New York Is So Beautiful — Too Bad It Makes Me Feel So Ugly


I moved to New York a little over one month ago. So far, I love my job, I like my apartment, I enjoy the food and, despite the many warnings I received prior, I have already made some very, very snazzy friends. I don’t mind commuting and I’ve even been able to visit my parents in Central NY, more visits than I ever was able to manage in such a short timespan throughout my last five years on the West Coast. The only thing that has been really stressful, in all honesty, is the deep and unsettling feeling that I am not pretty enough to live here.

While I’ve always been a pretty self-conscious person, the last few years have seen me become stronger, more self-aware, happier and able to value the things that truly matter — my accomplishments, my integrity, my work ethic, my independence. Although I do not value others based on their looks, it takes a fair amount of effort not to base my own self-worth on that, especially since I moved here.

I have gained some weight over the past year and a half — a change I was actually pretty comfortable with prior to moving here. Due to my eating disorder and other health stuff, I’ve been bouncing between 115 and 155 for several years, so I wasn’t too upset about my weight increase. It was neither here nor there; it was just a fact of life, and I was okay with that because I was focused on finishing college, then trying to start a career, as well as friendships and familial relationships and relocating cross-country three times.

This weight gain experience started in California during my senior year of college in early 2012. At the time, I had friends surrounding me constantly, I was seeing a rather attractive ex of mine and there were excellent trips and celebrations to be had every weekend. I was fine with how I looked, and even when I wasn’t, it didn’t really bother me all that much.

When I migrated to Portland some months later, I was working from home and rarely saw anybody besides new friends. Plus, from my brief experience, Portland people don’t seem to emphasize looks as much. I literally never heard snarky comments about how other people looked from those I met there about friends, strangers or anybody else.

But then I moved to Manhattan and suddenly, I feel terrible about myself. Just…terrible. All the time.

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    • HoneyBadger

      I have similar issues, and for me it’s a version of body dismorphia. I’ve found two things to be helpful.
      1) I like to keep a list of things that make me proud of my body, and that’s aren’t related to apperance at all. Like “I ran for the bus without getting winded” or “I lifted that super heavy bag of dog food and it was easy. Go me!” It helps me focus on what I am able to do, rather than how I look doing it.
      2) It looks a little dorky, but writing little mantras on stickie notes and leaving them by the bathroom mirror or fridge can be a good reminder. Things like “breathe” and “you are beautiful” are nice to see. I figure if I see them over and over and over I might start to believe them.
      Good luck.

    • Hanna Brooks Olsen

      All I have for you is virtual hugs/internet fandom. So…hugs/internet fandom. Good luck, keep making good stuff. I hope the rest shakes out.

    • Elizabeth

      I totally empathize with you (being a size 18 in high school is pretty much the worst from a self-esteem point of view).
      First off, I would say don’t belittle your problems. Pushing it under the table saying that you’re just being over-sensitive isn’t fair. It seems to be bothering you quite a bit, so treat it as a significant issue.
      Now i don’t wanna give the “believe in your self/your beauty” speech because that’s tired and never works. (even though you are beautiful. had to say it!)
      What worked for me may help you. I moved to Paris a few months ago and it totally changed me. I began to feel better about myself than I have in years, and it was all due to the fact that I felt like I belonged here. In Paris, home of the beautiful (not unlike NYC), i belonged and therefore was also beautiful. So maybe you need to work on not feeling like an outsider? Maybe by working on feeling like a part of the city, all the characteristics that you value about the city (beauty among them) will start to feel like a part of you as well.
      That may be totally bs as well, but it worked for me so I hope it can in some way help you (probably in conjunction with the advice of other Glossers , and maybe a professional if it gets really bad) . In any case, I’m rooting for you!

