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

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 In addition, she enjoys life’s little things such as drinking tea and her tiny white dog.

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

  • 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

  • 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,

  • 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 (:

  • Jade Yap

    Thank you Emily, it will get better with practice and time, and you will grow into a stronger person that accepts yourself unconditionally. xx

  • Jade Yap

    Thank you Stephanie, it’s a path, a long path but we will get to a place of acceptance and contentment in the end 🙂 xx

  • Nobody Really

    I know exactly how you feel. I used to cry over the way I looked. I felt like people were so shallow and would always judge me based off my face and body, from boys to schoolteachers and even other girls and my family members. A woman’s beauty meant so much to everyone, even though it’s none of their business. Because of my low self-esteem, I didn’t take very good care of myself. I still feel the repercussions into today, but I’ve learned to accept that I should not compare myself to other people. I can only compare myself to who I was yesterday, and I must use a reasonable measuring stick. 🙂 Everyone has their own purpose in life, their own strengths and weaknesses. Instead of looking at what you don’t have, appreciate the wonderful things that you do. Everything else is just noise.

  • The mindfulness approach to body image is to search out those negative feelings (as opposed to our usual habit of avoidance and aversion to unpleasant feelings) and actually meditate on them. This does not mean indulging in the thoughts but rather learning to hold them in the sacred space of non-reactive loving consciousness. As I teach my students during online therapy sessions, think of these negative emotions as if they are children in pain. What do they really need? They need YOU, and that means your conscious and loving presence. This facilitates healing and change and allows these feelings to change and resolve and finally cease.
    Visit my profile to learn more about online mindfulness therapy for working with self-esteem and body image.

  • May

    I’m a bit behind, but this is a great article 🙂 do you think you could take the time to read my problem and recommend a more holistic way to get over it?
    I was bullied throughout school, almost every day, for being “ugly and fat”, my parents are very focused on looks and as a result I am obsessed with my looks. Pre-bullying, I never hated myself… but now, I obsess over my weight and wear a lot of make-up because I’ve found that people “accepted” me this way. Since age 16, I stopped leaving the house, except for absolutely necessary things, because I hated how I looked. I won’t let anyone see me without the war paint – my bf has never seen me without it once.
    I want to make peace with my body and not take every remark personally. For example, my bf’s mother is very tall, and she is always making remarks at how small I am (I don’t think I am – at 166cm) so what do I do? Look up ways to make myself taller, wear high heels at all times. I can’t just “let it go” like a normal person. Then I look at other girls who are taller and hate them!! I think, that because they’re taller, they’d be better for my boyfriend which sounds really nuts when I write it down – but it’s how unconfident I am.
    I think, that in the scheme of things, these are very stupid things to be sad about… but for me, having depression, anxiety and feeling the need to always look great so that people accept me – it is ruining my life. I have dreamed of going to uni, getting my own career…. but because of these issues I am in my mid 20’s with no education and a dead end job. I live with my parents too.
    Doctors don’t help and I avoid medication like the plague! So if you could kindly give me a few works of advice on how I can teach myself to not be so obsessed with my looks, to focus on the more important things in life… it’d be hugely appreciated! :)xxxx

  • As a mindfulness therapist, what I find essential in breaking free from obsessive thoughts like this is to work on changing your relationship to the thoughts themselves. The only thing that gives them power over you is that we tend to habitually identify with our thoughts instead of seeing them as just objects in the mind. You are not your thoughts.

  • May

    Thank you for your reply, Peter 🙂
    Yes you are right – thoughts are just objects in the mind. I find it hard to detatch myself from these thoughts though.
    My biggest problem, I think, is I am always comparing myself to others – especially on places on instagram and in real life. I never feel good enough! I don’t want my thoughts to control my life and I don’t know how to break the link between myself and my thoughts.

  • You have to learn how to detach from thoughts. We develop this ability through meditation on the thoughts themselves – learning to be present with them and watching the impulse to identify and become captured by the thought. Seeing that in detail and often trains us in becoming free from the thoughts. We learn how to develop balance by walking on the edge. Let me know if you ever want to book a Skype therapy session with me.

