pictures with my friends but I stick out like a sore thumb and I hate it, but I'd managed to get through it mostly until about a week ago, when I realized that I'm going to be the "fat bridesmaid" in my friend's wedding, and because I'm *in* her wedding I can't avoid pictures by taking pictures the way I normally do.

    It sucks. I wish I had advice.

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  111. Reading this post really opened my eyes. Do we ALL do this, to some extent or another? I'm gonna wait on the updated post for more commentary. I'm still reeling from seeing my personal thoughts expressed by someone else like this. I thought it was just me.

    Once upon a time, I was prescribed both Xanax and Valium, and took both before bed. I woke up in the night to go to the bathroom, and spent half an hour staring at my reflection. I absolutely did not recognize myself, and I usually do, even if I hate my looks. That was a stranger in the mirror, and I saw none of the things I hate about myself. I believe I was having a dissociative episode and saw myself as others see me for the first time in my life. I wasn't ugly. I was just normal-looking.

    Also, I don't wanna make this weird, but Jen - Jen! You are freaking GORGEOUS! Like seriously, John isn't lying to you, you're beautiful. Pure aesthetic attractiveness is not a measure of one's worthiness, as we all know. But you ARE attractive. I'm qualified to say that, I'm gay. XD If I saw you on the street and didn't know you, I would certainly think "oh hey she's pretty".

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  112. This is not me, but it's two of the people closest to me. Both of them LOATHE having photos taken and won't look at the photos of themselves, and neither of them are what society holds up as pretty or handsome. I think their hatred of photos started really young, and was reinforced by the constant bombardment of unmeetable standards in magazines, on TV, in movies etc. And yet, photos of them exist. One needs to get photos done for professional reasons (websites, publicity etc) and the other avoids photos except to get photos with their kid for their kid to look at later. And I love looking at photos of them, because I love them. I love one bumpy nose and some freckles and plain brown hair and a bald patch and some pudge and I see them as beautiful because the people who own these features are beautiful. I know that they are not "beautiful". But they are gorgeous.

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  113. This is such an important conversation. Bravo for putting this out there, Jen.

    I am one of the ones who avoids mirrors and reflective surfaces. I focus on my face and hair as separate entities in the morning and do my standard ritual of makeup and curling iron magic. Then, I forget that they exist for the rest of the day. I do have nice natural hair color (strawberry blonde) that catches the light well. So, if I catch a glimpse of myself during the day, I focus on it. When I get home from a long day at work and see myself, I try to pretend that the destruction of my morning ablutions happened seconds before I see myself that evening. If I don't look all day, I still must look like I did when I left the house. Honestly, I know no one really cares. I don't have kids or a spouse. I work at the hospital and get to wear scrubs everyday, so no one really looks at me as long as I smell okay. If one of my patients starts in on how pretty I am, I am flummoxed and speechless. I don't believe them and am not good with the witty banter. I am too tall, too heavy, too pale to believe any of that. I hate group photos, because I look like a St Bernard hanging out with all the whippets.

    If I do have to select a picture of myself, I have found a trick to help. Looking at photos is always as miserable as taking them. I find if I turn the picture upside down and just glance at it, I can pick the one that is least repulsive. That way, I am not as quick to focus in on my crooked smile, gaping teeth, and double chin. I just get the glimpse of a stranger that looks okay for a second.

    Typing all of this is kind of eye opening. I turn 52 tomorrow. I would like to stop living with my life on hold for 'someday' when I am thin and pretty and socially acceptable.

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  114. My younger brother is getting married in 2 weeks. I swore I was going to lose the weight so I didn't hate the pictures I'd have to be in. Yeah, that didn't happen. I'm telling myself not to worry about it, just be me and have a good time. But I know I'm going to end up crying at some point during the night. And when I eventually have to look at the photos, I'm going to beat myself up for not losing the weight so I didn't look like a whale. The only thing calming me down slightly is that I've decided that I probably won't have any of the pictures in my home. My brother and I are not close, so it won't be a huge loss to not have them. But we all know that is a complete cop out.

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  115. I know you have better coming, I now this is old pain and that you've built ladder rungs into the side of your hole a bit since then, I'm still going to say what I think of beauty.

    Stop posing.

    Stop pretending.