      • mj

        I agree with you that if you feel apart of where you are, that it is your home you will feel beautiful. In Cleveland where I live I walk with my head high knowing I look and feel good. When I first started traveling to LA I felt out of place til that too became my “second home”. I was just in NYC last month and I felt “ugly”. But on my next visit maybe I will start to make it home and feel beautiful there as well. As women we all have our inner demons to deal with. I think it’s great that we can all relate on some level. Know we are all beautiful and best of luck to us all in our own personal struggles

      • thelongandwindingroad

        YES. THIS. Hey Sam (it’s Lesley ;)), I know you’ve spent a lot of time in NY as you’re from Syracuse, but I do agree that seeing yourself as part where you live is huge. I have felt like the ugliest duckling every single place I’ve been except Yosemite. Yosemite is home, and when I lived there I felt like I belonged to the place so much, the incredibly incredibly beautiful place, that it made me beautiful. I was part of it. I think it also had to do with having an amazing group of diverse, beautiful, and accepting friends, as Cecile below me said. Unfortunately I have not found another place like Yosemite since. It sounds like you’ve made some friends so far, but it’s still only been a month. I think as you come to be part of the city, and as your friendships deepen, you’ll gain a greater sense of peace and confidence in your own role as part of New York City.

        However, if this persists and you do feel like this part of BDD or your ED, then don’t hesitate to talk to a professional. And of course I must say that you are incredibly beautiful (seriously), even though I know that’s not what you’re looking for.

    • Cecile Pham

      Dear Samantha,

      From someone that made a move to sweden and lived there for the better part of a year I think i know how you feel. You did mention how many friends you had over on the west coast and maybe there in lies the real issue? When I moved so far away from home, away from my own culture and the support group of my friends, what i realized was that, though i hoped to be strong enough to know my identity, without out the re-enforcement from being surrounded by people you trust and whom love you, it really is hard to be strong and have that safe, comfortable sense of who you are. And if day to day your interactions with strangers is a superficial passing in the streets, you get no real validation. And i’m not talking looks. Validation that you even exist. That you’re funny. Or witty and smart. That your input has values. From there I can see where it’s so easy to transpose that to the way you look since your chance encounters with people is only from a visual sense.

      Give it time. Make lots of friends. Take on some lovers. Find yourself again and i’m sure you’ll be as wonderful in your own skin as you were on the west coast. I feel for you.

      • pattya

        agreed! good advice. also maybe look into therapy, I have had a lot of success with EMDR, it helps change the tapes in your head. the ones that are unproductive and don’t help you get where you want to be. you are going to be just fine! I know it! give it some time. good luck. xxox

    • sdfghjk

      I think you should start running, working out, dancing, whatever. Some form of exercise. Not to lose weight and alter your appearance, but because it makes you happy and confident in your body. Even if you look exactly the same, I’ve found that running (which I hated for my entire life) has made me far more confident because I know I can do it now. I also have had an eating disorder on and off for years. Running in the past 5 months since moving to Santa Barbara, which contains more beautiful people than LA, has made me feel much better about myself. It was shitty at first, and I felt horrible always, but running really fixed it. As you gain strength and endurance you feel like you can conquer the world. It has helped me in school, at work, and even in relationships because I just feel better all around. In the famous words of Elle Woods, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t kill their husbands!” =)

      Ps. I really want to stress that it’s not to change your looks. It alters the way you think and feel drastically, and I know that’s what you want.

      • jon

        Totally agree with sdfghjk. Whether it’s running, yoga or another form of exercise you enjoy or have always wanted to try, getting out and moving can make a huge difference in your mood. I felt the same way you did for the last year but about 3 months ago I started exercising daily and adding in some healthy foods. It’s amazing the difference in my mood and perception of myself these changes have made.

        Like was mentioned above, it’s not about changing your looks, all though obviously that happens too from eating right and exercising, but about feeling good. There is a study somewhere that exercising has a better record at helping depression than antidepressants. Then combine that with some super foods, daily like pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are super high in Tryptophan which your body uses to make serotonin and serotonin is what our brains release when we feel happy. Hell serotonin is what our brains get flooded with when we take ecstasy:P Sometimes small adjustments can have big results;)

      • Rose D.

        I agree. Since I have been running, my body hasn’t changed that much, but my self confidence has sky rocketed. Knowing that I can do what I do, it makes me more comfortable in my own skin. And I run in an area where most women’s jobs are having children and looking fantastic.
        Also, you really are beautiful. Every time you have posted a picture of yourself, I remark upon it.

