5 Things to Remember When You Feel Disgusted by How You Look

“Your face will change. Your body will change. The only kind of beauty that endures is the kind that lives in your heart.” ~Lori Deschene

How many times have you hidden away from the world when you felt ashamed by your appearance?

How many invitations have you turned down because you felt disgusted by the way you look?

And how many times have you gazed into the bathroom mirror and thought, “Why, in my brief existence on this planet, does it have to be me?”

Seeing your reflection in the mirror is like a physical pain. It’s not just one part of your life. It’s obsessive. It consumes your every waking moment.

Then you start feeling envy toward beautiful people. Wrath at whatever higher being there is for not making you one of them. Pride in your strengths whenever you see someone who looks worse than you. Self-loathing and blaming your treacherous genes for giving you an odd face, an imperfect shape, a visible health condition.

For me, it was my skin.

I was cursed by a chronic illness that regularly causes rashes all over my body, and sometimes even on my face.

I can’t count how many times I cried over it. Sometimes from the pain. Sometimes from the itch. Too many times from people’s looks of revulsion or their unkind words.

The borderline shallowness of many people who never bothered to open a book whose cover they didn’t like was painful and grating.

My insecurity was like an open wound and my self-esteem was at rock bottom. I felt like a target, a second-class citizen with few rights to have dreams, hopes, or success.

I perfected the art of avoiding mirrors and cameras, bought extra clothes to cover my skin, and learned how to keep my head down to avoid eye contact. I was terrified of social situations and worried that people would look at me in disgust.

Every single comment could shatter my fragile confidence.

The hopelessness and soul-crushing feeling of not looking pretty enough made me want to roll the duvet over my head in the mornings and not come out.

Thinking that you’ll never be happy because of your looks is the most gut-wrenching thing. It’s isolating. It’s maddening. It’s frustrating and a thousand other things.

We’re living in an appearance-saturated society that tells us that our likeability is dependent on being attractive. The diet culture, beauty industry, media—they all convey that beauty equals perfection.

In today’s digital age, it’s easy to create a façade with carefully chosen photos and posts that lie through omission.

But deep down, you know the truth.

You can’t ignore it.

The world doesn’t let you.

Advertisements and magazine covers all remind you of how imperfect you are. Beauticians love to point out your flaws to sell you more products.

It’s not until you decide to wear your imperfect look as a form of armor that you become comfortable in your own skin. People’s looks no longer intimidate you. Hurtful words don’t steal your sleep. You fall in love with yourself.

It’s a journey toward acceptance. And the journey is liberating.

We all face challenges in accepting who we are and how we look. But the truth is that, cliché as it may sound, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

It’s not what’s on the surface. It’s what’s inside you.

Here are some of the things that helped me on my journey toward self-acceptance.

1. You can make peace with the parts of you that you hate.

Accepting that you don’t like everything about your body is the first step toward having a more positive frame of mind. It’s about acknowledging that you may feel “meh” about some parts of your body, but not letting that stop you from doing things you want to do.

You’re probably thinking, “Yeah, right, but what about my stomach pooch?”

Well, what about it? It’s there. You’re not perfect, and that’s okay.

Often we forgo pleasure because we feel we don’t deserve it. Somehow simple parts of living become unobtainable “rewards.” Maybe you won’t let yourself hit the beach unless you get into a certain shape, or you can’t get married unless you drop the weight, or maybe you can’t buy new clothes until you’re a few pounds lighter.

It sounds crazy when you say it out loud, but that’s how a lot of us think.

So be kind to yourself. Be gentle and remind yourself of all the other things that you love about yourself.

Give yourself permission to accept that some parts of your body may not be your favorite thing. You won’t always love every part of your body. However, you can still love your life even on the days you can’t love your belly.

You’re certainly not alone in your struggle toward body acceptance. I could give you a laundry list of things I don’t like about my body.

However, this is the body you were given. It’s the only body you were given. So it might be time to make peace with it.

2. Everyone feels unattractive at times.

We all have moments of weakness when we view everything through a negative filter, and the voice in our head becomes critical and unloving. Times when we feel ugly and unattractive. All of us. You. Me. Your best friend.

