If You Don't Like How You Look In Pictures, This Might Be Why

Nowadays, we have hundreds, if not thousands, of images on our smartphones, but that wasn't always the case. Many of us still remember the good old days of taking pictures on our cameras and eagerly waiting to develop the film rolls to look at the photographs. In fact, the first-ever picture was taken by Frenchman Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 (via PBS). In 1986, Kodak introduced the first point-and-shoot cameras for photos, and they were followed by Fuji, which made the first disposable camera. Having access to a camera was the easiest way to capture moments.

Photographs are a great way of preserving the memory of the past, per Life as a Human. Many people choose to capture major moments in life, such as weddings or graduations, and smartphones have made it much easier. Now, we take so many pictures that we can end up ignoring what is happening in the moment. The BBC shared that taking too many pictures can affect your ability to remember special moments, called "photo-taking impairment effects." 

With access to a smartphone, you can take more pictures than ever possible because if you don't like one, you can always take another and another. Before, there were only so many pictures of certain events because of technological limitations, but now you can keep taking as many pictures as you want until you find the perfect one. However, a new problem has arisen: Despite there being so many pictures — or perhaps because there are so many — many people aren't liking how they look on camera. 

You can blame the mirror for not liking the way you look in pictures

You know what you look like because you have often seen yourself in the mirror. But then why do some like how they look in the mirror but not in pictures? This is the mere exposure effect, which was conceptualized by Robert Zajonc, a psychologist, in 1968 (via Psychology Today). When we see our reflections in the mirror, it is reversed, and we are used to seeing ourselves as the reversed version of ourselves. And the more you see yourself a certain way, the more attractive you find yourself. However, pictures show your image the way you really look. When you look at yourself in pictures, it's a slightly different version of yourself than you are used to seeing.

Psychology Today added that not everyone prefers their mirror image over their actual image because some like how they look in photographs. Of course, if your face were perfectly symmetrical, this wouldn't be an issue, but we're all human. Wired calls the image you see in the mirror your "preferred self-image," and when the camera flips it, you tend to notice the asymmetry of your face more since you are not used to seeing yourself that way. Since you are more familiar with a reversed image of yourself, you tend not to like how you look in pictures because you're simply not used to it.

You might think you are more attractive than you actually are

Before you get too upset about it, hear us out. A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin showed that, when shown altered pictures of oneself where one is made to look more attractive and less attractive than in real life, people chose the more attractive versions of themselves as their real appearance before the actual or less attractive versions. 

According to Psychology Today, this occurs due to a bias called "self-enhancement." The outlet describes it as "the tendency to evaluate our 'own traits and abilities more favorably than is objectively warranted'," which leads people to believe that they are more attractive than they actually are. 

When you see yourself in a picture, it does not match how you see yourself, but you see what you really look like. This can lead to you not liking pictures of yourself too because you don't think you look as good in the photos as you think you look. However, this doesn't mean that you don't look good in real life, but you tend to prefer what you think is the more attractive version of yourself than perhaps how you look in real life (via Wired). Therefore, the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin study proved that people believe they are more attractive than they really are.

Beauty filters on social media aren't helping this phenomenon

Remember when you could add bunny ears to your pictures for fun? Well, filters have taken a major turn since then. We already have the concepts of mere exposure and self-enhancement affecting the way we look, and now to top it all off, we have beauty filters. In fact, Dr. Melissa Doft explained to Forbes that a lot of her patients have been expressing dissatisfaction with how they look, saying, "Where we used to complain about how we looked in a mirror, more people are criticizing their photos instead of their reflection." Beauty filters make people "more insecure" about their natural appearance because it is common to enhance one's appearance to look flawless. The expectation of unrealistic beauty standards can affect people's self-esteem, leading to people not liking how they look in real life.

When it can already be a challenge to accept yourself for who you are, the beauty filters on social media are making people feel worse about their appearance. People who overuse these filters tend to be more unhappy with how they really look because they expect to look how they look after their face has been "edited," per InStyle. A report in Wall Street Journal adds that "32% of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse." If you already didn't like how you look in real pictures of yourself, beauty filters are likely only making it worse.