4 min read

'A bad photo' can take us off guard and hurl us into despair.

In this post I want to focus on dreaded photos!

Many people can be minding their own business going about their lives, not feeling too bad, living in the moment, forgetting all about what they look like, maybe even enjoying themselves at times.  

And then, all of a sudden, they see a photo of themselves they don’t like, and boom, they’re suddenly in the depths of despair.

Our conditioned judgements cause the suffering.

Maybe you judge yourself as looking:

  • too fat (I’ve judged my stomach for not being flat)
  • too old (I’ve judged the lines on either side of my nose on my forehead)
  • too short (this can be a common one for men)
  • too tired (as if that’s a crime?!)

Maybe you think there’s something wrong with: 

  • Your hair (I always used to judge mine as lacking volume!) 
  • Your skin (I’ve judged my cellulite as ugly)
  • Your features (I have one eye bigger than the other, for example!  How disastrous!)

The list of things we can criticise ourselves for is endless. So, I’ll share a few ideas that I hope might make this experience a little easier.

It's ok to look away. Stop tormenting yourself!

Let’s start off with the obvious one…If you don’t like the photo, you don’t have to keep looking at it!  I hope that answer doesn’t disappoint you, but often it’s the simplest answers that are the best ones.  If it makes your negative thoughts spiral, then look away. 

Some people might say that that’s just denial and running away from the problem. But that doesn’t really stack up. It’s not that you have to deny to yourself that you don’t like the photo.  You can be totally honest with yourself and fully acknowledge you don’t like it. But once you’ve done that, what do you want to do next?

As far as I know, we only get one shot at life.  How do you want to spend the time you have left? 

I understand that the negative thoughts can be very compelling.  If they weren’t, I wouldn’t be putting so much time and energy into trying to help people to stop judging their appearance because they wouldn’t need any help. But a little bit of curiosity can go a long way when it comes to solving this problem.  

You can read a poem I wrote Look Up about the value of turning away from the horror movie our mind is showing us at times like these.

Observe what you're doing to yourself and get curious about whether you could respond differently.

So, once you’ve acknowledged that your mind is producing a judgmental thought about the photo, take a moment.  Breathe.  And consider… 

  • What negative impact would there be of you NOT running with that thought?  
  • What would be the downside of you letting it float on by, and refocusing your attention on whatever you’re doing in that moment?  

Let me know what you come up with! 

And if this solution is too simplistic for you, keep reading - I'll go a bit deeper below!

Question why other people's views of your appearance matter to you.

If you object to the above because you think that simply not dwelling on the photo won’t change the fact that you look terrible, and other people will think you look terrible too, then I’d invite you to go deeper and question why that would be such a bad thing anyway.

  • Why does it matter to you that some people might have a negative opinion about your appearance?
  • Why do you care?
  • What is the problem with that?

It’s worth spending some time reflecting on this because what you uncover will show you the beliefs that are standing between you and peace of mind in this area.

And once you bring those beliefs into the light, it will be much easier to see that they are extremely dubious.  

When you see that clearly, you won’t need to make an effort to change them – you’ll just stop respecting them so much.  And that’s when ‘bad’ photos will stop having the power to spoil your day.

So, come on, let me know all the reasons your mind tells you that it’s bad if other people have a negative view of the way you look in a photo.  Let’s get them all out into the light where they’ll shrivel and die like a vampire in the sun!

The beliefs that caused my suffering in relation to 'bad' photos

If you struggled to identify the beliefs that keep you worrying about ‘bad’ photos, here are a few of mine which used to keep me stuck in suffering.  

If other people think I don’t look good in a photo…

  • It’s embarrassing.
  • It means I’m the object of ridicule.
  • No one can or will ever desire me.
  • Everyone will look down upon me.
  • It’s shameful.
  • I’m disgusting.
  • I’m a disgrace.

I’ll never be able to accept I look like this.  (You gotta add a little drama to the mix!)

