Originally published on Body Love Wellness and cross-posted here with their permission.
I used to really avoid being in photos.
And until relatively recently, that was pretty easy to do.
Before every cell phone had a built in camera, before selfies and Instagram, before everyone and their mother constantly had a picture-taking device in their hands constantly, you could really get away with avoiding photos. Ah, nostalgia.
The truth is, back in pre-smart phone app days, only photography nerds (like me) used to carry around cameras, and it was mostly for capturing the raw beauty of a dead pigeon on Avenue A. And if you wanted to use a filter, you actually had to carry around – well – filters.
And now, sometimes the fact that everything gets photographed or video-ed really bugs me – as if every moment of our mundane lives needs to be documented and uploaded immediately, sent to three or four social networking sites simultaneously.
I mean, I can’t be the only one who’s been at a concert and wanted to say to the tall dude in front of me, “Hey, how about putting your camera down and just watching the show right now?” Right?
Sometimes I feel like we’re living our entire lives and viewing our whole world through a camera lens – including ourselves.
And yet, on the bright side, I also see it as an interesting opportunity to reclaim your self-image.
I know that a lot has been written lately about the fall of self-esteem since the invention of stuff like Instagram beauty pageants, and I agree that there’s a lot to be said about that.
But I think that if you go with it, you can actually use things like selfies as tools to improve your body image – and your overall self-esteem.
So let’s talk about a few steps to take in order to do that. (And I expect to see your uploads – proof that you followed my advice – on Instagram.)
How to Improve Your Body Image with Photos
Step#1. Take Some Really Bad Photos of Yourself on Purpose
Seriously. Go ahead.
Whip out your phone or camera, and take a ton of pics of yourself. I’m talking in the hundreds.
Take them from weird angles. Make funny faces. Don’t worry about whether or not your eyes are caught in that awkward almost-open-but-mostly-closed moment. Take pictures in full-length mirrors, of the side of your face that you don’t prefer. Take them when you first wake up in the morning. Whatever you want! Just go for it.
In fact, you can even do this with a friend. Have a Bad-Pic-a-Thon slumber party.
You can even make a hobby out of it, doing it a couple of times over the course of a week or a month.
I know it might sound a little unconventional – how am I going to improve my self-esteem by looking at pictures of myself that I hate? – but trust me and trust the process. Do not skip this step!
What This Does:
When you take “bad” photos of yourself, you get used to your own image – and not just the image that you want to present to the world after you’ve used Photoshop to remove a blemish.
You start to realize that “good” or “bad” pics are all about angles, lighting, and expression – they’re not really about you at all.
Because it’s important to remember that even when models are shot for print ads, hundreds of images are taken, and then one is chosen and airbrushed to death.
The images that you’re exposed to every single day – in advertisement, but also on social media sites – are not pictures of people’s true selves. They’re the products of “the best of the best,” and then altered to be even “better.”
So when you do this process – when you practice taking pictures of yourself that aren’t necessarily stunning – you may find that you get less upset when someone else takes a less-than-flattering photo of you.
You’ll be less triggered when you catch yourself reflected in a storefront.
You may even have fun with your image for the first time. Because for the first time, you’re really looking at (and enjoying) yourself.
Step #2. Take Some Selfies and Post Them
Okay. Now that that’s out of the way, try to take some “good” photos.
Think about your “bad” photo experiment, and avoid taking pictures from those weird angles. Or of that side of your face. Or right out of the shower.
Instead, give yourself time to play around with lighting, angles, and makeup if you want to. Let yourself pick out your favorite outfit – the one that makes you feel super awesome. Find a background that works.
And then, post those pics!
Post them everywhere. Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram. Hell, you can even sign up for new social media sites just to post those pictures. And don’t forget to add them to your OKCupid profile.
And remember: If you don’t want them to be public (your boss doesn’t necessarily have to have access to your in-house photoshoot), use privacy settings so that only certain friends can see them.
You’ll probably get a lot more positive comments than you expect – and from people that you didn’t expect. The “likes” will climb, and you’ll notice that among the commenters might be that one person whose Facebook pictures you always envy or someone you haven’t even thought about since high school.
And while of course you don’t need anyone’s approval to love yourself, the fact of the matter is that it feels good when someone likes your picture.
Because it isn’t always about your level of superficial attractiveness. It’s about your happiness – your acceptance of self – glowing from the inside out.
So go on. Post ‘em.
What This Does:
This does two things, actually.
First, it allows you to control your public image.
And in a world where we sometimes feel like we have very little control over most things in our lives, it can feel good to feel in control of the pictures of you that exist on the Internet.
You get to put out the world images of yourself that make you feel good.
And that’s similar to putting on that favorite shirt of yours – the one that always makes you happy to catch a glimpse of yourself in a car window reflection. Because it feels good to love yourself and to think that you’re hot stuff.
Secondly, you get positive feedback from friends who will cheer you on and, at the very least, “like” your image.
And that kind of support for your self-love is awesome.
Step #3. Join a Body-Positive Photo-Sharing Community
Yes! They exist! And they’re awesome.
One of my favorite places to find these kinds of communities is on Tumblr, where there are tons of regular people – yes! just like you and me! – being body positive, inspiring others to feel the same way.
There are people showing off their fatshion and outfits of the day (OOTD’s).
And you can also just find pics of themselves being fat and exciting.
Even I created a Tumblr dedicated to fatshionable apples.
The point is: On the Internet, there’s something for everyone. And with a body-positive community as thriving as it is on Tumblr, you’re sure to find something that works for you and your needs.
So go out and find one that suits your fancy and follow it.
And if you’re feeling a little more daring, you can even go so far as to engage with people by submitting pictures of yourself or creating your own body-positive space on Tumblr.
What This Does:
Looking at Tumblr blogs like these ones – and reblogging their awesome content for your followers to see and feel inspired by – normalizes bodies that you don’t tend to see in everyday media. It’s a wonderful counterbalance to the very thin images that you see every day.
And you get a wonderful sense of community by looking at and responding to posters’ images. You’ll notice how loved body types similar to yours are! And it might be a refreshing change to see how people who look like you are received by the masses.
Don’t Forget This Mindset Shift
At the end of the day, photos are about memories and experiences – not just how you look or what you weigh.
So when you look at your photos, don’t just scrutinize your face and body.
Instead, think about what you were doing, who you were with, and what was going on in the moment. Recognize that in some of your favorite pictures of yourself, a lot of that beauty is coming from your happiness within.
When you’re more willing to join in pictures, not only do you get an opportunity to preserve a memory, but your friends and loved ones get that, too.
They want you in their pictures. You’re part of that memory. And you’re looking gorgeous.
So let yourself jump in and say a big, cheesy “Cheese!”
Golda Poretsky is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. She’s a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. Follow her on Twitter at @bodylovewellnes. Read her articles here and book her for speaking engagements here.