Days when you look at yourself in the mirror and don’t see anything positive. You don’t see the loving spouse, the caring mother, the wonderful son, the understanding friend. You don’t see the wisdom in old age wrinkles, the power in stretch marks, and the beauty in your body curves.

Instead, you just see . . . blah. Gross. Unlovable. Disgusting.

In those moments of self-doubt, pause and ask yourself these questions: Is my mood affecting the way I’m feeling about my looks? Have I been getting enough sleep and fresh air? Have I been eating well and moving my body frequently? Self-care is so important because your mirror image is simply a manifestation of your positive energy.

3. Media-defined ideals of beauty aren’t real.

For years, the world of media has been trying to construct a sparkling image of what an ideal man and an ideal woman should look like. From television shows to commercials to magazine advertisements to celebrity culture, mainstream media has been reinforcing the notion that you only look beautiful if you have a toned body, perfect hair, and flawless skin.

But the reality is that you just don’t.

Why? Because the image of perfection doesn’t exist. It’s superficial. It’s unattainable. Even models themselves don’t look like their photoshopped, heavily edited images. No wonder you come up short whenever you compare yourself to celebrities and models on magazine covers.

The pressure of looking perfect weighs you down. You begin to think that you aren’t beautiful enough, are too fat, too small, too whatever. All that to say that you’re not good enough.

That’s, at least, what the beauty industry wants you to believe. If you feel inadequate about your looks, you’re more likely to buy whatever fix the ads are selling. Making you uncomfortable with your body sells – whether it’s a weight loss plan, fashion, or a beauty product.

Are you going to change society’s definition of beauty? No. However, you can change your own. Don’t focus on the beauty you see in ads; focus on the beauty you see in the real-life people you admire.

4. Your reflection doesn’t define you.

The sum of who you are—your thoughts, beliefs, hopes, dreams, feelings—is much greater than what meets the eye of an observer who doesn’t know you. All those things about you are the force that draws others to you.

You might have heard the saying that an ugly personality destroys the face. Well, I happen to agree with that 100 percent.

Sometimes you hear somebody speak with kindness and compassion, and you perceive them as beautiful. However, it’s not their outer appearance you’re drawn to. It’s their inner depth, a kind of beauty that can’t be inherited, photoshopped, or surgically attained.

I know many people who aren’t the most attractive, but their energy, joy, and positivity is so contagious that it’s hard not to have them around.

So think about what brings you joy. Do things you like. Make your self-esteem contingent on inner, not outer, qualities. After all, a positive attitude brings more friendships than looks do.

5. Your perception becomes your reality.

If you feel beautiful, it will transcend your physical attributes.

Think about the story you’re living right now. Did you consciously decide to create it, or was it shaped by your parents, your friends, or perhaps even the media?

From the time you were born, you’ve received both positive and negative messages from your surroundings. All those messages create your belief system. You act on those messages as if they’re true until you believe them to be true. They become your reality. They give you your identity.

Every time you say “I am,” you are telling a story about yourself. When your story takes on a life of its own, you become it. But who wrote that story? And why is there so much criticism and low self-esteem in there?

Rewrite it. Take control of the pen and write the story you want.

Let Yourself Be You

Next time you notice that inner critic of yours attacking your appearance, catch it.

Take a deep breath and ask yourself if you can release it.

I’m not talking about making it spit out positive, self-loving affirmations that don’t feel authentic and real to you. I’m talking about the soft, embracing energy of acceptance.

I’ve learned to cultivate self-worth apart from my appearance. I take pride in my talents, skills, intelligence, and caring heart. When my perfectionist self wants to critique not only my appearance, but also everything I do, I remind myself of those qualities.

When you open up to all parts of yourself, you will feel lighter. As you rewrite your story and let yourself be you, the many facets of your beautiful self will shine.

It’s a practice of making peace with what is. And you can make it happen within yourself.

It’s an ongoing journey that feels liberating.