    • Samantha

      This is super dumb, and may not be helpful at all, but when I feel ugly, I clean out my closet. If there are clothes that are ugly, I toss them. I toss old underwear and socks. If I’ve already recently cleaned my clothes closet (I feel ugly often enough that this is the case), I move onto the bathroom closet and toss old towels or to the coat closet and toss old posters or hangers or whatever I keep in there. I also clean out my cupboards and buy fruit to keep in a bowl. Fruit makes me feel like at least my insides are attractive. Like I said, totally weird, but clearing out the material stuff that bothers me helps me clear out the mental stuff that’s dragging me down as well. Basically, the Bullish spring cleaning post this week is my way for coping with my self-perception.

      That being said, I feel obligated to state that you’re an awesome writer, and you’re ridiculously photogenic in your make-up tutorials, and while I know that doesn’t change your self-perception, I hope you feel better. Because awesome people should feel awesome.

    • Porkchop

      The way you write about having everything going for you and not being able to enjoy it, and having to force yourself to leave the house, all that sounds like depression. Just because all your sadness is coming from something “superficial” doesn’t mean it isn’t real sadness. you deserve support and help! Moving to a new place is really stressful, even if you moved someplace good for good reasons. You have a history of anxiety, but you also have a history of recovering from anxiety. take care!

    • Allison Ruork

      There’s this technique that I use all the time when I have shame about how I look. It’s a DBT skill, which is a specific therapy mostly for people with Borderline Personality Disorder, who very often have high levels of shame about all sorts of stuff. When you have an emotion that isn’t justified (shame, guilt etc.), meaning there’s no logical reason why you should be feeling that way, through yourself in 100% into doing the exact opposite. Having a day when you’re feeling really bad about your body? Where an outfit that you think makes you look killer and is eye-catching. Basically if you want to hide force yourself to strut. It sucks at first, but over time it’s made a HUGE difference for me.

      • Allison Ruork

        Dear god. Wear an outfit** not where. Ugh.

    • Ashesela

      Have you considered talking to a psychologist/psychiatrist? It sounds like you may have body dysmorphia disorder. Huge hugs your way!! I’ve been dealing with ED’s for many years, and I have a very poor self image after gaining a lot of weight (in part from some heavy medications).

    • Lauren Lever

      Oh man, I definitely understand how you feel on this one. I guess I am slightly above average when it comes to looks, maybe a 6.5-7? So, even in Austin, I feel a bit self-conscious around the college chicks at UT. I can’t imagine how I would fare in NYC!

    • Nikola

      Oh boy, do I have thoughts and inexpert advice for you?

      Some questions: You say this change happened with the move to NYC, but I wonder if any other changes have occurred? Diet/exercise habits? Hormonal changes? Might not be a bad idea to seek the advice of professionals, doctor to check out hormonal changes, psychiatrist for therapy/medication. This just seems like a really sudden change in your outlook, which seems like it might be caused by something other than suddenly seeing a bunch of pretty people.

      As for things you can do now to work on the negative thoughts:

      1. There are fat-positive tumblrs that post pictures of a variety of bodies and people. This might help balance out the fact that you are living in a city crawling with models.

      2. Part of the problem with this kind of thinking is that beauty is subjective, but it is also a societal construct? And it’s a sexist one at that. Women are judged more for their looks, whereas men are more frequently judged by their character or their success. So redefine your thinking, don’t try to switch from “I’m ugly” to “I’m beautiful”, switch to “I’m talented, I’m smart, I’m a good person” ect. Focus on other characteristics that you can feel good about. Take up a hobby, learn a musical instrument. This can help shift the focus away from beauty being the way you judge yourself as a person.

      3. Volunteer work. If you feel good about yourself for doing good for someone else, who cares what you look like?

      4. How we look is mostly based on genetics. It’s just how you were born. We all know not to judge someone for their gender, skin color, sexual orientation, and other things that define us, but are not choices. This applies to how we look! Don’t discriminate against yourself if you wouldn’t discriminate against others.

    • Candace Bryan

      Dude, I’ve been here 8 months and I still feel exactly the same way. It doesn’t help that my time here has coincided with my career writing about celebrities and fashion, but I swear every time I get on a subway, there are 3 girls who are probably professional models. And honestly, there are also a lot of enormously wealthy people in Manhattan who can afford personal trainers, facial, and quail eggs. Not me.

