We all have days where we wince when we glance in a mirror.
Feeling “ugly” now and then is part of the human experience, and if you’ve been feeling particularly unattractive lately, know that you’re not alone.
Rather than invalidating how you’re feeling, let’s look at some of the reasons why you may be feeling this way.
1. You see unrealistic ideals everywhere.
No matter what type of media you look at—social media, films, TV shows, magazines, and so on—you’ll be exposed to esthetics that simply aren’t real.
Many of the celebrities you see regularly have had cosmetic surgery. Furthermore, almost everyone in front of a camera is slathered in makeup, and they are wearing shapewear underneath their clothes. Not to mention, the pictures are later photoshopped like you wouldn’t believe.
Additionally, now that AI-generated images are becoming more prevalent, some of the models you see in ads aren’t even real people, and thus have esthetics that are literally unattainable.
Do the people you know in real life look anything like those you see on TV? Furthermore, do the people you know in real life look the same as they do when using Instagram or TikTok filters?
No, they don’t.
They have acne and scars, creases and lines, features that would be considered too large, too small, too fat, too thin, too pale, too dark, or otherwise falling outside the lines of the “ideal.”
If you’ve been feeling ugly because you don’t look like the people you idolize the most, do yourself a favor and look up their “before” photos. This could be before and after photoshop or plastic surgery, or even simply without makeup.
Seeing how these folks look without thousands of dollars’ worth of work or hours of photo retouching may help readjust your perspective.
Just look at how different the following people look before and after some work:
2. You’re just not photogenic.
Some people are startlingly photogenic, while others are not. If you don’t like the way you look in photos, that simply means that you don’t photograph well—not that you’re ugly or that there’s something wrong with you.
You can have a drop-dead gorgeous person who ends up looking like a wildebeest in every photo that’s taken of them, and that’s solely because their features don’t translate well to a two-dimensional image.
Remember that in the “real world,” we are three-dimensional (3D) beings. In contrast, photos are 2D. That’s an entire lost dimension, and some people simply aren’t photogenic at all.
You may have noticed that certain camera angles are more flattering than others. Then you have to take into account lighting and distance. Try working with different types of lighting and camera angles until you find a way to capture your divine essence in a way that works best for you.
Another thing to remember is that for most of your life, your perception of yourself has been the person you see in the mirror. This may surprise you, but that isn’t how you look in real life.
This is because a mirror is a flipped image of you: literally your mirror image. What you see as being on your left side is actually on your right, and vice versa.
As such, when you see photos of yourself that look different from the mirror reflection you’re so used to, you may feel uncomfortable about it. That person may be unfamiliar and strange to you, since it looks kind of like you, but not the version that you see several times a day.
The 2D nature of photos can flatten and distort features that look rather lovely in reality. Don’t let the negative illusion that photos show you dampen your spirit.
3. You don’t get as much attention from others as your friends do.
If you find that you consistently don’t get as much attention or romantic interest from people as your friends do, the reason may be quite different from what you assume.
Let’s say you’re out with a group of friends and you end up hanging out with some new people. Attraction might be pinging around in all directions, but while everyone is being flirty with one another, you’re left watching the crowd or staring into your drink.
As a result, you might think that you’re too ugly to capture others’ interest, or that there’s something “wrong” with you. In reality, the people you’re hanging out with might be intimidated by you and put their energy toward the easier targets instead.
A couple of years ago, I reconnected with someone I had known back in high school. He and I chatted a bit and shared some memories from those days, and he admitted that he’d always had a crush on me back then.
I asked him why he had never said anything—in fact, at the time, he had ignored me and even made occasional snide comments.
He said he assumed that I would have turned him down, so he preempted the potential sting of rejection by rejecting me first. It was easier for him to not bother trying than risk failing, and then feeling humiliated.
This could very well be one of the reasons why you aren’t being pursued the same way your peers are. While you’re sitting there thinking that you’re ugly, the reality may be that others find you intimidating and go for lower-hanging fruit instead.
