The next time you’re near a mirror, take a moment and look at yourself. Do you see a beautiful, capable, and strong human being? If not, you’re not alone.

Almost every woman I’ve worked with as a photographer has struggled at some point in her life to acknowledge her own beauty — and I have, too. I’ve learned through experience that others see us very differently than we perceive ourselves. Those close to us don’t think the same negative things about us. So why do we have those critical inner voices?

Our culture is full of messages about how women should be thinner, prettier, and younger. We spend our whole lives exposed to these ideas that we’re never enough just as we are. Celebrities usually have perfect hair and makeup, but they owe it to a team of people helping them look gorgeous in the public eye.

How can we overcome this and learn to love our authentic, beautiful selves? By getting used to looking closely at our own faces. Each morning, take a few minutes to look at your reflection and say something out loud that you might say to a close friend who’s struggling with her looks. Something like, “I love you,” or “You’re beautiful and perfect exactly as you are.”

Then take a moment to think of five things you love about yourself while you’re looking in the mirror, and say them aloud. Notice what’s beautiful about your appearance or what you love about your personality and talents. When you say these things to yourself, you teach your brain to pay attention to the great things about you.

I know it sounds cheesy, but it can be so powerful. I cried the first time I did it! The more you practice saying positive things while you look yourself in the eye, the better you’ll begin to feel about yourself and your appearance. It might feel hard to do at first, so be patient and loving with yourself. With practice, it will get so much easier to see your beauty both inside and out.

By Jamie Nease

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