      ALSO riding the subway really affected my self-esteem when I moved here, because the lighting is ridiculously unflattering, and I couldnt help but look at my reflection on a morning commute.

      I have no advice to offer really, but I just want you to know that it’s totally normal. And with time, you’ll see beautiful people acting like drunk idiots, or you’ll have enough days where you feel amazing, that it will balance out and become bearable.

    • Alex

      This article couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for me – it’s actually scary. I felt like this in my last two years of college. I was surrounded by very beautiful friends – who would constantly be told how beautiful they were and it really affected me eventually. I felt invisible most days, I cried every night in my room, I started working out and losing weight, but binge-eating when no one was around. I googled therapists every day but was too scared to call. I didn’t even recognize myself in the mirror, I just felt detached all the time. I was in a really dark place. What changed it all for me was graduating and getting the hell out of there. This change of environment made a HUGE difference. I went on a 2-month backpacking trip where I met amazing people and had incredible experiences. The superficiality of it all felt ridiculous once I was able to look at it from afar. I moved back home to San Francisco and started working. I was surrounded by positive energy and felt completely cured. I felt “normal” again for the first time in years. Getting out of that environment changed it all for me.

      I never thought I would be in the dark place again. It felt very much in the past – until these last two weeks. It’s like a wave out of nowhere, but I’ve been struggling with eating normally again, and keep telling myself how disgusting I am. It’s a scary feeling to have these feelings come back, seemingly out of nowhere, especially since I was so certain they were gone. The best advice I have for you, and what I’m trying to do for myself asap, is change something up. You don’t have to move (as I did the first time), but change SOMETHING. I think this change of direction helped me change my mental state without me even realizing it at first, and naturally I cured myself. It’s like it shocks the mind into thinking about other things. So think about some things you’ve always wanted to try and do them! Shock your system with something new.

      I wish you the best of luck with this! I know how much of a struggle it is.

    • Jade

      Oh Samantha, I totally understand everything you said and this is the way I always end up feeling, on and off, every few years/ months.
      So far in my life I am realising there are no permanent fixes for this kind of thing but there are things you can do to help it.
      Don’t beat yourself up for feeling sad, you’re allowed to feel down sometimes.
      Start excersising, not to lose weight but as everyone else has said, to get some endorphins going!
      Find somewhere to volunteer, focusing on something/someone that is not yourself will honestly feel like such a relief and you get to feel smug afterwards as a bonus.
      Keep busy if possible, if you have no social events then go out for walks, to museums, move your furniture around…
      If possible seek out some kind of talking therapy, getting things off your chest to someone who won’t judge you is really underrated in my opinion.
      Finally, remember that you are not alone in these feelings, there are other people who feel the same way and who would be glad to be your friend if they were in New York too.

    • MR

      You doing good – you’re an All Star. Open the shades and let the light in. 40 and even 25 years ago, Nyc was so grainy and so real. The earlier period when Whites were almost the minority. The place was empty and very diverse. That’s the standard I judge it by, and it wins. Don’t let it today judge you.

    • anna

      Oh, sam. I feel for you. I try and explain it to people as not a bad hair day but a bad face day. It’s those days when nothing’s different but you feel like shit.
      I know it’s all up to you, but I look at photos of your make up tutorials and think how incredibly beautiful you are

    • Bambi Rood-Baker

      I feel for you. It does sound like you are not fully cured of your disorder though. You are still basing your worth on your looks, or even weight. Might have to go get help for this or turn into Bender Rodriguez. As I did when I helped myself with my disorder. I didn’t turn into a booze Mama or smoke cigars, but I did become narcissistic enough to when I go around shouting Bambi is great and the rest can suck it. To my knowledge that attitude works for those walking around NYC in any Borough. Although the disease is a beast you are never fully cure but there are things you can do to make life a little better

    • TED
    • Benita

      Therapy. These issues will only grow worse with time if allowed to fester. Might as well cut them off at the root while you’re young. Best of luck to you, you seem to be a smart young lady with a good head on her shoulders.