On a similar note:
4. You compare yourself to others.
One of the most damaging things that any person can do is compare themselves to others.
No two people have ever been the same, and thus can never be measured up against one another. Not even your identical twin, if you have one.
As a result, there is no fairness in attempting to compare one with another.
Consider the garden metaphor here. Every plant in a garden is exquisite in its own way, and as such, can’t be compared.
Someone might look at a rose and a milk thistle side by side and decide that the latter is ugly. Why would they think that? Both have thorns, both have blossoms, and both have medicinal properties that can work wonders for a person’s health.
These biases are learned over time. If you were to show a child the two plants, they’d simply see two different flowers and appreciate them for their individual attributes. Maybe if we can appreciate ourselves (and each other) as we are, rather than trying to be what we aren’t, we’d all have better self-esteem.
5. Your esthetic choices don’t suit you.
A person’s haircut or color and clothing choices can either flatter or mar their appearance. Quite simply, each of us has a range of styles that look amazing on us, and others that make us look like boiled potatoes.
If you feel like you’re ugly or unattractive, consider changing things up a bit. Have you had the same hairstyle for years? Or do you only wear black clothing?
Certain colors can make one person look washed out or unhealthy while making another look vibrant, and styles that suit one body type may be completely unflattering on another.
If you’re so inclined, take an online quiz to determine which hues suit you the best. You may discover that the hues you’ve been wearing for years are poorly suited to your skin or eye color.
After you do that, take a look at your wardrobe and determine whether your clothes make you feel great about yourself or fill you with self-loathing.
The main problem with store-bought items is that they’re designed for one particular body shape. If you aren’t shaped like the mannequins that they’re draped over, they’re simply not going to look the same on you.
Consider doing some color and clothing consultations with a professional stylist. You may discover that certain hues look amazing on you, while others don’t do you any favors.
Similarly, your current hairstyle may detract from your best features instead of enhancing them. Stylists can also help you choose clothes in fabrics and styles that you love, but in cuts that best suit your body type.
You’d be amazed at how a few esthetic adjustments can make you feel amazing about yourself.
6. You’re going through a lot.
Many of us compartmentalize our emotions when we go through difficulty. This means that we’ll pack up and tuck away a lot of what we’re feeling because we have neither the time, nor energetic bandwidth, to deal with it.
While this can help you get through tough times, it isn’t an ideal technique: those emotions pile up and can end up wreaking more havoc than we realize.
You see, those emotions don’t simply sit neatly in a back closet until we’re ready to unpack them. Instead, they’re rather like cardboard boxes filled with soup, which will leak out into different areas when we least expect them to.
As a result, the emotions you feel about one situation may manifest in other ways. For example, if you’re having relationship issues that you can’t bear to face or resolve right now, you may fixate on some aspect of your physical appearance instead.
Rather than acknowledging that there’s something big and important that needs to be fixed, you might believe that you look haggard or that you’re downright hideous.
In reality, you may be suffering from depression or other emotion-fueled health issues, which in turn may be causing physical issues such as insomnia (which can cause under-eye circles and bags), skin problems, weight gain or loss, issues with your hair, and so on.
As a result, you may feel unattractive or even downright hideous, but you aren’t. Not at all. You’re simply overwhelmed and under-supported, and need more rest, nourishment, and maybe some help to get you through it.
7. You’ve experienced (or are still experiencing) abuse and/or bullying.
Mistreatment that annihilates self-esteem can come from different directions. Some people get insulted by their family members for various reasons, while others are bullied at school or even mocked by complete strangers.
It’s unlikely that there’s a single person on the planet who hasn’t been bullied or insulted at some point, but while some emerge unscathed, others end up with deep emotional scars—especially if that bullying didn’t stop after third grade or so, but continued long past that, or is even still continuing.
Those who are physically different from their peers are often the targets of cruelty and abuse at school. For instance, those who are of a different cultural background to the majority may get taunted thanks to xenophobia and ignorance, while those who have facial or limb differences are often the butt of jokes and pranks.
