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How to Start Feeling at Peace with the Way You Look

Hiding Face

The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel” ~Steve Furtick

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had issues with the way I look. Back when I was at school, I stood out, being one of the only Asian students in a small English village. This heightened my awareness of how different I looked in relation to my peers and started my obsession of comparing myself with others.

It is often stated that adolescence can be a painful period in everyone’s life, and mine was no exception. By the age of thirteen, I suddenly sprouted into a gangly, long-limbed teenager with greasy hair.

I retreated into my world of loud and angry rock music, pretending not to care about anything but secretly in a spiral of self-hatred and loneliness.

I’d always assumed I’d naturally grow out of feeling down about my looks, but I have now come to realize that insecurity about one’s appearance should not be underestimated and simply shrugged away as an “adolescent phase.”

By seventeen, my self-hatred had intensified and I began working in a part-time job to start saving for plastic surgery—the only thing I decided would make me happy about my appearance.

I became scarily obsessed with how I looked, excusing myself every half hour at work to check my face, and I have countless memories of crying in desperation at my reflection in the bathroom mirror.

I realize now that all of this clearly foreshadowed an eventual breakdown of some sort, but I was still shocked when it happened. After my first month of college, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and left.

It seemed as though everything was suddenly changing for the worse. Amid all this chaos, my insecurities and anxieties became so overwhelming, I felt unworthy of looking after myself. I ended up suffering from insomnia and lost over fourteen pounds within a month.

I now see that a shock to the system was needed to make me open my eyes to what I was doing to myself.

I had hated myself for so long but had repressed my feelings, sure that with time I would suddenly “get better” without actually addressing the real problem.  

I could blame the media and the narrow perception of beauty it promotes. I could blame all the people that ever made hurtful or thoughtless remarks, in most cases unaware of the anguish they would cause me. But I won’t.

It all starts with feeling good about who you are. Because I so clearly didn’t, I became a magnet for criticism and negativity from others and allowed it to affect me to my detriment.

It took a conscious, concerted effort to feel more confident about my looks. And believe me, it’s not just about “looks” on a surface level—the way you feel about your looks is a key signifier of the way you think about yourself.   

No “quick-fix” solution is going to make you feel better.

There is no one definition of beauty. I’ve learned that the hard way. Obsessively fixating on how you look is limiting beyond belief and prevents you from appreciating everything that is beautiful about you.

Things that helped me in my quest to feel better about myself:

1. Practice self-care.

It’s amazing how feeling bad about yourself can make you neglect your body and spirit, turning your back on a nutritious diet, exercise, and relaxation.

This will only serve to perpetuate a downward spiral of negativity. You feel bad about yourself so you don’t take care of yourself, which makes you feel even more negative as you deprive yourself of enough good attention—whether this be by taking time out to meditate or read books or articles that will inspire you.

2. Realize that everyone is beautiful.

Once you believe this, you will witness beauty in infinite forms. While the media chooses to represent one image as the beauty ideal, this is a skewed and warped perspective, fabricated by those with vested interests, such as certain fashion houses.

Perfection does not exist—everyone you see around you has their own problems, insecurities, things they feel they could improve. You may not realize this since you can’t hear people’s thoughts.

There is beauty in everyone. Look for it in others and tell people when you find them beautiful.

Note that beauty isn’t always about the physical. If someone has a lovely smile, why is it lovely? Probably because it radiates warmth and gives you an insight into their friendly and approachable nature.

To identify how you are beautiful (and you are), try keeping a gratitude journal, and ask someone you trust to give you some positive feedback on what they think your best qualities are.

While physically beautiful things are lovely to look at, looks fade, whereas beautiful actions positively affect those around us and can last a lifetime.

3. Recognize and limit external factors that spark feelings of negativity.

Know your triggers—the things that immediately leave you feeling bad about yourself. These may be certain celebrity magazines or social media websites like Facebook. Identify them and take steps to limit their role in your life.