    • Bondurant

      Something that might help with mindset is reminding yourself that very very few people you meet on a daily basis are putting as much effort into judging your looks, positively or negatively, the way you are with yourself & others. You’re so intensely focused on how you look, and how others look, that you assume, perhaps, everyone else is looking at you and taking the time to compare you to the people around you. This leads to that unhealthy & unhappy feeling you’re describing. But, in my experience, you’ll find that most of the people around you are also worried if they are attractive enough & are barely spending any energy deciding where you rank on the NY attractiveness scale.
      The city is overwhelming for a lot of people who didn’t grow up here. I’ve seen it bring up a host of insecurities in friends who are non-natives. They worry about their looks, whether they are successful enough, do they wear the right clothes, live in the right neighborhood, etc. Right now you’re having that “I don’t belong here” feeling that almost everyone who moves here gets. Stick it out and I promise it will pass and you will eventually gain strength from the city instead of feeling like you don’t belong here.

    • Alexis Almenas

      I just want to throw some more love on the pile, here. I think you’re brilliant. You have such a unique voice, and I often start reading articles here on The Gloss and without reading the author’s name, know within a few sentences that it’s your work. That’s fabulous.

      There’s some good advice in the comments, and tons of love. (And at least one NYC area chica who would totally be your friend if you’re feeling lonely, ahem.)

      When I found myself in Manhattan more and more frequently, I initially felt ugly and unstylish and awful, too. But then one day as I waded through crowds of tourists, I realized that I was a part of the city. We make this amazing place what it is, and being a part of that is pretty amazing in and of itself. To an outsider, you ARE one of those fabulous NYers. So when I feel inadequate, I remind myself that I’ve chosen to stay here, and I belong here.

    • Cally

      Sister, let me tell ya, moving to France for 5 months did the exact same thing to me. I really think the majority of your problem comes from being there for only a month. You feel like everyone looks at you and knows that you don’t belong, and that you aren’t a part of the, in my case ‘French look’ or in your case, the ‘New York look’

      What I have come to discover is that it isn’t the clothes, it’s the attitude you project. If you strut down the street, daring anyone to think that you aren’t a sassy, sexy New Yorker, than why would anyone doubt you?

      What I am trying to learn (after a lifetime of low, low self-confidence and no concept of feeling pretty, ever) is that it is all about projection. If you are entering the streets or the subway or a party and automatically think ‘hey, this person is prettier than me, so they will treat me differently’ you will act differently in order to be ready. That person might then think ‘Hey, that girl is being weird and defensive and looks like she doesn’t like herself very much, I don’t know about her’, whereas if you walk in without any (or almost any) doubt in your mind that everyone should love you and that you are gorgeous, why would they ever not?

      Obviously you’re right, society has a bar for ‘traditional attractiveness’ but no one on the metro or on the streets or very many places are actually assessing you deeply as you walk by other than your projected attitude, and general hygiene I guess. So if you feel pretty, you are pretty!

      Easier said than done, obviously, but something I am personally trying to work on every day!

      • Cally

        woops, not ‘clothes’ in the second paragraph, ‘looks’. although in my case, from Eastern Canada where style = plaid.. clothes were a big factor as well hahaha

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      I’m sending love and support out my butt at you. Can you feel it hitting your back? I hope so.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        That probably sounds rude but it’s my closest appendage to you.

    • Liz Grierson

      You’re hearing a theme here in the comments that I completely agree with – it’s probably not New York, but the change from where you were comfortable to where you are not comfortable. You have lost your support system, your familiarity and your confidence.

      This is manifesting itself in lack of confidence specifically about your body, but you also mentioned previous eating disorder and body issues, so I’m guessing that’s a natural pre-worn path for your anxious upset mind to go down. Your mind is skipping over all of the perfectly ordinary people around you and just focusing on the pretty ones so that you have a trigger for discomfort, anxiety and insecurity.

      Therapy, making friends and connections, some exercise (which battles depression and helps improve sleep), medications (if doctor/therapist think they will help your case), healthy habits, new activities… all of these things have been mentioned here and are all good ideas that will help you get back on track.

      Big hugs and good wishes – hang in there, try to refocus, and don’t think it’s anything to do with any particular city, as much as with being uprooted.