    If you're anxious, it's okay to show it in photos. If you're looking at something off to the side? That's fine too.

    Beauty is in seeing a person be in the world and being willing to interact with it.

    I hate photos.

    I hate them deeply for many various, personal reasons mainly sculpted around false pretenses and carefully manufactured poses. You turn down a few fans? That's fine. I break cameras if I'm not asked and warned; to the point my greatest friends actually step between me and lenses with 'no please ask first' dropping from their lips before I know someone with a selfie stick has our group in angle.

    I hate still pictures.

    They are flat and dead, and trapped...but it's beautiful to watch people move in the world around them and to be honest. I've followed you off and on for years through blogs, and I honest think you're inspiring, and beautiful, and I can guess a lot of the things your lucky husband sees in you. You love what you do, you don't hide that, and that moves you beautifully.

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  116. Jen, you are literally, objectively beautiful.

    I think I was several years into reading CW (and maybe epbot) before I saw a photo of you. I'm pretty sure I actually said "wow!" out loud. Thinking *that's* Jen? She's really beautiful! Those eyes! Those eyebrows! That hair! Dang!

    I don't normally gush all over the place when I see pictures of bloggers I like, but I was really struck by how lovely you looked, maybe because I was vaguely aware that you didn't like posting photos of yourself.

    Your appearance might not be everyone's cup of tea. That's ok. It might not be YOUR cup of tea. But you are truly, sincerely beautiful. And I'm pretty positive you're John's cup of tea.

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    1. THAT SAID, it's also not your job to be pretty. So while, sure, I think you are strikingly beautiful, that's not why I love and admire you.

      One of the many things I admire is your bravery in talking about these hard things with us. Thank you for all you do. You're a beautiful person, outside and (more importantly) in!

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  117. Don't quite know what to say. It's like you are in my head. I feel everything you wrote, oh so very much.

    I would love to look like you, so there's that.

    You are loved. I am loved. We can find a way to love ourselves (probably!!)

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  118. Long time reader, first time commenter because this post moved me. Because as SO many above have said, its not just you. There are so many of us who struggle with this exact issue. I spent most of my youth overweight and in my eyes ugly. I told myself thats why guys didn't want to date me. so in college I got serious and lost about 60lbs. And the end result? I was no happier with my looks. Did I feel a little better? Yes. But i still never felt "good enough" no matter what I did. 2 kids and 50lbs of weight gain later I struggle with this still. I have my good days where I think i look awesome, and my bad days where like you said nothing fits. And no matter how many times people tell you that you are beautiful you never believe it yourself. I don't think there is a magic answer to feel better, but know that you are so NOT alone in this struggle!!

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  119. Wow, lady, I relate to this so hard!! I often worry - usually when I sense husbot is mad at me - whether he finds me attractive, physically or mentally. And because we've been a bit of a stressful rough spot as newlyweds, that worry feels even more heightened.

    I also don't find myself very photogenic, which is why I don't often post pics of myself.

    But what can we do? I'm not about to change my looks to keep a partner, or make other people like me. So I do the best I can with what I have. I try to focus on being grateful, and reframing my thoughts to be positive. Because that's where I feel like I have control.

    And when I can't, there is FoE, and my family and friends, and my pets, and yes, sometimes even husbot to distract me and remind me that there are people in the world who see me and love me anyway.

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  120. Like so many others here, I totally feel the same way (you've really struck a chord with so many!) I can't tell you how many times I've stormed out of store dressing rooms in disgust, not buying a thing because I hated how I looked in everything! I mostly only allow myself to wear jeans and tee shirts, and try to hide myself as much as possible. And all those things I hate about my body have only gotten worse since my mid-30s - wrinkles, drooping jowls, extra 'padding', veins... However, some of the commenters here have said some great things for all of us, and I'm also looking forward to your Part 2 - I can use all the help I can get!!! And PS I wish I looked half as good as you, you always look so lovely! And I love the personality you show us online, too :-) Hugs!

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  121. Thank you for posting this! I am going to have my husband read it so he can finally understand what goes on inside my head.

    and just so you know: you are a truly beautiful person inside and out.