About Petra Scott

Petra Scott is a registered nutritionist and fitness coach who helps women build a foundation of wholesome eating to create a strong self-image. Download her free worksheet, What Attracts People to Each Other & How to Increase Your Own Attractiveness.

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  • Thomas R

    That’s a great article. I can tell you put your heart into that one. Perhaps someone like myself will find internal strength and encouragement as well. You did right.

  • Petra Scott

    Thank you so much for the encouraging words, Thomas!

  • Aelio

    Thank you for this… Today I was staring at myself in the mirror and basically gave myself a headache… I know I need to work on self acceptance… I spend 8 hours a day at a job I’m not happy with, around people that don’t really talk to me (of course now I don’t really care to talk to them either), and it makes things difficult. I have a desk job and some days I’m not given much to do so I just get to sit in an uncomfortable office for 8 hours day in and day out. I try my best not to think too much and remain in the present but it can be quite difficult at times. I’m a programmer as well so trying not to be analytical can be difficult when my job basically requires it. I listed quite a few excuses for my unhappiness, I do have a fairly good understanding of what I need to do, today like many others was just not so great. So thank you for writing this, the timing of these articles really surprise me sometimes. Most the time reading articles on here is what calms me down and keeps me sane.

  • Kathy Fergan Hagler

    Thank you thank you!! It was spot on and is exactly how I feel. I never realized how awful I was treating myself…thank you thank you!!

  • Jennifer Muldoon

    Truly could not have come to me at a better time. I’ve been battling this self-loathing since I’ve gained weight this past year and it truly has reflected onto every other part of my life. I’m a woman obsessed-constantly thinking about my weight and letting in define me. Thank you for this Petra (awesome name btw).

    “If you feel beautiful, it will transcend your physical attributes” LOVE that!!

  • lilknaap

    The timing of this article couldn’t have come at a better time, as I was just talking to my friend about my inability to have a girl friend because of my looks (crushed by severe acne). It feels right to have a flow of good thoughts and positive outlook towards life, but reality is quiet different: straight to the point and harsh.
    The moment I start to feel free and confident about myself, there is someone out there punching right into my face. Can you imagine, holding the hands of a dancing partner at a beginners class, who would rather look at passer by making faces rather than listen to what I say. I’am 28 yrs and have asked out only 2 girls till now (at 20 and more recently, 28). Do note that I asked them out just for a small cup of Coffee. Both the girls blew me off citing specifically my “looks”. Either something is wrong with me or the whole world is blind not able to see my inner quality, which forces me to conclude that love is for the beautiful and/or the rich! People on a popular forum pointed me to something known as “red pill” group. Why? Because I had an opinion from experience. It’s all a game of manipulating situation to suits ones own selfish motives. A few thoughts that keep recurring: cover it with a plastic cover, burn my face, pour some acid so that I can hide it within some beautiful vanetian masks? Friends and society as a whole have let me down 🙁 I don’t know if I will ever be able to have positive outlook towards life like you. Although, I will try to.

  • Petra Scott

    Ahh, weight gain. That is a topic very dear to my heart (since I struggled with anorexia for several years (until my mid-twenties). I am glad some of the words resonated with you. Thank you so much for your comment. Jennifer!

  • Petra Scott

    Thank you for sharing your personal story, Aelio. Hearing other people’s thoughts and frustrations is always a good reminder that we are not alone in this.

  • Petra Scott

    Thank you so much for your comment Kathy! I am glad it was helpful 🙂

  • ShaunTheCHB

    It’s very interesting how self love comes from within, yet it is impossible for some to find. I am someone who curses my appearance and hates the way I look. I have tried for nearly a decade to find other things about myself that I love….I have come up with nothing. I’m really glad you are able to do that for yourself Petra, what I don’t understand though is HOW you did it. There must be a way or a method to figure it out. I do have hobbies I like, but they don’t change my opinion of myself. I could simply accept my appearance, but that does not mean I will be happy with it. I’ll just be like “Yep, I’m ugly, there you go, I don’t like it but I’m stuck with it”. Maybe I just crave perfection and am not satisfied with what is……I’m not sure. I don’t know anymore.