  • Sonya

    It’s funny, ’cause… a friend of mine took a picture of me on the last day of my volunteering, and I absolutely hated that photograph (I thought my face looked terrible), and that hatred brought me here, on this site. 😀 So I think I still have a lot of work to do at loving my appearance and myself in general… But anyway, volunteering was an amazing experience, and I’m looking forward to keeping doing that!

  • Michael

    Thank you for this beautiful post, Jade. The messages you share are a reflection of both beauty and strength. Inspiring stuff.

  • Victoria

    Hello I just want to say that this really inspired me and helped me. I am 18 years old, and the couple of jobs I had I started to save for the exact same reason. It was getting bad to the point where I didn’t even want to spend on food or clothes because I thought that money can go towards surgery. I use to be very very confident and I haven’t really changed appearance I was just thinner back then but its true its about how you want to feel. You get to choose to be confident or not. Now I am so insecure, it’s all I think about how I don’t like my features and if only this can look like this or that, it never ends. Anyways I am learning to just accept it and if I get to enhance a feature later, great if not so be it. 🙂 Thanks for this awesome post Jade! I am sure it has helped many and will continue to help many. Its great to know I am not in this alone.

  • The most effective way to feel good about yourself and your appearance is to find those very emotions of self-criticism and self-hatred and meditate on them. This means developing a conscious and compassionate relationship with the emotions themselves. The biggest mistake that most people make is that they become caught up in reactive aversion towards those emotions, which simply adds fuel to the fire. When you meditate on them properly, they lose their power and heal. This is called mindfulness-based resolution (dukkhanirodha in Pali).

    Peter Strong

    Boulder Center for Online Mindfulness Therapy

  • bella

    thank you so much for this. really. it really helped me. I can really relate to everything you’ve talked about in your youth. even though I’m 15 I’m having such a hard time trying to love myself and my body but thanks for getting me a jumpstart.

  • JM

    Thank you so much for writing this.

  • SighMN

    I’ve never liked what I looked like from when I was small boy. It is the one thing that ruins my relationships, once we become intimate, I start focusing on myself and how hideous I am and sabotage the relationship so the person doesn’t have to pretend to be attracted to me again. I’ve tried all those suggestions:

    1) I work out daily
    2) I am a psychiatrist, and I do a lot of good work for people, and I love my job
    3) I don’t know the root cause of why I hate my physical appearance, but I can tell you it is not directed at just one thing to fix.
    4) Nothing triggers my hatred towards myself other than when I’ve had intimate relations,

    I am writing this after I’ve been with the most supportive person who keeps reassuring me they find me attractive. Last night we had sex for the first time, and I woke up at 3 am, in cold sweats with my heart racing, and all I could think about is telling them I don’t think the relationship is working because I don’t think they are attracted to me. I pick up on small queues like them not watching me finish, or them closing their eyes a lot when with me. I always feel people may like me as a person, but just put up with how I look, and to me that isn’t good enough. I don’t know what to do as I’m 38, and it seems that this is worsening rather than getting better. So I should go through life avoiding all intimacy? In some ways I feel this is the only answer not to create the chaos internally when I do.

  • I would suggest that you begin to meditate on those feelings about yourself. Our biggest mistake is that we mindlessly identify with beliefs about our self. This is what we can change through mindfulness work and therapy.

  • Aaron SanMiguel

    Thank you so much for this. I have always been insecure about my looks, and when I look in the mirror I am always disappointed. I have dealt with bullied all my life and once I hit my teen years I always am putting myself down for how I look. I am 14 years old now, and I finally saw that I needed help to love myself. I think your advice is great and I know it will help. Thank you.

  • Tryingtoloveme4me

    I’ve never been satisfied with my looks. I really do hate it too. I don’t know what caused this but ever since I was 5 yrs old I never liked my looks. I always thought others were beautiful but me.

  • Kim1964

    What I have trouble with are the men I seem to like romantically finding young women with large breasts, long hair and make up done to the nines. High heels, short skirts and don’t seem to have a lot of depth. That makes it very difficult for me as an average looking woman to complete with. Yes, I said compete. How do I get past feeling “invisible” next to these females??

  • The important thing here is not to identify with those thoughts and practice breaking the habit of identification through meditation on those thoughts. See them as objects in you rather than YOU. The “invisible me” emotion existed long before these current thoughts and that needs your compassionate attention – again through meditation.