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  122. As a fan who had the honor to meet you and John at Universal when I was in Orlando for a work conference, please let me assure you that your polite decline of a photo request was NOT a disappointment! You had made the effort to meet up with me and my colleague. You showed us your favorite parts of the park like Kreatcher looking out the window. You were kind and generous with your time. You laughed with us and were delightful. I noticed how, through out the afternoon, the four of us would pair up for different conversations. At some points, my friend was having a conversation with just you while John and I chatted. At other points, it was reversed. Through out, you and John made us feel accepted, included, and welcome. You were hosts who excelled at making these awkward (gosh that word never looks right to me) guests feel genuinely cared for. I am happy I have a picture of my friend, John, and me with the velociraptor and all of us cracking up. I am NOT disappointed that I don't have a picture of us with you in it because I believe in respecting people's privacy. While your polite decline of the request may originate from your own discomfort with your appearance (John doesn't lie to you, btw. You're genuinely beautiful.), the reasons really don't matter to me and I suspect the other fans you've declined. It must get tiresome to have people ask for your picture or your autograph. It must feel invasive. If a person is upset by your refusal, please know that they need to deal with their own sense of entitlement because they're NOT OWED a picture. You're allowed to grant or refuse permission for whatever reason you have.

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    1. One more thought: My husband tells me regularly that I'm beautiful and expresses his attraction to me with a lot of physical contact. When I look at myself, I don't see someone who is beautiful or sexy. At best, I see myself as cute. I see my flaws like my weight and skin blemishes. He sees those things too and still finds me beautiful. When he expresses this, I accept it regardless of how I feel. I don't counter it or try to negate what he is expressing. He's expressing it because he feels it. He believes it. I may not agree, may not be feeling it but I value his thoughts and feelings and that's good enough for me.

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    2. Ahh, as soon as you mentioned the raptor I remembered you guys! That day was so fun!

      I will say that being asked for a photo is NEVER tiresome or invasive. It's the ultimate compliment. Especially since Epbot readers are the best people on the planet, so I've only ever encountered love and understanding from each and every one of you. <3

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  123. I've never posted a comment anywhere about anything, but this post really hit me in the feels. Same, girl, same. I appreciate you being so honest, so publicly. Thank you.

    I have been seeing a therapist for depression and anxiety (on and off for 20+ years). I've learned that I can be sad, and that's okay - it's a valid emotion and I CAN BE SAD. I personally don't want to let one emotion define me, so I am trying to accept some things about me that I have always hated. So, if I'm sad, that's okay and then probably I will be feeling something else, eventually, in the same way that you feel badly about your physical appearance but then that feeling morphs into something else, eventually. (Forgetting and being distracted can be wonderful things.)

    I wish I felt more comfortable in pics - when I eventually pass away, there will be so few pics of me that my kids might forget what I looked like. I always feel guilty about everything I think I'm doing wrong, so I feel guilty about not leaving pictures behind, too, but not as badly as I feel about being in pictures. :) Ha!

    I think that you feeling crappy about being in pictures is okay - your emotion/feeling is okay to have. So, my comment is not to say how pretty or how you are or convince you it's okay to TAKE pictures, but rather it is just to say that you can keep on feeling crappy about taking pictures and it is your right as a human being to feel that way. I hope you understand how much your post has meant to a lot of people, so you deserve to have a fantastic day today! (And if your day sucks, forget/distract, and try again tomorrow.)

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  124. Dear, dear, dear Jen. Your brain is LYING TO YOU. Sometimes you have to have faith in other people; faith that they are telling the truth. Faith that they are right and your anxiety is wrong. If 100 people say that you are cute -or even bring it down to "you look fine" if that is more comfortable for you- how can they ALL be lying, huh?
    And what about John? You say he has to say nice things because he loves you, but that would only be true if he was your mom. He CHOSE you. He fell in love with you. He knew what you looked like all along and he likes it. Trust his opinion.
    Finally, a little personal confession - i think i look different than what the camera tells me too. Seeing a picture shocks me sometimes, actually takes me aback because i feel so good about myself that i forget that my stupid thyroid made me gain 135 pounds. Instead of looking at the flesh blob, i go directly to looking at my eyes in the picture: do i look happy? Was i having fun? Are the other people in the picture happy? Was this a moment worth capturing? If the answer is yes, then i ignore my horror. The people i was with at the time knew what i looked like -they were there!- and they still wanted a pic. Their joy in the situation was more important to them than my rolls and bumps - that is what i concentrate on.
    Taking the outfit pics is a great piece of aversion therapy. I hope it helps.