  • ShaunTheCHB

    I admire that you will try to remain positive. That takes courage to do that.

  • Petra Scott

    I am so sorry to hear about your pain. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your story. Skin conditions are SO hard to deal with. I only say that because I have been through it. Not acne particularly, but eczema. Know that you’re not alone in this although it may feel like it.

  • Aelio

    I’m sorry to hear about your struggles, try not to lose hope though. Relationships really aren’t a game of manipulation, some people can be manipulative but that’s not what relationships or love is about at all. You should define for yourself what Relationships mean to you. Think about how you would like to be treated, and how you would treat your significant other. Make sure you’re needs are being met as well as hers, that’s a good relationship.
    There are many things you can try for acne, all hope is not lost. One thing I would like to recommend, I’m not sure if it would work for you or not but have you tried Salt Water? Dead Sea Salt to be exact. Mix some with water and use that to clean your face. There are many minerals in it that are good for your skin. I seriously, highly recommend you look into this if you have not already. I use dead sea salt myself to help keep some dermatitis on my scalp from flaring up till I get to the root cause of why I have it in the first place. Doctor’s gave me some chemical shampoo and told me I’d have to use it for the rest of my life. I found out about Dead Sea Salt and haven’t used that shampoo at all, so glad about that. Dead Sea Salt has been used to treat all kinds of skin conditions.
    At the end of the day I think you may just need to take some time to research some possible solutions to your unique situation. Maybe you’ve tried everything, sometimes even spending all the time researching can kind of drive you crazy. Try to go about it in a loving/accepting way if you can. Also, do you steam your face at all? Try steaming your face by getting a pan of boiling water and sitting over it with a towel over your head so you get all the steam. It will open your pores and allow you to clean your face better. Also, try Egg White mask… Use egg whites and toilet paper and make basically paper mache out of your face… it sounds goofy but egg whites are great for your complexion. Egg whites also will shrink your pores making it harder for dirt to get in there and makes your skin look nicer.
    I promise you, if you steam your face and use Egg White mask, you will notice a difference in your skin. I can’t say your acne will be cured but it will definitely be smoother. So please don’t lose hope, please try the things I mentioned or do a little research yourself. I would recommend getting into natural remedies and try to stay away from harsh chemicals and cleaners. Some may work but I just feel natural is the way to go. Your skin is the largest organ in your body, it’s nature like you are. Eating a cleaner diet may help too and if you are generally stressed out, take some time to work on that as well. Sometimes skin issues are an outside sign of an inward problem… I hope some of this will help you.

  • Ushma

    I can finally relate to an article about feeling ugly because it’s not about weight but about face. There have been countless number of times when I have broken down crying in front of the mirror, or cancelled an invitation to go somewhere because I severely dislike my face….I have not been able to come in terms with feeling ‘ugly’. I have a question though- What if you’re unable to accept your flaws? What if you’re not insecure because of the media but you’re insecure because you genuinely feel ugly? I would love to hear your thoughts on this

    Thank you for writing this article

  • lilknaap

    Thank you for your kind words.

  • Petra Scott

    Thank YOU!

  • Emma Stimson

    Thank you for this article. It has resonated with me as I am in recovery from body dysmorphic disorder. I have made a lot of progress but my journey is ongoing. I was considered by my peers (especially males) as unattractive in my mid teens. I am now considered attractive (from my early 20s due to a good diet and exercise program, makeup, clothing – not natural beauty!) It has taken me until my mid thirties and a recent relationship break up to realise that a woman is only treated more favorably for being physically attractive on a very superficial level. Although I still enjoy looking my best, since working more on my inner self I have experienced more joy out of life than any makeup, clothing or Botox can buy.