  • Sally

    I read all these types of articles but the next day I’m back to being conscious about the way I look. I had cystic acne when I was younger and it left me with old acne scars which made me have low self esteem and avoid relationships. I am alone today because of that. My aunt told my mum I needed therapy but my mum got annoyed and shut that down. I know I should seek professional help myself but the thought scares me. I have symptoms of OCD, unwanted thoughts and also think I may have BDD as I see myself as hideous. I get told I’m good looking but I just cannot see it? I also avoid as many social situations as I can because I feel not good enough. Its tough but I have my dog who is the only living thing I am relaxed around these days.

  • Tiffini

    Thankyou so much for this article. Very helpful <3

  • Sherlyn

    I’m close to being 18 and it’s hard to love myself I feel like I need to change my appearance just so I can be at peace.

  • M P

    I am 15 year old Indian female. I am tall skinny, long legs. I have NEVER felt insecure about my body. I just feel like I don’t know how to take care of myself and I am so insecure about it. I have many diseases such as bad hypothyroidism, hirsutism, etc. I have a ton of acne and I shave my face, nose, fingers, hands, toes, feet everyday. I honestly think I have beautiful features and I just dont know how to carry myself. I go to school looking like a homeless person. My parents don’t care about how I dress, just my grades. I just wish I could make use of what I have and be able to dress nice

  • 01010011001B

    why would i care what some nigger jungle bunny says, shes probably haggard and has boobs down to her knees

  • birta norman

    I’m crying right now. This is beautiful and has helped me realize some things about myself. Like you I have had self esteem issues for a number of years and honestly thought that with age they would simply ‘go away’. I also have become obsessed with plastic surgery because I believe it will make me a happier more attractive person, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore. I think the real reason is because I never felt good enough, i’ve always been plagued by strong anxiety and had severe panic attacks and behavioral problems growing up with caused an animosity towards my parents. I used to make my parents so upset that i recall them actually wanting to send me away to live with my grandparents for a year and i think that’s what hurt me the most is because my parents told me they didn’t want to have a child like me. And all my life i think that’s what shadowed this effect. My parents love me and we have a very strong relationship now, it’s just at the time there were things said that left very very deep emotional scars. so whenever I realize in some small aspect that i’m not perfect it draws me into a spiraling fit of self consciousness and I instantly hate how i look. I’ve talked to a therapist about this before, but It’s been a while since I have been and I think I need to start attending sessions again and taking care of myself better. Hopefully one day I will finally learn to love myself and reach my full potential. Thank you for sharing your experience that is very much like mine 😀

  • Ashley Morgan

    I think the most disturbing part to me is this… getting treated badly by other people because of how you look. Although I have fairly good self confidence, it still makes me sad every time people treat me as a weirdo, when I’ve done nothing wrong.

    Here’s what I’ve encountered regarding looks:
    Unless I spend an unreasonable amount of time on my hair & makeup, people are horrendously rude to me. I don’t mean just a little… I mean they act like I’m Patient Zero, walking among them with a communicable disease. They make it a point to sit several seats away from me in a public place, waitresses seat me at the very back table in restaurants, people stare at me with their jaw slightly agape, store clerks act very short with me and can’t wait to get rid of me.

    For quick errands, or visits to casual places, I quite often leave the house when I know I’m not looking like a glamour cover shot. I’m only wearing 1 layer of foundation, brow pencil and a simple sparkly lip gloss. I’m wearing my glasses, and my hair is in its naturally wavy state, with bangs tucked to the side. My clothes are always cute and fashionable – but I keep to mostly classic pieces that mix and match. Doesn’t sound horribly freakish, right? But for some reason it is.

    And I know for a fact that this is not all in my head, because numerous times, friends, family and boyfriend have been present to see the awful treatment I receive. After the awkward interaction, they will often comment with “geeze, what was her problem?” or “wow why was he so rude to you?” They all know that I’m generally a friendly, happy person. I’m very self-aware, and I treat everyone with respect and common courtesy – so they find it unfathomable when people treat me like yesterday’s trash. And it consistently happens, again and again…but only when I haven’t spent hours getting ready and perfecting the way I look.

    Just had to add my 2 cents, because it’s insanely frustrating how people judge based on physical appearance. I really don’t like having to feel obsessed with how I look, but in a world where intelligence and niceness seem to count for nothing, it’s tricky to ignore!