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  125. I hear ya, hon. Sooo much of that brave post could have come straight out of my head, so you're not alone (in case that's any comfort). Hugs from a stranger across the globe, if you want them. xo

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  126. I think everyone goes through this. My daughter, who is far away from home right now, posted on ig something that touches this very topic. It breaks my heart, for her, for you, for myself, for anyone who has this outlook. I struggle with this almost daily - why does the mirror or photo not reveal what I think I should look like? Why am I disappointed what looks back at me? Why do I care so much what other people think? It's a struggle for so many. Sometimes we have to tell ourselves that there really are people who think we are just fine exactly the way we are, warts, zits, hair, size, weight and all. We are all our own worst critics - be kind to yourself. I try to remind myself daily to talk to myself the way I would to anyone else - stranger, friend, or family! The golden rule shyould be tweaked a bit: Treat yourself and others as you would want them to treat you, and as they would want you to treat them. HUGS!!!!
    ps - dern allergies making my eyes water all morning.

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  127. Thank you for sharing this.
    Body image is so hard... especially because it is our body that we have to live in for always.

    What really really struck me in my soul was the paragraph about John and that he tells you that you are beautiful several times a day. This was such a hard thing for me to give up, really really hard and took a really really long time to get comfortable with…but I ask my loved ones (read: my husband) not to give general appearance compliments, and I don't give them. What is ok? "Your hair looks great today!" what is not ok? "you are beautiful!" what is ok? "I really like that outfit you put together!" what isn't? "you always look so nice!" I’ve even stopped asking “does this look good on me?” to “are all my parts on?” to get feedback on standing up collars or mismatching shoes.

    I work hard to be specific. It looks like you worked so hard on that costume. You took such care with your makeup. I can see you are working hard and I can see that the *you* in that body did that work.

    You are valued. You are loved.

    The other side of it? My husband also responds with concrete data when I spiral out of control (which is often and is debilitating… I’m in now way trying to compare or lessen your struggle) - "I'm so massive and awful and gross!" "No, you aren't. You weigh X pounds. You wear a size 10. Don't you love that flamingo shirt that is a size 10?" "But I'm gross." "I don’t think you are, but I know you feel that way right now. But let’s feel gross while going on a walk.”

    Jen.
    Your body houses a creative and kind soul. Your body empowers you with the gift of vulnerability and sharing. You work hard to create beautiful relationships, stories, and tangibles. And you wear some super cool clothes and shoes. I don’t even know you and those are the truths that I know to be factual.

    Thank you for sharing this part of your journey.

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    1. I love this. I aim for the specifics, too, both in giving compliments and receiving them. Such a good tip.

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  128. someone commented (which I can't find now) about how pictures give the finger to time and entropy and it made me think. I know my mom hated the pictures she took. We laughed over how horrible they were and how unphotogenic she thought she was. And now that she has been gone for 11 years, those photos are so precious to me. I don't care that she doesn't look made up or perfect, she looks like my mom. And that is what is important. So someday, those photos of me that I criticize and think I look horrible in, my children will hold precious. and that is why I think, I will try harder to let it go and take the photos.

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  129. This was hard to read, and broke my heart. My past struggles mirror yours. But healing is possible. You don't have to live with this pain. I think you are wonderful, and wonderfully perfect exactly as you are. But I know how mental illness makes us unable to believe the words of others. Hugs to you.
    I am in recovery for an eating disorder and cannot read the comments because they are very triggering, so I don't know if anyone has mentioned this, but it sound like you suffer from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). You don't have to suffer alone. There are support groups that can help you. Have you considered seeing a therapist? I hope you'll find the answers you need. You are a wonderful person, beautiful both inside and out. I hope with time and healing you'll be able to see yourself as the rest of the world sees you, as a truly special, kind and beautiful person.

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  130. My feelings are generally pretty similar to yours -- a lot of the time I manage to forget about how I look, but sometimes I'll look in the mirror or see a photo of myself and just feel sad. However, I still force myself to pose for photos occasionally, because I've heard too many stories like Cindy's above, where a camera-shy person dies and their loved ones are sad because they don't have any photos to remember them by.

