This blog post is focusing on appearance based self-esteem, which is only one of many different areas where people feel bad about themselves and have low self-esteem.
I have met very few girls and nonbinary folks who have never had any issues with the way they look. (I specify girls and nonbinary people here, because most of the boys that I talk to do not talk to me about their self esteem issues, even when we’re having personal conversations. I’m 100% certain there are boys with appearance based self-esteem issues, but none have told me). One of the reasons this is the case is because of society’s standards of beauty. Women in particular are expected to look beautiful all the time, to meet a certain standard of femininity, or to “rebel” from that standard in a very particular way. Models don’t even look like themselves – they are photoshopped and airbrushed to all hell, but that “perfected” look is what the public sees. Thin, thigh gap, flat stomach, tan, luxurious, straight hair – this is mostly a fallacy. Not only do models, actors, and celebrities have professional hair and makeup teams and tailored, designer clothes meant to compliment them flawlessly, we don’t even see that! We see the photoshopped after-image. Being inundated with that kind of imagery is going to ultimately effect anyone on a subconscious level, even if consciously you know that it is just a performance.
Even if you don’t specifically think that you want to look like a model, your issues have nothing to do with that, and know intellectually that models you see in ads and on tv don’t look like themselves, let alone the average person, it’s sometimes hard to stop yourself from looking in the mirror, and saying to yourself “I hate this.”
Right now I am personally having severe appearance based self-esteem issues. For me, it has nothing to do with being inundated with a certain beauty standard from every angle. Or rather, not directly. It has to do with how I used to look versus how I currently look. I gained about 50 pounds over the course of the last year, because of my depression and the medication to treat it. I hate the way I look. I look gross and feel gross and no matter what anyone tells me to the contrary, I feel unhappy, fat, and ugly. And it’s miserable. It’s the one thing that is happening in my life right now that still sends me into depression cycles of “I feel gross -> I look gross -> people are lying to me -> they don’t really like me -> no one will ever love me” et cetera. Even before all the weight gain I still felt unhappy about the way I looked, and certainly thought that I was not pretty. I poke my belly and watch it jiggle. I try to rub away my stretch marks. I poke and prod at every blemish on my face and body. It sucks. Nothing ruins my day more quickly nowadays than seeing myself in the mirror.
In late 2014 I started a project that has since fallen by the wayside. I called it “Selfies for Self-Esteem” and I would take pictures whenever I felt good about the way I looked, or particularly happy, or silly (like in the Spiderman photo above). It lasted from December 2014 to July 2015. Below are some of the pictures from that project. (Photo Credit for all: Myself, Dec. 2014-July 2015).
This was all before I gained weight. Since I’ve noticed that, I haven’t taken any pictures of myself for the project. But that’s going to change today. I’m going to start “Selfies For Self-Esteem: The Daily Challenge.” Starting today, 3/6/2016, I will take a picture of myself regardless of what I am wearing, and I will post it to Facebook so my friends and family can see. For now, here are today’s pictures:
They aren’t the greatest pictures. The one on the left is blurry and the one on the right my eyes are too wide and I have a very forced, creepy smile. I’m wearing one of the loosest shirts I own that comes down straight instead of fitted, so you can’t see my gut. Overall though, I don’t dislike these photos, and when I look back at them I might just think I look okay. This is day one of the challenge, and I will stick to it.
I challenge all of you to the Selfies for Self-Esteem Daily Challenge. Put a link in the comments to your albums, tell me about your stories, or just do it privately for yourself. You look great, and you have the selfies to prove it.