4. Discover the root cause that makes you feel bad.

You may hate an aspect or more of your appearance, convincing yourself, “If only I had a thinner body, I would be happy/successful/fulfilled.” However, more than likely, the real reason for your unhappiness lies under the surface.

For example, your fixation on getting a better body may stem from an insecurity of never being “good enough.” If this is the case, you will always find an aspect of yourself to criticize, whether it’s your weight or your hair color.

Identify the root cause and acknowledge how it’s led you to feel this way. Then remind yourself that it is an irrational insecurity that makes you feel bad about yourself and how you look.

5. Focus outward.

While it’s always important to work within oneself, it can also be helpful to turn your attention to helping others. Let’s face it: there are far more important things in the world than looks.

Volunteering in your local community, for instance, is a great way to feel positive about doing something beautiful for others and increase your confidence. It can really help to put your hang-ups in perspective.

To finally be at peace with how you look is no easy feat, especially if you have suffered from low self-esteem in the past.

There are times when I feel awful and my old feelings of self-consciousness creep back to haunt me. However, by taking small steps to work on the points above, I can effectively manage irrational negative thoughts and appreciate the beauty in myself and others—flaws and all. You can do this too.

Photo by IRebic

Avatar of Jade Yap

About Jade Yap

Jade Yap is a simple soul who lives and works in London, England. She loves writing, aspiring to write and publish a novel in the not-too-distant future. If you want, you can read some of her writer ramblings at jadewritesstuff.wordpress.com. In addition, she enjoys life’s little things such as drinking tea and her tiny white dog.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • http://twitter.com/kari_huizar Karina Huizar

    Great read! I have low self-esteem and it was great reading this! I love myself!

  • http://www.facebook.com/shaec.cooper Shaec Cooper

    In “America the Beautiful 2″ they quote an African woman who is answering the question, “Do you like your body?” She says, “My body? … Look at this tree [points to tree on one side]. That’s a beautiful tree. Look at that tree [points to tree on other side]. It’s a beautiful tree. You don’t say this tree is prettier than that tree, or this tree is uglier than that tree. You are a tree. I am a tree. Love your tree. Love your tree.”

  • Jade Yap

    Thank you for reading this! We all need to stop being so hard on ourselves Xx

  • http://twitter.com/ScoutyAZ Joanne

    Jade is right on the money with focus on volunteering. You can pick the population desired to work with, help others, feel good about it and most importantly get out of your own head. Can make you grateful for what you have very quickly !

  • Brenda

    Thank you for your post. As I am going through a hard time, let me just share something. The airline I work for in Dubai just told me if I dont lose 4 kgs I might not be able to fly until I lose the weight. I wasnt that bothered about my extra kilos until they told me, and instead of losing, I gained more. This really put me down and every day I think about how the size of my ass can be more important than the way I smile at my passengers and the way I do my job. These 4 kilos dont change anything at work, I still fit in the seatbelt, i still can evacuate the passengers in case of emergency, I still serve tea and coffee. This airline is proud to say they are cosmopolitan and speak so many languages, but they dont respect the different beauties we have in different nationaties ( I am a curvy Brazilian). Unfortunately this is not America and I have no right to say anything. I will read your post everyday until the day I quit this job, very soon. Thank you so much for inspiring me and others.

  • Jade Yap

    Brenda, thank you so much for reading the article and sharing your experience. It’s ridiculous that in such modern times different standards of beauty are still not accepted in some parts of the world. We have a long way to go. Please don’t stop believing that you are beautiful just because you may not fit into some narrow definition of ‘beauty’. I hope you realise you deserve so much more and feel incredibly proud of yourself for deciding to take a brave step in refusing to work in such a limiting environment. Also, please know that ‘curvy Brazilians’ are considered absolutely gorgeous in the UK! Xx

  • Jade Yap

    Thanks for your lovely comment Joanne. Volunteering can really help you gain some perspective on what is really important in life! Xx

  • Jade Yap

    Shaec – thanks so much for sharing such an amazing quote! Xx

  • Jade Yap

    Karina, you’re not alone :) thanks for reading and keep loving yourself; you deserve it! Xx

  • DellaT

    Hi Jade. It took me 51 years to finally start coming to peace with the me I see in the mirror. Your comment about ignoring self care when feeling down especially rings true for me and serves as a good reminder to keep trying to take good care of myself instead of just finding fault with the details.
    You are beautiful in your picture and wise in your words. Thanks for a great post.