    I came to terms a long time ago with the fact that I'd never be in the running for Miss America, and that there would always be people who judged me as less worthy because I'm not pretty. However, those people's opinions aren't worth crap to me, because if someone is that shallow, I don't really need them in my life.

    And although I am well aware that this sounds like sour grapes, and maybe it is, but over the years I have come to believe that maybe it's actually better not to be pretty. I've never been sexually harassed, catcalled, or gotten unwanted attention from men, and back in my single days, when someone was attracted to me, I could be reasonably sure that they liked me for myself, not my looks. And now I've been married for 20 years to someone who likes my looks just fine and who makes me feel loved every day.

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  131. In approximate order of importance:

    1) I am sorry for the experience that you have with your own appearance.
    2) I wish you well and I hope you will be able to take comfort in all of these responses.
    3) But it is not your responsibility to be happy or feel better if that's not how you feel.
    4) You never owe anyone a photo, and all of your fans understand that and will treasure any interaction they have with you.
    5) It is not your responsibility to be adorable for the benefit of others.
    6) But you are actually completely adorable and (if it is helpful to you to know this) I've had a mad crush on you forever (and if that was unhelpful, please accept my apology).
    7) all of the above is true whether I think so or not; you do not need my permission to feel how you feel.

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  132. Okay, everybody, time for the "So Awful It's Funny" show of hands!

    How many FOEs here, even/especially those of us who have never seen Jen except in photos, have occasionally had an unintended and fleeting but snarky-spiteful thought about how Jen gets the breaks because she's so pretty?

    "Well, of COURSE she has a wonderful devoted husband who adores her and thousands of loving friends and fans, that stuff is EASY for the GOOD-LOOKING girls!"

    ...Oh. Just me, then? [slinks away]

    Nah, I know it's not just me. Probably almost everybody has some degree of insecurity about their looks and tends to overestimate, even if only occasionally and momentarily, the advantages enjoyed by the better-looking. But how Awful/Funny is it that all the while Jen is constantly beating herself up for her (perceived) lack of prettiness, so many of us are liable to assume that she's got it made because of her (objectively observed) abundance of prettiness?? [laugh/cry smiley]

    As for working on the insecurity, what I've found helpful are the following:

    - Never contradict a compliment, even if you can't believe it. You may be able to believe it someday, and it will feel better if you didn't initially spend energy resisting it and snubbing the admiration of the person who complimented you. (Natch this only applies to genuine compliments from people whose opinions you value, not, e.g., flattery from creepy strangers trying to ingratiate themselves.)

    - Really appreciate your body for what it does for you beyond getting evaluated by impossible standards of conventional attractiveness. These feet and legs that carried me five miles over mountains, these hands that made a beautiful craft object, this body that didn't get sick once all winter, this face and voice that were able to explain a difficult concept to somebody in despair at not understanding it? They don't owe me anything, and I love and appreciate them even if they're "nothing much" by supermodel criteria!

    After all, we can't really let go of toxic beauty standards until we've got something better to put in their place. Keep on rocking those beautiful WORKING bodies people,

    Kimstu

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  133. Big virtual hug to you, Jen. I think just about every person - certainly just about every girl/woman - hates the way they look some of the time. And as someone else said, there's a good lesson to be learned that no one else cares about how you look even a fraction of much as you do. I have a thing where I "photograph well" but sometimes am startled by how I look in certain mirrors. Eyes are weird and we all "see" people differently.

    For me, I'd be concerned if *anything* in my life affected me enough to spend more than 15 minutes getting ready for a normal outing or caused me such anxiety that I was crying and looking up plastic surgeons, etc. I know you said that coping mechanisms are coming in the next post but I hope you have someone (-- a therapist? --) you can talk to about these thoughts and how to deal with them in a healthy manner.

    Oh, and the irony of this being posted on #NationalSelfieDay (if we couldn't laugh we'd all go insane, right).

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  134. I was a homely child. Like, knobby knees, scrawny, braces in my shoes, crossed eyes (then glasses from age 6), cowlicks in my terrible hair. By eighth grade I was also immersed in the culture of impossible beauty set forth by magazines, tv and movies - thank heavens there was no internet then.

    By about 15 or 16 I was passably pretty, and I felt GORGEOUS. Just not being hideous gave me so much confidence, and I felt pretty with little effort on makeup or hair, ever since.