    • Meagan Rivers

      Surround yourself with beautiful things.Places, your apartment. Decorate with things that make you happy, things that you think are beautiful. I believe it’s really, really impossible to feel ugly when you’re surrounded by things that make you feel happy. Add some curtains in a bright color, or put up some great photos, just something that’ll pull your mind away from the people, away from all that.

      Get outside and move around. Take the train and go somewhere you don’t know. Just go exploring and get more familiar. The most comfortable you feel, the better you’ll feel. You’ll meet people, too. And they’ll help you feel better.

    • Alexis Paige

      Hugs, babe. Hope you remember me from our Lovelyish days. Hang in there. I’ve been feeling pretty blase myself so don’t think you’re alone. Just take your time, as much time as you need, to become the best you that you can be no matter what. <3

    • Alex

      On average, I find the native people of NY very unattractive. Good luck on your self-esteem if you moved to Brazil, if that’s how you feel about NY.

      • Rowen

        @Alex: Your thoughtlessness makes me sad on so many levels.

    • Rowen

      I struggle with something that sounds similar and I watched this documentary (Miss Representation) that has stayed with me and the more I analyze it, the more it helps me deconstruct my feelings. You seem to be so insightful that I feel that you will conquer this no matter what you choose to do.

    • Jaqueline Marie

      Thank you for your vulnerability – it’s a brave, wise woman who reaches out and asks for help. You are not alone, everyone wants to feel beautiful! And yet so often we allow judgment, doubt, guilt and shame to keep us in a cycle of playing small. I believe our natural desire to want to be perceived as beautiful is born of a deep yearning to know that we are valued and that we matter – and trust me, you do.

      I recently wrote an article on this exact subject. These tools helped me on my journey to feeling beautiful, and I know they can help you. You can read it here:

      Thank you for reaching out. Together we grow. xx
      Jaqueline Marie

    • Alexis H

      I somehow missed this post last week, but I feel like I could have written it. I’ve felt the same way for a long time, and when I recently moved to Chicago, I thought I’d give myself a fresh start. Obviously the opposite happened because this exists mainly in my head. Now I feel like more of a basic bitch than ever.

      I don’t really have any advice since I’ve got the same problem. If you figure it out, please let me know your secrets.

    • Victoria Nave

      Be hideous for a while. Spend some time (I suggest three months) doing nothing to improve your appearance. No shaving. No makeup. Wear comfortable, utilitarian clothes. Put away your hair routine. Do nothing about your appearance until nothing seems utterly mundane and normal, It is the best way I know to reset your appearance expectations. If you can’t commit to that (as a makeup artist I imagine that is a possibility) the other reset is to do something that is totally beautiful to you that most people might hate. Whatever thing you’ve seen other people with but never thought you could pull off, be it white jeans or blue hair, find a signature thing and rock it.

      • Samantha Escobar

        Oddly enough, I did do that! It was surprisingly…easy. And lovely. (Also, to be honest, I still don’t shave and I have a pretty low-maintenance hair thang going on.) But yes — job-wise, it is now not feasible. But at some point, I think it might be a good idea.

        Also, I do miss my blue hair, so I think I will go back to that. :)

      • Thought picker

        I must say this post resonated with me as I might have to move to New York for work and am dreading it for this very reason. I have horrible insecurity, anxiety, and am worried about all the supermodels that grace the city. I’m in film so these types will be crossing my path.

        Do you still struggle or have things gotten better and how did you cope?

    • Canisse

      I guess you could try finding people that look like you in some way and that you think are beautiful. Then, when you’re feeling ugly, you could tell yourself: ‘no, I’m not, I know the way I look is beautiful’.

    • sheriji

      “I want to change how I feel, which is arguably much more difficult.”

      Yes, oh, yes.

      And the fact that you are a perfectly healthy weight for your height, and from what I can tell from the picture not only beautifully shapely, but just downright beautiful shows that most of what you’re struggling with is probably coming from within. It probably drove your eating disorder in the first place, and simmers still.

      I hate when I’m upset about something and people start telling me what to do — you know what you have to do.

      Despite that, I can’t resist saying that the first thing you have to do is stop worrying so much about what you think everybody else is thinking. What’s the line? Something about being yourself, and if somebody matters they won’t mind, and if they mind they don’t matter?