  • Petra Scott

    This is so spot on, Emma! It’s so sad, but true. I am so glad you found your inner beauty 🙂

  • Petra Scott

    Hi Ushma, thank you so much for your question! I had to take a few days to really think about your question. It’s a tough one. You know, I really think that it comes down to realizing that beauty isn’t about the physical. Once you believe this, you’ll see beauty everywhere. Sure, attractive people may have some “advantages” when it comes to building relationships. However, these advantages disappear pretty quickly. Remember – it’s not your looks that attract people to you; it’s your energy, vibration, character … looks fade whereas positive and compassionate actions affect people for a lifetime. I hope it helps a little bit 🙂

  • Tanner

    This is incredibly well written. I could relate to so many of your thoughts. Thank you so much!

  • Petra Scott

    I’m glad it helped 🙂

  • Wow, I needed this article! I am FINALLY beginning to accept my stomach pooch. For years I had been determined to annihilate it with healthier eating and regular exercise, but it’s still hanging in there, though a bit smaller. I have stretch marks galore, but they’ve never bothered me! I see them as tiger stripes, a maternal badge of honor. I’ll immediately refer to myself as a tiger lady and/or roar playfully when I address my stretch marks to others.

    But why haven’t I ever been that enthusiastic and positive about my pooch? Because I never saw it as a badge of honor, a swag bag gifted by motherhood.

    When I’ve heard people complain about their pre-baby body, I’m thankful for my post-baby body, since I felt I didn’t bear a more “womanly” figure prior. So, with that, I realize that the extra weight couldn’t all settle on the socially acceptable “desirable” parts of me. That I must take the good with the bad, though I’ve now realized it’s not that bad after all.

    As continue to eat better and keep fit, it’ll no longer be to kill the pooch; it’ll be out of self respect for my body and life. Cheers!

  • I’d love it if you had some worksheets/inspirational pictures or to-do list of actionable things we can do to exercise all of these! For the time being, I’m taking out my journal to write out the negative thoughts I have in my head and I’m going to combat them.

  • Frazer McLeod

    Can I just say thanks so much for this article. It’s really insightful. Also, you are beautiful both inside and out. The best thing I took from this is that you can really choose to tell your story however you want and that true beauty is in the heart 🙂 Many thanks, Frazer.

  • Kijin

    well this hits too close to home. i’ve been hating my body type and mental health since i was 8. my physical health has worn away too. i’m better now than i was in high school but it won’t go away. thing is, as refreshing as this advice is, the type of self-loathing that comes from depression, personality disorders, or eating disorders (especially) are nearly incurable w/o help. ED’s are almost always a lifelong struggle. it’s good to recognize self-loathing as a possible symptom of a bigger problem.

  • randy

    cannot re call my password , when I tried to sign in , it said my email address was already taken. ?? hello. this is me . better not be some one else with my email address.

  • randy

    wow . if depression can be anger turned inward. trying to sign in is depressing me,

  • JoJo Corrales

    Beautifully written! “However, this is the body you were given. It’s the only body you were given. So it might be time to make peace with it.” I read that 10x to myself! 🙂
    Thank you!

  • Ushma

    I have learned to find beauty in everything and I love life and I think I’m usually a very positive person. And I totally agree with you- there’s more to beauty than just physical appearance. I’m going to try and not focus on how I feel about the way that I look and focus more on the good things in life 😀

    Thank you for writing back. 🙂

  • Aelio

    I replied to your post a while back but my post was too long apparently and was detected as spam. I went into my profile and stated it wasn’t but that was months ago and it’s still not here. I wrote a lot in my reply but I basically wanted to tell you to try Dead Sea Salt and try making an egg white mask with toilet paper. Both are very good for your skin. You can do your own research on it. I provided a lot of detail for you in my post but I guess that’s not a good thing on tiny Buddha so I have to keep things short or you’ll never hear what I have to say.

  • lilknaap

    Thanks for your suggestions and follow up. Believe it or not, I actually did a egg white+toilet paper mask today (before reading your comment). Such a serendipity! Acne has reduced to some extent, but it has left back very deep scars., all over my face. It is so annoying that my dermatologist told me that she wouldn’t do a laser treatment because of my skin color. I have no idea, how am I gonna reduced these scars 🙁

  • I am so sorry for such a late reply. Thank you for the kind words!

  • So sorry for the late reply. Thank you so much for the kind words, Frazer!