    Now that I'm approaching 60, I'm actually a lot LESS pretty than I imagine, so it's a shock when I see a photo or a mirror. But I tell myself that I had an awfully good run at being reasonably pretty, so I'm fine with how I look now and just go for "tidy" in my personal appearance goals. And there is something remarkably freeing to be all but invisible to the male gaze, as an aging woman!

    Jen, you are pretty, by any standard. My daughter is also beautiful, but she doesn't believe it, either. I tell her to relish how she looks at 25, at 30, at 40 or 50. It breaks my heart to see her, or you, suffer through this.

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  135. I already replied but I'm going to add a little more.

    My Mom was the 3rd of 6 children born to a woman who was cold, mean and not really cut out to be a mom. She was not planned (I'm pretty sure none of the kids were planned or really wanted) and at 3 months old, she was farmed out to her childless Aunt and Uncle for almost 6 years. My mom was never told she was pretty or good enough or smart or valued. She loved her Aunt and Uncle (his name was actually Launcelot!) but right before Christmas when she was almost 6, she was returned home to care for her newest 2 siblings. My Mom didn't have childhood or baby photos. Her mother told her she wasn't a pretty baby--she was skinny with big ears. She didn't have childhood photos because her Aunt and Uncle didn't have a lot of money for photos (this was in the 30s). The only photos I have of my Mom are the ones my Dad took of her starting when they were dating when she was in high school. I don't know if I looked like her when I was little. I have nothing to compare.

    My Mom spent most of her adult life avoiding cameras. Whenever someone would point a camera in her direction, she's screw up her face in the craziest face she could make. It was so aggravating and when I'd ask her not to do it, she'd tell me she hated having her picture taken because she was so ugly. She'd duck behind a plant, another person, turn her head, literally do everything she could do disappear from leaving a visual record of herself.

    She wouldn't spend money on herself...everything had to be couponed, rebated, on sale, from the beauty school and her make up consisted of powder and lipstick. She never colored her hair. She never wore nail polish. She would wear unflattering clothes because she was too cheap to buy clothes that fit or weren't on sale. She would tell me she wasn't worth it. She didn't see value in her existence. I realize women don't need make up and hair color, but it's more about seeing your own beauty and finding a way to feel good about yourself.

    (Yes, I'm crying right now.)

    All of you who are posting replies; and to Jen..you are all so worthy of your beauty. Whether you believe in a God or higher power or nature--you were all created with the beauty bestowed on you from your DNA. No matter what you look like, each of you have a light that shines and you have to stop putting negative thoughts in your head and hiding your light. I couldn't help my Mom see her value and her beauty. She was a lovely beautiful woman and I wish she would have had the ability to see that in herself. I wish she could have heard my Dad when he told her she looked pretty, rather than argue with him. She'd accuse him of lying to her--how crazy is that?

    Pay compliments richly and honestly. Accept compliments with grace and gratefulness.

    My love to all of you...

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    1. I forgot to add, I lost my Mom 8 years ago. I miss her every day and wish with all my heart I had more than a handful of photos her with a genuine smile. No one will ever remember or care if you had a double chin or mono-brow or squirrel cheeks or whatever perceived flaws you focus on. All they will know is they don't have any photos of you...and they will really wish they did.

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  136. Why does it matter Jen? I hope you are going to have more good news but its pretty harsh accusing John of lying. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder is very true. You aren't loving yourself at the moment and that is a real big deal and very important to get it sorted out - sorry to act like maybe your mother would but where are you on your meds? with your periods? I am not saying these feelings aren't real. They absolutely are but it seems to me they might be a symptom of something else? You don't come across as shallow and the fact that it has suddenly got worse seems to me that you might need to go find help and talk through it but mostly, let John think you are beautiful. Don't doubt that. You can disagree but you can't call him a liar, that is a real "you need help" statement. you are an intelligent person and you can apply your intelligence to this but mostly - we don't love you because of what you look like - its a container for what is inside - it could be a cardboard box as long as what is inside is the same we would love you the same. It matters to you and you need to work out why. Much love, I hope this doesn't seem harsh or critical.

