There ought to be a Japanese onomatopoeia or a German compound word to describe the feeling of seeing bad candid photos of oneself and the accompanying sinking, wretched feeling they cause. It seems whenever I see candid event photos where I don’t look very good I experience the same dizzying spiral into “oh no, do I LOOK like that?!” town. I can’t be the only person who experiences this, so I got thinking about some ways to combat the Bad Photo Sinking Horrors.
Realize candid photos can make even the most exquisitely beautiful humans look terrible. Like that photo of Beyonce dancing above, and basically every mid-concert photo of Robert Smith since the millennium (sorry Mr.Smith, we still love you dearly). You would never assume Beyonce looks like that photo 24/7 as you know she is beautiful- it’s a bad angle, bad moment, bad. Remember that when looking at your own candid photos. They aren’t representative of how you actually look!!!!! And no, they aren’t capturing the “real” you, the real you IS the posed and graceful one- just like Beyonce isn’t that unfortunate photo above, and Robert isn’t that stage photo either.
Just STOP. Do not feed the monster! When you come across bad candid photos of yourself remember it’s only going to feed the Sinking Horrors if you fall into the trap of obsessing over them and planning your next crash diet (or driving to costco to buy a bulk paper bags to wear over your head for the rest of the year) while analyzing the size of your chin/thighs/face-shape/whatever in each photo. You can’t punish yourself into feeling attractive. Nor can you guilt/hate yourself into beneficial habits (if that worked those body shaming fuckwits on the internet would have cured “fat” and “ugliness” by now).
Practice Kindness. What would you say to a friend who was spiraling about their bad photos? Sometimes a loving shift in perspective can uproot you from a position of self hatred so you can get on with your life. You’d never say to your best friend “Oh man, yeah you DO look like a big pale buttertroll in a petticoat! So gross!”. So don’t talk shit to your own face, life is hard enough without beating on yourself for something as inconsequential as a bad photo.
Remember they’re just photos. At the end of the day most of us are not Beyonce and we won’t be reminded every day of our worst unflattering moment, luckily. The camera is NOT always right (forget that adage), remember that saying developed around the time people still believed vehemently in “spirit photography” (the Victorian trend of scamming people into buying photos of ghosts and supernatural happenings that were 100% fake and staged). Photos can be edited, angles make enormous differences, and candid photos make everyone look bloody awful 99% of the time I think. A few bad photos- hell, even a lifetime supply of them- isn’t going to stop you.
Laugh about it. It takes some of the sting away if you can laugh at the bad photo I find (hence my snarking on the photos of me in this post). Know they aren’t You and just laugh at your bad expression or moment of horrid posture or whatever it is you’re feeling insecure about. Making it a joke removes the power those insecurities have over you in the moment, they’re rendered more meaningless and funny.
Delete, Untag, Destroy. If you can get rid of the photos from your sight forever it’s worth doing. I delete *so* many photos of our beautiful models from every photoshoot simply because no one needs to see themselves mid-sneeze etc. Do the same with your own bad photos. Get rid of what makes you feel like trash. I also un-tag myself from every cringe inducing facebook tagged photo I can, why have those in my feed? It’s my feed, I am not shallow for wanting to be my cutest self on there and neither are you!
Hopefully these tips will help you claw back from the brink! It’s definitely been helpful for me just writing these steps out. As people with bodies that sometimes go in public (near cameras) there’s enough bad feedback and misinformation to make us feel awful without doing it to ourselves. It’s more important to be happy and curious than it is to look perfect in every candid photo anyway. Go LIVE. 😉
(this post appeared originally here in 2016, but it seemed high time for a revisit)