How to love yourself when deep down you feel ugly

You look in the mirror. Your face is staring back at you. You hate what you see.

When people try to take photos of you, you do your best to hide all your insecurities. Then you don’t post the photos anywhere – you barely even look at them, really – and feel uncomfortable when someone tags you.

You look at people with beautiful symmetrical features and think to yourself, “How freaking great it must be to be so gorgeous.”

You feel ugly. And seeing as people have a natural propensity to link beauty to goodness in their brains, you also find it hard to love yourself.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that everyone’s beautiful in their own way. While I do genuinely believe that, it’s probably not going to help you feel any better.

Here are 10 things that might, though.

1) Accept there’s a difference between objective aesthetic standards and the inherent nature of beauty

Objective standards exist.

If you look at a person with symmetrical facial features and luscious hair, you’ll consider them more beautiful than someone whose nose is crooked and whose eyes are a bit too far apart from each other.

As Justin Brown says in this eye-opening video, “Some human beings in society have more symmetry in their features.” He continues, “I’m not being a victim in the face of these statements. But I’m also not denying that they exist.”

YouTube video

He suggests that instead of telling ourselves we’re a 10 out of 10, we ought to accept how we look first and foremost.

The next step is to try out an exercise that opens your mind to a new way of viewing yourself. As Justin guides you through it, you’ll slowly realize that there is so much more to beauty than meets the eye – quite literally.

There is a difference between aesthetics and beauty. Because beauty isn’t just about how things appear; it’s also about how they act, think, and are.

What about the things you *do* is beautiful? What about the things you *say* to your friends is beautiful? What about your inner world is beautiful?

You aren’t just a body. You are so much more.

2) Learn from your love for others

“Alright, my mind’s beautiful. So what? This doesn’t mean anything.”

Doesn’t it, though?

Think of a person who isn’t super pretty and who you love with all your heart. Think of their smile. The sound of their laughter. The way they smell. The warmth you feel when you’re around them.

Would you ever call them ugly?

No. Because there is nothing ugly about how that person makes you feel. The connection you two have with each other is so very beautiful that it goes way beyond something as simple as aesthetic symmetry.

When I think of my mom, I think she’s beautiful. When I think of my best friend, I think she’s absolutely gorgeous. When I think of my partner, I think he’s the perfect representation of beauty in human form.

Do they all look completely breathtaking? Hardly. But it doesn’t matter. In my eyes, their beauty shines so brightly that it’s blinding.

Now it’s time to flip the narrative. Recognize that the people who love you view you in the exact same way you view them.

It’s not about your looks. It’s about what you mean to them.

3) Understand how sexual attraction works

Are people visual creatures? Yes.

But is your appearance the only thing that plays a role in sexual attraction? Not by far.

If we were all only attracted to objectively beautiful people, our species probably wouldn’t have survived for very long.

In fact, most of us aren’t drop-dead gorgeous, which also means that most of us can be sexually attracted to people who aren’t “all that”, objectively speaking.

So, what else plays a role?

Well, apart from psychological factors, such as a person’s values, opinions, and lifestyle – you know, all that fun stuff that makes you connect with someone on a deeper level – pheromones are incredibly important.

And how do pheromones spread? Through bodily fluids.

It’s not what you think. You don’t have to kiss someone just to be attracted to them. In reality, it’s much simpler than that – it’s all about sweat.

Yep, the way you smell can quite literally make or break the deal. And I’m not talking about how often you use a deodorant. I’m talking about genetics.

If two people smell really good to each other, it means that they are likely to produce strong offspring. Their hormones go nuts, and if they bond on a psychological level, too, they’re in love before you know it.

You don’t have to be objectively beautiful to be loveable. You’ve just got to find the right person. Once they’re in love with you, they’ll consider you the most gorgeous person on planet Earth because you’ve become special to them.

That’s all there is to it.

4) Nurture a romantic relationship with someone who lifts you up

The worst thing anyone can do is to be in a relationship with someone who brings them down – especially if you’re already insecure about your looks.

The person you fall for will play a huge role in most aspects of your life, your confidence included. Make sure you find someone who compliments you, tells you how attractive you are, and provides reassurance and emotional support if you feel down.

The same applies to you, though.

As Rudá Iandê says in his free masterclass The Art of Love and Intimacy, we tend to go into relationships with certain expectations in mind, and if your expectations of your partner or yourself are too high, you are likely to get in trouble.

Iandê’s masterclass has really opened my eyes to all the different ways in which our mental blocks get in the way of a thriving romantic relationship. If you want to develop a loving and authentic connection with both yourself and your partner, I wholeheartedly recommend watching his video.

Click here to access the free masterclass.

5) Connect with your roots

While we’re on the topic of romance, it’s time to acknowledge how much love was required for you to even exist and read these words in the first place.