Things get even worse if the bullying comes from one’s own family members. Offspring who have health issues or disabilities often get extra negative jabs, and when they try to defend themselves, they’re told that they’re being too sensitive. It’s an awful situation to be in, and even more difficult to undo the hurt it causes.
The key to undoing the effects of this kind of bullying is to understand where it stems from. That kind of understanding diffuses what’s been said and takes a lot of the sting out of potentially lasting damage.
For example, let’s say your parents or grandparents have been insulting your appearance: try to dissect why that is. Is your parent feeling resentment about their fading looks and thus feels the need to put you down? Is your grandparent of a generation that valued different traits and appearances?
Many people despise traits in others that they hate in themselves and then project their anger and insecurity onto others. While understanding where this cruelty comes from doesn’t magically rebuild self-esteem, it can provide one with strength and resilience through compassion instead.
8. You may be suffering from body dysmorphia.
Everyone has days in which they feel less attractive than usual, but body dysmorphia can really do a number on one’s psyche. You could be absolutely beautiful, but your mind interprets the image you see in the mirror as warped and hideous.
This type of dysmorphia is often associated with eating disorders, but it can happen to anyone at any time. Furthermore, it can make a person become obsessed with their perceived “flaws” or “ugliness,” but those thoughts are entirely their own—nobody else thinks poorly about them at all.
Body dysmorphia can be very difficult (if not downright impossible) to get over by yourself. This is because your brain is wired in a very specific way, and unless you know the right keys to unlock the distorted perceptions you’re seeing, they’ll persist.
If you’re dealing with dysmorphia or the long-reaching effects of bullying, you may wish to consider talking to a trained therapist. This is especially important if your family members and/or close friends are either unable to offer you support in this or if they’re major contributing factors to your distress.
Should you choose this route, seek out a counselor who has experience with eating disorders as well as bullying, as they go hand in hand so very often. Not only will they be able to help you see more clearly through the veil of hurt that you’ve been subjected to, they can also teach you coping mechanisms to help you defend yourself against future cruelty.
9. You don’t have much luck in the dating department.
You may be feeling unattractive because it seems like nobody is interested in dating you. Maybe you’re never approached by those who have a romantic interest in you, or perhaps people have turned you down repeatedly when you’ve shown interest in them.
When doors get slammed in one’s face often enough, it gets to a point where one doesn’t necessarily want to try opening them again.
It’s disheartening to be lonely without any potential interests on the horizon. That said, people may have been expressing interest, and you simply haven’t picked up on their clues.
Alternatively, maybe you’ve been giving off signals that make you seem unapproachable. People might be waving massive flags of interest in your direction, which you won’t see if you’re immersed in your cloud of self-loathing and revulsion.
For example, someone who’s been called names or bullied by others might have built emotional walls around them. These walls scream “don’t approach me!” So, nobody does.
Alternatively, you may be self-sabotaging. If you’re convinced that you’re unattractive, you may assume that anyone who shows interest in you is either lying or setting you up for humiliation.
There’s someone out there for everyone, and that includes you. Consider asking your friends for honest feedback about your behavior in this regard, and let them know that you’re open to the idea of being set up with people whom they trust and who are sincerely interested in you.
10. You’re feeling disheartened by the natural aging process.
Everyone ages, and that process is going to look different for everyone. It’s not easy to navigate, and it can wear away at our self-esteem little by little, especially if we’ve gone through life placing a great deal of importance on our physical appearance.
We live in a world where youth and beauty reign supreme, and those traits are elevated as the highest and most important standards to live up to.
Well, sorry to bring reality to the table here, but it’s impossible to expect to look the same at 45 as you did at 25, or to think that you won’t change exponentially between the ages of 45 and 65.
Aging is inevitable, and even if you pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into age-defying treatments, the clock will still keep ticking.
Unfortunately, modern society tries to shame people into believing that they have little to no value unless age doesn’t touch them.