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  137. Hi Jen. There's a lot here, but I wanted to comment on the stuff you said about John. I wonder what would happen if you rephrased your thoughts on John looking at you. He doesn't "have to." He has chosen to. He isn't forced to deal with what you look like. He has chosen to. And when he tells you that you're beautiful, and you tell him that he's wrong...you're telling him that you know his tastes, desires, wants better than he does. When you tell him that he only thinks you're beautiful because he is your husband, you're taking away that agency and autonomy to be his own person and have his own thoughts without you. He loves you. He thinks you are beautiful. He isn't lying to you or padding the deal when he tells you this. And when you tell him that he's wrong, what you're really saying is "no, you're lying. I don't believe that I'm as pretty as you say, so you must be lying." But you know he isn't, Beautiful Girl. You know he isn't. How you feel about how you look is how you feel. But let John feel how he feels about it. Even if it doesn't make sense to you. Try to believe him. All my love. <3

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  138. I know exactly where you are coming from, so much so that I could have written this post myself and have it be accurate (although I don't have a John of my own, sadly). So please know you are NOT alone in the hole!

    I hate having my photo taken, because I am not the least bit photogenic. I will avoid it at all costs. And when someone does snap a photo, I usually decline on seeing it because nope, no thanks.

    Please know that we ALL can see your beauty, even when you cannot. And I'm sending you all the love for posting this!

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  139. 100% this. There are not a lot of pix of me out there, b/c I hate my looks. My face is ok, I guess, but my hair is pretty meh. I'm fat & lumpy & just yuck. I don't really take the time to dress up/make up/etc. I figure what's the point? But I am a big champion of others accepting & celebrating who they are. What a mess!

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  140. I understand how you feel, I DON'T like pictures of myself...I pick them apart,even tho everyone else says I look great. I kinda regret not having pictures of me with certain people and certain places because that time will never come again. You are NOT alone and are VERY brave for opening up yourself like this. Sending love and hugs your way! I thoroughly enjoy Cake Wrecks and Epbot and all of your postings~

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  141. This is a hard subject for me to talk about. I'll just say, me too. I do know that I love the brain that I see displayed here and at Cake Wrecks.

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  142. I am glad that you decided to post this, so that I can say...Me too, me too. Every day that I have to step out into the world my thoughts and feelings are very similar to your's. You are not alone. I have been enjoying your posts for years both here and on CW. I look forward to your posts and I used to love when you answered emails. I would get so excited seeing a response! So just know that you bring a lot of happiness to people so we are all here for you.

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  143. I wish I had time to read through the comments before posting mine, but I'm just going to go for it and hopefully not repeat too much.

    If I'm completely honest, I do care whether or not I look pretty in pictures or when I'm around people. But I'm like you where I'd way rather be doing things than spending time getting ready. And I do feel I've made tons of progress recently to not care as much when I don't feel so beautiful.

    A lot of this change is due, in part, to my reading the work of Beauty Redefined (they have a blog, but mostly just post on Instagram now). Their mantra is that "My body is an instrument, not an ornament." In a lot of ways their views remind me of what has been discussed on your blog over the years. Some of their thoughts are pretty radical (sometimes controversial) but I believe worth considering.

    All this to say, you are more than beautiful. You are so many things to so many people and for that I truly thank you!

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  144. I totally get the feeling of "The face I see is not the one I imagine myself to have", but it's really freaky when you see someone else wearing one you recognise as being the one you imagine... especially if it's worn by a celebrity.
    Because it's disconcerting when I watch some of my favourite shows, that, despite how much I love her as an actress, creator, and all round fabulous geek girl, there's always this niggle in the back of my head that hisses at me: "Felicia Day stole your face sss...."

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  145. I wrote a long post on this and then hit the wrong button. It really makes me sad that people feel this way and it took so far down the comments for someone to say that no - this is not normal - this is not something you should have to accept as a way to live. I understand people being greatful that they know they are not alone and that recognizing that this way of thinking is a problem is terribly difficult.

    It gives me hope that this post is old and that you've come up with a game plan. I wish you well on your journey and hope your next post inspires others to try and make their own progress.

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  146. I know this feeling all too well. I especially hate when a friend takes a gross picture of me and tags me on Facebook.....and keeps tagging me after I take my tag off of it and won't delete it. I hate seeing pictures where I'm slouching in the background, looking five months pregnant because I've gained a bunch of weight in my 30s. I hate everything about my face and made a friend break down crying one day when I described everything I hated about my looks. I have no idea how to make it stop and I think it's stupid of myself to feel this way while telling other people online that they're beautiful for who they are and that society's standards are bullshit.

