By Ian Bett
If you’re like most people, you probably dislike photos of yourself. It’s not because you look bad, it’s because the way a camera captures your image is not the same as how you see yourself in the mirror. It’s the difference between what you expect to see and what you actually see. The problem is unfamiliarity.
The digital age has blown this out of proportion. Our fixation on appearance is unprecedented. Never before in human history have our lives and bodies been so exposed, documented, and shared. To make matters worse, a constant barrage of highly edited images infiltrate the social media, widening our expectation gap and leading us to invent hyper-idealized versions of who we imagine we’re supposed to be. Anything less is humiliating, a public failure.
When you try to compose a “best self,” which is really just your most physically perfect self, you begin to forget something really important: You’re not supposed to love the way you look. Growing up you determine that attractive people gain clout. They are more desirable, and therefore seem to hold more power.
Mostly you never stop associating ideal physical characteristics and social status. You spend the entirety of your life feeling inadequate and inferior. You don’t stop to ask if you're viewing yourself accurately, or if you’re prioritizing your values. Instead, a negative spiral takes hold: Your body is not ideal, so you’re doomed to occupy the lower end of the social hierarchy for eternity. In response to overwhelming negativity, you consciously or not subscribe to the “love yourself” philosophy. It seems to have worked wonders for everyone else, so maybe it will for you.
The problem, you imagine, is that you’re not in love with your physical form. But this line of thinking only perpetuates more unrealistic standards. First you couldn’t accept yourself, and now you can’t be totally in love with yourself. You don’t stop to recognize that you were not designed to think this way.
Real self-love is much deeper than that: it’s not a decision you can make or a switch you can flip. It goes to the core of who you are and who you think you can be.
-Ian Bett -
Often, when you have issues with self-image, acceptability or desirability, you project them onto your physicality: the one thing you think you can control. But “loving yourself,” despite what some people might want you to believe, is not a matter of looking in a mirror and feeling physically or sexually attracted to yourself. Real self-love is much deeper than that: it’s not a decision you can make or a switch you can flip. It goes to the core of who you are and who you think you can be.
When you address what really matters, your connections with others, the impact you have on the world around you, the quality of your friendships, how you care for yourself: your concern with surface-level issues fades. Sure, you may still want to look your best, but it’s not the all-consuming problem it used to be.
What you see in others depends on what you’re committed to seeing in yourself. If you dislike someone, everything they do irritates you and nothing seems like enough to redeem them. Your own self-image is the same way. When you hate yourself for deeper reasons, you spend your time fixated on surface-level things. Your obsession with parts of your body is code for deeper dissatisfactions with who you perceive yourself to be.
Hate does not motivate us to love, it only holds us back from living. If and when you can commit to truly trying to find the best in yourself, and to loving the invisible parts of yourself from an authentic place, you become enough. And that’s because you’re actively working to see yourself that way. Not perfect, not ideal, but enough.
Nobody is going to convince you to have self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem only develops when you realize that being your own enemy is not moving you even the slightest bit closer to having the life you want. You cannot hate yourself into the life you want. You cannot hate yourself into the body you want. You cannot hate yourself into the love you want.
When you’re committed to taking care of yourself and playing the hand you were dealt, you generate true self-love because you’re building on a solid foundation. And then, everything changes.