This is reinforced by the beauty industry, which manipulates people into believing that unless they use the right creams or get certain cosmetic procedures done, then they’ve “let themselves go.” As a result, they are perceived as being aged horror shows who need to get back in their hideous holes and stay there.
Our appearance will fluctuate significantly as we go through life. Hormones, experiences such as pregnancy, injury, illness, stress, and countless other issues, may change our bodies in ways we never even imagined.
Hair will disappear from where we want it and appear in places that horrify and frustrate us. Muscles and skin that were once taut will develop softness, while skin will develop new textures, spots, and different colorations.
And all of that is absolutely okay. In fact, it’s more than okay: it’s normal.
If you’re feeling ugly because you’re getting wrinkles, or parts of your body aren’t as firm or muscular as they used to be, try to embrace and appreciate these changes rather than seeing them as battles you need to fight.
Every laugh line is a memory of a wonderful time you had, and every scar reminds you of something you have overcome.
Few things can help you feel more comfortable in your own skin than looking at photos of real people of all ages and backgrounds, from around the world. They can show you that aging isn’t anything to fear, but can instead be embraced with grace and dignity.
There’s also an immense freedom in being able to feel valued for more than the sum of your looks!
11. Your appearance is different from conventional beauty standards.
Conventional beauty standards can wreak havoc on people’s self-esteem. Scrolling through Instagram on any given day will show countless people with the same body types and features— those that are considered “ideal” right now.
As such, they all look like variations on a single theme, and many have had cosmetic surgery in order to attain those ideals.
But who decided that these features and esthetics are the goals to strive for? And why should anyone pay attention to them? Let’s take a moment to talk about beauty standards and what they mean.
Depending on where you live, people’s ideas of what constitutes “beauty” will vary greatly.
Check out the results of this experiment, which encouraged people from several different countries to photoshop female and male images into their beauty ideal. You’ll notice that every country has its own ideas of what makes someone “beautiful” or not, and the same goes for what they consider to be “ugly.”
Quite simply, what’s stunning in one place may be appalling in another, and vice versa. A curvaceous woman with tanned skin will be considered a goddess in Peru and simultaneously undesirable in South Korea. Similarly, thick muscles and chest hair on a man are valued highly in Russia but vilified in Spain.
Unfortunately, when one doesn’t have the body type or features that are desired in their own culture, they may be considered unattractive by those around them. If you fall into this category, please don’t think for a second that you aren’t worthy of love or joy, that you’ll never find a partner who cares for you, or that you’re simply taking up space.
You are magnificent and worthy exactly as you are.
Remember that only a small percentage of the global population is considered “beautiful.” That doesn’t mean that everyone else is single and miserable! They’re simply living life without placing too much emphasis on how they look.
There are countless ways of learning how to cope with being “ugly,” and one of the best ones is to go big or go home: embrace the attributes that you’re happiest about and dive into life full throttle.
Look at Diana Vreeland. She was a fashion editor for Vogue magazine and was known for her colorful, unique fashion sense and vivacious personality. She wasn’t “beautiful” in the standard sense, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t loved or happy. Diana was adored by many, including her husband and children, and lived a life that many of us would envy.
You don’t owe attractiveness to anyone, nor is it a rent you need to pay for occupying space. Furthermore, inner beauty counts for so much more than external attractiveness, and it lasts a lot longer too.
Earlier we discussed the possibility of therapy as being beneficial for body dysmorphia, but that’s not the only way counseling can be helpful. When one’s self-esteem is eroded, or even completely annihilated over time, it can influence every aspect of their life.
The abused person can become a people-pleaser and end up harming themselves by constantly trying to live up to others’ expectations. They may never feel “good enough,” and they won’t believe those who compliment them or appreciate them as they are.
A good therapist can help you move past your feelings of “ugliness” and help you embrace all the amazing other traits you have. You’re so much more than the sum of your temporary vessel, and the world is a much brighter place because of your presence in it.