When you look in the mirror and call yourself ugly, you are calling hundreds upon hundreds of ancestors the very same thing. Their features are inscribed on your face. Their blood’s flowing through your veins. Their willingness to love is the reason you’re alive.

The fact that you’re here means that hundreds of people fell in love with slightly altered versions of you. And if so many people can fall in love with each other’s beauty, how can they be ugly?

How can you – the result of so much love it’s impossible to put into words – be ugly?

Think about that.

6) Realize your body loves you

In her memoir Polite Lies: On Being a Woman Caught Between Cultures, Kyoko Mori describes that the Japanese often view the body as something simply functional.

Growing up as a middle-class Japanese girl, she was raised to perceive her body as a tool that allowed her to move through the world rather than a sexual object.

There’s some beauty to this approach. Personally, I’ve noticed that the moment I started working out in order to see what my body could do rather than to improve my looks was when I truly began to enjoy it.

And that’s because the inherent value of a body lies in what it *does* rather than how it *looks*.

Every day, your body fulfills thousands of functions just to keep you alive. Every day, it fights for you. Every day, it shows you love.

In return, it gets insults and demeaning remarks. It doesn’t seem very fair, does it?

Your body didn’t choose to look this way, either. All it does is try its best to keep you on this beautiful planet.

In a way, it’s a miracle that we can all exist and move around in squishy vessels of life. It is in our humanity that we’re awe-inspiring.

7) Remember that your looks don’t determine your worth

How valuable is attractiveness, really?

Sure, it makes life a bit easier. Sure, it means you probably have fewer insecurities and find it less difficult to feel confident.

But if we look at value through the lens of merit, objective beauty isn’t very valuable at all. It’s something you’re born with. I mean, would you come up to someone born into a rich family and tell them, “Wow! It is so admirable how rich you are!”

Not really. The conditions we’re born into are pure luck, and beauty isn’t any different.

What you do and how you act, though…those things are worth so much more. It matters whether or not you choose to be kind. It matters if you decide to make a difference in the world. It matters how you treat your family and friends.

That pimple on your chin? Not so much.

8) Switch your social media feed to body-positivity content

Let’s move on to some practical tips, shall we?

Social media is a blessing in disguise. Once you realize its power, it can be tremendously helpful – but you need to get yourself out of the rut first.

Unfollow influencers who make you feel worse about yourself. Follow the ones that promote body positivity and that keep it real. I can’t even describe the profound impact this change has had on me in recent years.

I used to have a myriad of insecurities that no longer trouble me. I used to always care about how I looked on social media, and now I don’t really give a damn. And it’s so very liberating.

What you allow in your social media bubble can drastically influence how you view yourself.

Make sure the content you consume lifts you up.

9) Learn about the history of ideal body shapes

It’s kind of crazy to think about, but the ideal body shape has been constantly changing throughout history – especially in the last hundred years.

It seems as if we transformed a body – something that we only have limited control over – into a fashion trend. And as each new trend rises and disappears, we feel worse and worse about ourselves because we can’t keep up.

In the 1950s, we wanted women to have rounded silhouettes. In the 1960s and 70s, though, we suddenly demanded a thinner and more youngish look. 1980s inspired the athletic craze, and 2020s revel in lip fillers.

You just can’t win. And what do we do when we can’t win? We create our own victories. We learn to love ourselves as we are.

Your body isn’t supposed to shift and fluctuate depending on some fleeting trends in society.

It’s supposed to let you explore the world in all its beauty, and the possibilities it provides are of the utmost value.

10) Practice positive affirmations

I know what you’re probably thinking.

“Blah, blah, blah. Telling myself I’m beautiful won’t make me beautiful.”

That’s not how positive affirmations work, though. They’re not about telling yourself things you don’t believe or magically changing your life for the better.

Positive affirmations aim to reconfigure your brain. Thanks to neuroplasticity, thinking positive thoughts over and over again will strengthen neural pathways that support those thoughts, which will in turn motivate you to shift your mindset in the long term.

In other words, you’ll learn to love yourself as you are.

But here’s the catch: positive affirmations require nuance. If you don’t think you look like a model, don’t tell yourself you’re the next Miss Universe.

Try these affirmations instead:

“I am learning to be kind to myself.”

“Every day, I am becoming more at peace with how I look.”

“I accept that there is more to beauty than physical appearance.”

“Each day, I love myself more and more.”

It may be hard at first, I’m not going to lie. But as a seasoned practitioner, I can tell you that the long-term benefits of positive affirmations are so very worth it.

Because at the end of the day, beauty is bigger than just aesthetics; it’s bigger than sexual attraction; it’s bigger than your weight or a pimple on your shoulder or a crooked nose.

Beauty is in everything. Which means it’s in you, too.

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