Nothing evokes anxiety more than getting a “tagged photo” notification without prior knowledge of what might be posted.
I will probably be the first person to pop into the minds of my friends and family who may read the title of this article, before they even see my name attached to it. Seeing photos of myself (specifically ones that others take) is something that I have struggled with for a very long time. It’s not that I don’t love taking and being in photos, but I struggle with the image of myself having to look a certain way. And if I am not in control of how I look or who sees that photo, it can negatively affect my self-esteem, causing me to dwell on it for hours or sometimes even days.
Like I already mentioned, people closest to me already know this is something I struggle with. However, when I started noticing my co-workers picking up on this pattern, I realized it may be something I should start to work on.
Now, I know that appearance is not everything. There is much more to a person than how they look.
So why might I, and others, struggle with this?
Body-image issues: A photo is just a split second of a moment and in that split second, it is likely that there will be flaws exposed from time to time. I think we all rationally know this (me included)… however a photo of those flaws exposes insecurities that people may be struggling with, internally, and eternally. Now those flaws are captured in still form, validating all of those negative beliefs about one’s body-image.
Lack of control: Taking photos of myself, or having the device with the photos on it eases my anxiety related to pictures. This means I have control over the photos, I know what I look like, I choose what I post and delete and I ultimately get to decide how the world (social media) views me. However, if I don’t have control over the device with the photos I have an immediate urge to ask to see the photo I am in, sometimes in the past even encouraging friends and family to delete memories that I was in simply because I could not bear the thought of that photo of me looking flawed being in someone else’s control. For someone who struggles with this, nothing evokes anxiety more than getting a “tagged photo” notification without prior knowledge of what might be posted.
Fears of judgement: Body image issues and the fear of judgement typically come hand-in-hand. With social media, it is now the norm for photos to be posted online for friends, family, and the world to see. For someone who struggles with body-image issues, this means more potential critics. Rationally, we all know people are scrolling so quickly on small screens when looking through other people’s photos, and others are not looking at them simply to judge you. But sometimes anxiety tells us otherwise, even when we know it is irrational. Therefore, this negative perception can interfere with one’s ability to feel confident about a photo of themselves.
Does this sound like you? If so, how can you cope with this? Remember these things:
We are our worst critics. Remind yourself you probably look great through the eyes of someone else. Have you ever looked at a photo immediately and had a bad reaction, and then years later saw it again and realized how great, how youthful, or how happy you looked? That distancing effect of passing time can help us to see more objectively what we look like, and that’s a slightly better indication of how other people might see you. They don’t see crow’s feet around your eyes…they see a huge crinkled smile that makes them smile too. Don’t deny them that shared happiness!
There are other people in the photos. What if your friend looks fantastic in a photo but you feel like you only look mediocre? Sometimes we have to set aside these insecurities and compromise with others.
Take a new perspective. The photo you dislike of yourself may evoke certain positive feelings for others when they see it, so try to look at it through their perspective. Set aside the appearance component of the photo and think about what happened that day, who you were with, and how you felt.
This is just a moment. This moment in time does not define who you are or how you look. Others know this when they look at the photos.
These are memories you will appreciate later. Remember the purpose of photographs; to capture moments and memories. If you deleted every photo of yourself, you might regret that in the future when you are recalling past memories. You may even like the photo of yourself years from when it was originally taken.
Learn to let it go. Be mindful when you see a photo that you don’t like of yourself that someone else took or posted. Notice how you are feeling in a non-judgmental way. Notice it, accept it and let it pass.
Need more help? A therapist can help you work through whatever issues are keeping you from living your life to the fullest.
Written for you, by therapists.
NWO’s source for all things relationships, mental health, wellness, and lifestyle: Kelly Magazine is a mental health outreach initiative created by Kelly Mental Health and supported by Kelly Mental Health Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the community in the area of mental health.
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