      I’m 5’4″ and 160 on a good day. My husband thinks my hips are too small. I would like to weigh at least 20 lbs less — the only times I’ve managed this is post brain surgery and when divorcing my first husband of 20 years — in any case, they’re not (too small), but “beauty” and “perfection” and “shapeliness” are completely dependent on preference and opinion, and the only opinion that really matters here is yours.

      First world problem, as my oldest son would say.

      If I were to REALLY offer advice I would say: Eat healthfully, get some exercise whenever you can, wear clothes you like and feel comfortable in, and find something else to worry about. There are a lot of things more important than what that person across from you on the subway might be thinking about your appearance. Besides, they’re probably not worrying about your appearance at all; too busy worrying about their own.

    • mh

      Cross-posting from Feministe:

      I was browsing through some pictures of myself volunteering at a school and pointing out all my horribleness to myself, but I stopped for a moment and looked at all the people around me.

      Nobody was recoiling in horror. In fact, I am blessed with a life where people really DO look at the beauty coming from “within” me. I’m tough and kick ass on a lot of things, and people appreciate me for it. I can overcome a bad first impression (yes, I am conventionally unattractive enough to make them.) It’s OK.

      My mother used to sing me this truly horrible song when I was a kid:
      Yo no soy buena moza/ ni lo quiero ser/ porque las buenas mozas/
      se echan a perder

      Loosely translated: “I’m not pretty and I don’t want to be, because the pretty girls become spoiled.” Weirdly, it gave me a lot of comfort even though it probably shouldn’t have. Pretty girls have it easier? No worries: bring it. I kick ass.

    • Faradn

      This sounds deep-seated enough that I’d strongly suggest therapy.

    • Nicole C

      This breaks my heart, and I remember feeling this way in college. I’m Asian, and I went to a predominantly white college with the slimmest, blondest, tallest girls you will ever see. I’m 5’6″ and a size 8, and I felt so fat and short ALL THE TIME. I never felt so ugly as I did my freshman year of college, and it really took a toll not only on my confidence but my health. I thought it was weird because I never felt that way in high school – I actually felt confident about my looks then, so I knew I had to change something somehow.

      As a result, I did something I thought I’d never do. I joined the Filipino club at school. I always thought that those kinds of clubs were silly and self-important (internal racism much?) but suddenly it was nice to be around a bunch of people that looked like me. I obviously kept all my other friends (in fact, some of them even joined, including a blond, slim one! lol), but it felt good to have that balance and know that everyone looks different. I also noticed I started hanging out with a variety of friends from different races and body types – I don’t know if that effort was subconscious or what, but we looked like a Benetton ad and we all got along (and still do), so awesome.

      I don’t know how you can find a group of friends that look like you there, but my school stopped feeling like an Abercrombie ad and more like the real world after that. I stopped noticing the model-like students everywhere and re-shifted my focus away from my appearance and back to my life and, especially, school (thank goodness, since that’s the whole reason I was there). I hope you find something that helps!

    • BaldheadedFoo

      sorry, but this is definitely an “upper middle class white woman’s” type of problem. I cannot muster any sympathy for someone who appears to have been very lucky in life overall based on your story. getting “stopped and frisked” is something to get stressed about or getting threatened on your way to school everyday in a dangerous neighborhood but your “problem” is ridiculous.

      • Samantha_Escobar

        Uh, I guess? I’m also a repeat sexual assault survivor since I was first raped at 13, used to be in an abusive relationship, don’t remember what it’s like to live without PTSD, and have several medical problems that frequently make it difficult to walk without falling down or walking with a cane. I pay all my own bills and loans, and I work fucking hard to do so.

        But considering none of that was fucking relevant to this article, I didn’t really feel the need to add it to a completely different story. Problems are still existant, regardless of whether or not they’re up to your standard of validity. Oh, and I’m not an “upper middle class white woman.” I’m biracial, asshole. Also, fuck you.

        (However, a sincere thanks to everyone who’s been positive and realizes that body image issues are an actual issue. I genuinely appreciate it.)