  • Jade Yap

    Thank you for your lovely comment, Della. it’s odd because when you feel particularly down about your appearance, the last thing you want to do is take care of yourself but this is the optimal time to start looking after yourself! I’m so glad you’re starting to come to peace with the way you see yourself in the mirror – it’s a long journey but it’s incredibly worth it Xx

  • Mim

    I’ve seen your picture here and on your blog and YOU.ARE.BEAUTIFUL. And not just for the way you look. But also for writing this. :)

  • Jade Yap

    Thank you so much Mim, that’s incredibly kind of you to say! I’m just glad what I wrote is able to resonate with some people and hopefully reassure them that they’re not alone :) Xx

  • Saloni

    Indeed a must read for all the people who feel bad about themselves and especially for the one’s who make them feel this way. We should be thankful to God for making us the way we are because some people wish to be us :)

  • andrew k

    Hey jade thanks for the write up, this is definitely so,etching I’ve struggled with too as I was the “fat” kid in school. I still carry that self consciousness with me every day, it’s a work in progress getting past it. Something I came up with when meditating has helped me and it goes as follows:

    How can you blame yourself for something you did when the you who did the blaming is not the same as the one back then?

    I hope this can be of some help to you.

    Peace love and happiness,
    Andrew

  • Jade Yap

    Thanks for your comment Saloni Xx

  • Jade Yap

    Thank you Andrew, meditation is definitely something I am looking into doing! Xx

  • Melissa

    This is a really fantastic article, thank you so much for writing this. I have anxiety and I struggle with low self esteem, I’m going to see a psychologist soon and I’ve been told I should try “self esteem classes”. I’m going to try all of your tips <3 I can really emphasise with your feelings when you were seventeen – I still feel like I can't be happy, attractive or loved until I get plastic surgery and I am saving up for it as well. I often scrutinise myself just staring into the bathroom mirror for ages. It's sickening how I can't seem to just stop thinking about how I look and focus outwards onto other people… I wonder if my thoughts will change after I see my therapist and try out your advise? I hope so. Thanks again ~

  • Jade Yap

    Hi Melissa,
    Thanks for your comment. Please give therapy a go, keep an open mind but have faith that things will work out in the end. Volunteering helped me immensely and really put things into perspective as I was spending far too much time in my own head, questioning my own insecurities. All the very best, Jade Xx

  • Melissa

    Hey Jade! Thanks very much for your kind words, I’ll do that :) I’m really interested in volunteering, as soon as I get my anxiety under control I’ll look into it! Can I ask, what type of volunteering did you do?? xxx

  • Jade Yap

    Hi Melissa,

    You’re welcome! I actually went abroad for a little while and taught English to orphans in Cambodia but this is pretty extreme! I’ve also volunteered at a disadvantaged school in London, tutoring children. I am looking to volunteer for a mental health charity in the future Xxx

  • James Jackson

    You look beautiful in your picture and you write beautifully too. Thanks for this

  • Stephanie

    Thanks Jade it’s nice, inspiring, and comforting to know other people feel the same. I am on the path to self love myself. Thanks.

  • aarti

    i loved this article …………… i was always told as a child that i am dark and ugly and fat dat too by my own mother. It took a long time for me to come over it. wen finally started being myself again my bf said something about my lokks which has taken me to the debt of feeling upset and not wanted. I will try each and every step in this article to get back to myself.

  • Emily

    Thank you this helped me so much you have no idea. You are an amazing person truly (:
    xoxo