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  147. I don't like pictures of myself, but seeing myself walking in a mirror, or watching a video of myself is almost physically painful. I have Cerebral Palsy, and walk with a pronounced limp. The person I am inside is not this shambling zombie-shuffling... thing. Most of the time I can ignore it. Forget how bad it looks to others. But when I think about it, I start crying. I'm crying now, so I'm going to post this before I hit delete. But I'm hopeful about your next post.

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  148. Jen, sweet Jen. I'm an artist, so I think about my looks a lot. It's vain, and ugly, and proud, and confusing. For my fortieth birthday I took 40, ok, maybe more like 60..0 pictures of my face. I did all the pro make up tricks, I back combed my hair and I took my favorite color of "doesn't come off" red lipstick and went way past what would count as a natural lipline. I don't know if you read these comments, it would certainly take you awhile, but if you want- I will share the 30 second video of myself doing something so weird with my lips, I really had no idea I could do that. It's terrifying and awesome. I took the pictures so that I could outline all the creases that will one day be deep wrinkles that I have no idea how got there. So I can say, yup, I definitely earned all of these. I make really weird faces. Also, red lipstick makes funny faces even more hysterical, so I try to do it as often as possible. At one point in my life I weighed less than 120 at 5'7". At another point I weighed close to 230. Both times I had legitimate medical reasons for my weight and at both extremes I would rather have suffered heat stroke than wore shorts. We are all flawed. Here's the thing, I'm also a therapist. That means I should be smart enough to know that what I look like has very little to do with my worth, like, you really just need to do enough to stay clean and not die of an obvious health issue you won't face. But I still take selfies. I still worry if I look like a whale. I really wish it made more sense, but I'm telling you- start with making funny faces. Start with sticking your gut out in pictures. Start with red lipstick on your teeth, and then when you are satisfied you can do no worse, take 100 more photos, pick one you like, and know that the people who love you always see that photo, because they see the good inside you. ❤️ All the other pictures? Have you noticed how happy your fans look? Jen, you could turn into the gloopy mud monster from Candyland board game and I would still love you... maybe even more.

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  149. Love you Jen, and I love how good you and John are for each other. I too got camera shy and fixed it by doing what I dubbed the "year long selfie project". Every day at 6pm I took a pic, usually just a headshot. I never published them anywhere. But it really helped me see my moods captured. I had good, bad, grumpy, pretty, old!, young days. It made me more comfortable with myself. Just a small share from a loyal reader.

    And PS, it's weird how significantly personality influences a picture.

    Mwa!

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  150. Not sure if you'll see this, but I just had to note it down. Also, I haven't gotten through all the other comments yet.

    First, you are the most awesome person (and couple) on the entire internet. What comes through to me when you post photos, both of yourself and others, is kindness. And kindness it the most beautiful think in the world <3. Knowing that there are people like you around made me embrace being a nerd, made me go to my first convention (Star Trek is the best!) and just made me feel better about myself for being me :).

    Second, when John says you're beautiful, I think you should believe him. It's such a privilege to be allowed to see someone at their most natural and vulnerable, with all the walls and guards down. How is that not beautiful?

    Third, if I ever met you, and we couldn't get a photo together, I would have been devastated. I've been following you since before Epbot, and I've smiled, laughed out loud, high fived, been worried, cried and mourned from afar. A pic together would not be to show how we look, but to capture that awesome moment in time. I would have treasured that forever and I sincerely hope I can bump into you guys some day (even though I live in Norway...).

    And lastly, I hope everyone can come to a place some day where we can love ourselves for the unique and awesome people that we are. It may not be easy, but you are worth it!

    Big hugs! <3

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  151. Already had some good quotes shared, but this is the one that came to my mind:

    The sentiment [was] sincere in his mirror-bright eyes. In those mirrors, I am altogether beautiful, Cordelia realized warmly. Much more flattering than that one on the wall upstairs. I shall use them to see myself from now on.
    -- Lois McMaster Bujold, Barrayar

    As others have said: John is not lying to you. You really are beautiful to him, and I hope that you can learn to use his eyes to see yourself.

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