      • Alexis H

        Yeah, it’s the same kind of logic that people use when they want to one-up one person’s assault with their mom’s cancer or something. Or the person who tries to outdo the cancer with his FULL BLOWN AIDS. And the AIDS guy is nothing compared to the shanty town in Brazil that was wiped out by a mudslide that suffocated all of the inhabitants. There’s always someone who has it worse than you. Always. That doesn’t mean that your problems aren’t real. People can be awful.

      • Samantha_Escobar

        Thank you. And seriously — there’s nothing worse than people who consider other people’s issues invalid because they’re not their own or they’re not ones that they can relate to. There are people who have cancer, debilitating anxiety, substance abuse issues, violence at home, body disorders, money problems, a home devastated by hurricanes or earthquakes or tornadoes…everything. And it sucks that people think it’s some sort of competition or that one is inherently imaginary simply because they’re not “as bad” as another.

    • Lastango

      “But I don’t want to change my appearance; I want to change how I
      feel, which is arguably much more difficult. I can’t singlehandedly
      change the standards of beauty because I feel rubbish about myself, but I
      also don’t want to conform to them purely based on insecurities.”

      Since you’re asking for advice I’ll throw out a thought to consider. From your description, I get the impression that the one thing that would do the most the quickest for your confidence is to get your weight down and keep it down. Sure, there are lots of other things you could try to get some ego-supporting success, or to reorient your thinking, but you may have a sense that it’s pretty much certain trimming down would actually give you a big boost.

      If so, that’s a good start, because it makes the goal and the incentive simple and clear. Working to manage down your weight doesn’t have to come from a mindset of insecurity and self-rejection. It can also come from self-acceptance.

      How so? Sometimes, we need to accept ourselves as human. And, it seems, when we humans look sharp we feel and act sharp. That means we can view looking after our appearance as something we do to improve our true selves, so we can free our mind and be at our best. Looked at that way, staying slim is like learning a skill so we can progress at our education or profession, and optimize our chances for success. There’s nothing inherently negative about that, and even fear of failure can be used to our advantage.

      (Of course I’m guessing a bit about your situation, and only you know what can work for you.)

      I’m not big on diet tips, but as an aside I’ll tell you what I do when I catch my weight creeping up: I stop buying food. When there’s just rice and tuna in the kitchen, it’s surprising how fast the pounds fall off. I can’t eat what’s not there.

      (Sorry for the necro-comment, but I’ll leave it anyway on the chance you’ll get a bell.)

    • Janine

      I gained a lot of weight after going through a bad harassment experience and developing hypothyroid syndrome. I felt like really I should just stay home. Permanently. And a New York downtown resident, too. But instead I ignored how I looked and focused on learning to project my personality. So strangely, people like me. Assert yourself, your real self. It’s not the reflection you think you see in the subway window. Ignore your looks! Focus on a smile and asserting who you are, especially if you happen to be a kind or funny person

    • LAbarbie

      Hi Sam,

      Dalai Lama once said, “If you become more concerned for the welfare of others, you will experience a sense of calm, inner strength and self-confidence.”

      We all are a bit sleep-deprived, a teaspoon stressed about life/work/love, and wish for a brighter tomorrow. Whenever I feel down, I find a lot of happiness in giving to others. I am involved in a couple of different volunteer organizations, doing things that I think are meaningful and fun. It really has become the best part of my life, and fuels my happiness energy. Why don’t you give that a try too? :)

      Good luck, and lots of hugs! <3

    • Jill G

      Yes! This! I’ve been in NYC for half a year and I still feel pretty awful self-esteem-wise. Ugh. Now I’m going to read the comments and hopefully there is some good advice…

    • Frank

      As a physically unappealing man, I felt horrible about my body, ironically enough, in the Pacific Northwest of all places. In that sense, I guess I can relate to what you describe. As an old hack at being undesirable — and I do not think you are this — I think the most important thing to remember is that when you reach the pitch of solitude where you feel totally hopeless, to turn matters over to the world. Turn it over to life. You are doing your best. When you do that, something happens. You stop chasing after things you don’t have. You are able to see clearly. It can be an enriching thing I think, people accustomed to constant companionship (or narcotics) never get to experience. Clarity. Embracing it is an excellent avenue toward writing about the grotesque things you often find yourself surrounded by in this amazing, corrupt, beautiful, bedraggled place.

    • shawn crofts

      youre beautifull :)

    • erreco