The psychology behind why you dislike photos of yourself.
Hands up.....Do you experience a cringe-worthy feeling when you come across pictures of yourself?
Have you convinced yourself that you never look good in photos?
Do you ask yourself why do I hate pictures of myself?
Ok, you can put your hands down now because it's a very common feeling.
Even if you feel confident while posing for the picture, the end result might have you focusing on your perceived flaws. Your double chin, muffin top or bingo wings. Here's the reassuring truth: a study revealed that nearly 75% of people dislike being photographed or believe they don't look good in photos. Some even think they don't photograph well.
Have you ever noticed a friend's photo that you thought looked amazing, only to find out that she was hyper-critical of herself? Many of us feel the same. I asked my Facebook friends to share their thoughts. I got comments like this: "I'm the least photogenic person ever. I never feel very comfortable. I try and smile as I usually would, but the photos never look good, most of the time they're even worse than I think I look.
Reading such comments makes me sad, to be honest, I used to feel the same way too. I used to hate photos of myself. So I decided to try and find out why people dislike looking at pictures of themselves, and what I discovered surprised me. It turns out that the psychology behind this goes beyond self-confidence or comparing ourselves to unrealistic beauty standards.
Life's too short to shy away from taking or appreciating pictures of ourselves, and there's another really compelling reason why some of us should learn to embrace our photos: the comfort they bring to loved ones. When we're no longer around, photographs of us serve as a source of comfort for those left behind.
So, let's explore why body image is important and how our brains trick us into disliking our own images in photographs.
That was me...always sticking my tongue out spoil the picture do you do that if you're feeling bad about yourself?
The Eyes: Familiarity and Perception
Let's talk about familiarity. Generally, we tend to prefer people, objects, or products we are familiar with. For example, do you always reach for the same brand of tea or chocolate when you're out shopping?
Considering this, you might assume that since we constantly see our own faces in the mirror, we would enjoy seeing pictures of ourselves as well, right? Well, not exactly. The issue lies in the fact that the face we see in the mirror isn't our true face (the one everyone else sees). It's a mirror image. Therefore, the reflection we see differs from how the rest of the world sees us, including the image we perceive when looking at a photograph of ourselves.
The truth is, we aren't truly familiar with our own face because we have always seen a reversed version of it. Additionally, our faces are asymmetrical, which further adds to the confusion when viewing non-mirrored images of ourselves.
The exposure effect, introduced by psychologist Robert Zajonc, explains that people tend to react more favourably to things they are accustomed to seeing. So, it makes sense that we typically prefer the mirrored image of ourselves, the image we're accustomed to seeing. When we come across an unmirrored image, such as a photograph, it appears unfamiliar and slightly odd to us.
Interestingly, while we prefer the mirrored image of ourselves, the rest of the world prefers the non-mirrored image. A study conducted in the 1970s showed individuals two images of themselves: one actual photograph and one mirror image of their face. The study found that people consistently preferred the mirror image of themselves. However, it also revealed that friends and family of these individuals consistently preferred the true image of the person. That's why mobile phone developers created mirror-reversal, catering to the preference of the selfie-taker—the person who prefers their mirrored image.
When we look in the mirror, we usually stand in the same spot, becoming accustomed to seeing ourselves from the same perspective and angle. Consider the quick mirror check you do before leaving the house. I bet you always examine the same side and angle. Consequently, when we see ourselves from a different angle or perspective—how others perceive us, such as in a photograph, it comes as a surprise.
Have you ever experienced that moment when someone close to you made a significant change in their appearance, like shaving off a moustache, and you didn't notice it immediately? This happens because your brain takes a shortcut and "sees" what it expects to see instead of exerting additional energy to truly observe the change.
The same phenomenon occurs when we look in the mirror. We typically focus on a specific part of our reflection and fail to see the rest of our appearance. However, when we look at a photograph, it presents a comprehensive image, revealing details we may have overlooked in the mirror.
The Illusion of Enhanced Attractiveness
Now if you're reading this, and you know me, this might appear totally wrong. Bear with me; because there are people who think like it!
The tendency to believe we are more attractive than we actually are.
When we contemplate our own appearance, we often fall victim to a bias known as self-enhancement. This bias leads us to evaluate our own traits and abilities more favourably than they are. In 2008, a study was conducted that involved showing people photographs of themselves. However, the participants were not only shown unaltered pictures but also pictures that had been manipulated to make them appear more or less attractive (achieved by morphing their pictures with those of attractive or unattractive individuals). People consistently chose the attractively manipulated photographs of themselves!
This self-enhancement bias could explain why we tend to dislike pictures of ourselves. Since we perceive ourselves as more attractive than we truly are, the reality of our genuine appearance disappoints us.
Confirmation Bias: When Your Self-Hatred Prevails
After posing my question on Facebook and getting the answer "I hate photos of myself' I know there will be a lot of people who agree with this one. Psychological bias comes into play when we scrutinise pictures of ourselves. It's the bias that reinforces your dislike for yourself.
Confirmation bias refers to our tendency to seek and interpret information that aligns with our pre-existing beliefs. Naturally, we want to be right! Therefore, we tend to gravitate towards information that confirms what we already think.
Since you believe that you always appear awkward/ugly/fat/old in front of a camera and you always look bad in photos, you subconsciously search for evidence that supports this belief. Lightbulb moment....
This topic very close to my heart. I really enjoyed researching and understanding why so many of us hate how we look in photos. If you feel bad about yourself and you'd like to learn more, or take the first steps to learning how to like those photos, I have a wonderful book "Three Step To Love You". If you'd like a copy you can click on the link and download it now.