  • Can you relate to any of these?  
  • Now they’re out in the light, do they still seem just as compelling?
  • How would your life change if you stopped taking them so seriously?

It's fun and liberating to care less about what other people think of your appearance! 

And just for fun, I’ve attached a ‘bad’ photo of myself!  I took it just now and deliberately didn’t smile.  

In the past I would have been mortified for people to see this kind of photo.  But I’ve discovered that, for the most part, no one cares, nobody dies (hopefully!), and my happiness remains untouched.  

And even if they do judge me harshly, I don’t care!!

It’s really fun caring less about what other people think.  

Recovery’s not just about feeling all the hard feelings – it’s about freedom and joy too!  

What is the truth when it comes to 'bad' photos?

The melodramatic lies our minds tell us about the implications of 'bad' photos are not to be trusted.  Let me set the record straight:

  • The essence of a person's beauty is not just seen, but felt.  It's impossible to fully capture in a photo, so it's futile to look for it there.
  • Most people are too busy worrying about what they look like to spend much time thinking about how you look in a photo.
  • As for the people judging your appearance harshly, they are simply victims of brainwashing that tell people that some ways of looking are ugly or wrong.  Their judgement does not have to be any concern of yours.
  • If some people judge the way you look harshly, it does not mean everyone will.  People view the world through the filter of their thinking, and the content of that thinking varies.
  • When someone is able to see and feel the essence of who you truly are, they will see your beauty.
  • If you can't appreciate your beauty, that's not because you are ugly, but because your sight is tainted by judgement.  Read this post - You can't believe your eyes. - for more on this point.
  • We have been given eyes for looking outwards.  It's not our job to find ourselves attractive.  We can leave that up to other people.  We don't need to stare at photos endlessly, despairing at how terrible we look.  We can focus on enjoying and appreciating the beauty of the people we love, and the world around us, trusting that others will do the same with us.  Self-obsession doesn't bring happiness to anyone regardless of how well they conform with today's so-called 'beauty' standards.
  • Moreover, we don't need everyone to find us attractive to 'prove' that we are attractive.  Our attractiveness is a given.  Read or listen to an audio recording of my poem - You are desirable by default - for more on this point.  It would not work very well if everyone found you attractive.  What would you do with all that adulation?  It would be overwhelming.  And it might go to your head, which wouldn't ultimately make you happy because a sense of superiority distances you from other people, and is a source of painful isolation.


  • If you think you look bad in a photo, you don't have to torture yourself by continuing to look at it.
  • You are free to focus your attention on thoughts that bring you more joy or other benefits.
  • Not everyone will view you as harshly as you view yourself, and most people will give your appearance no thought at all.
  • Any judgements others make about your appearance need be no concern of yours.
  • Real beauty can't be captured in photos, so don't look for it there.  You'll find it in the feeling of love within you.
  • Remember that your job is not to see your beauty, but to enjoy the beauty of those around you, knowing that others will do the same with you.
  • Just because you can't see your beauty in a photo doesn't mean that you aren't beautiful.  It simply means that your mind has been captured by culturally conditioned judgements.  But you are more than your habitual thinking.
  • Life is beautiful and you are a part of life, so you are beautiful be default.  You can't lose your beauty because it's an intrinsic part of who you are.  So you don't need to worry about that, even if other people tell you that you should!

And now it's over to you.  Tell me about your experience with photos of yourself you don't like.

  • Have you ever ruminated about a 'bad' photo?  
  • What, if anything, do you think you gain by ruminating about 'bad' photos?
  • What were the thoughts that caused you suffering when you did that?
  • What do you think it says about you, your value, attractiveness and ability to feel happy if you see a bad photo of yourself?
  • Upon reflection, do you fully believe all these thoughts?  Do you think they deserve your respect?  

Let me know in the comment box below. I'd love to hear about your experience and opinions.

Reach out if you'd like support

If you'd like some support breaking free from the habit of ruminating about how unattractive you look, check out my free resources or find out how you can work with me.

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