So, these things worked very, very well for me, and I’ve seen some self-disparagement floating around lately and wanted to share. You know, in case it could help other people.
1. Get a game with a character creator (customizable character)
2. Get a mirror that you can hold next to you when you start the game. (Phone camera works okay, but DON’T USE A PICTURE. You need to be able to turn your face and see different angles.)
3. When you start the game, make the character look AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE to how you look. Be honest, don’t try to “smooth over” the parts you don’t like. Big nose? You max that slider for those bold nostrils. Gap in your teeth? Try to make the closest thing you can. Tiny lips? Slim them polygons all the way down. Include every single detail that the game allows. (I know that a lot of games are really white washed, so there are less gaming options for POC, sadly. You may be able to find mods that fix that bullshit, or else limit things to games that actually offer your skin color/features. I wish I had better tips for you other than that >.>)
4. Play the game.
I did this with Inquisition, and at first I would cringe a bit when I saw my character. I kept wanting to “fix” things. But after a while, I would look at the character on the screen and think “look how pretty she is in that light”. Or “you know those features aren’t as bad as I thought”. Part of this comes from the fact that you get attached to them through the course of the story, or the other characters around them react positively, and even though it isn’t real it still gives a kind of positive reinforcement. Eventually, I came to think that the avatar was attractive. I would then look in the mirror and see our similarities, and think “maybe I am okay.”
Then you just focus on elevating those thoughts. “I look similar to this character and this character is pretty, so therefore I am pretty.” Keep repeating those thoughts when you have them. Grab on to them and ride them until you can’t anymore. Tell them at yourself while shaking a fist at the imaginary specter of your anxiety!
Doing this also normalizes a version of your face that isn’t as jarring as pictures. You become a little more familiar with yourself, and then the mirror and cameras don’t feel like your enemies anymore. The more games you do this with, the greater the effect.
Which leads us to step 2: selfies. Hundreds of them, all the time. A million angles, different outfits and expression. Take them all. You don’t have to do anything with them, but I would urge you NOT TO DELETE THEM. I have found that pictures I hate in the moment will look a lot better to me a week later. A month later you might just find you have favorites. Your face no longer makes you cringe, you no longer see just the flaws. Eventually you can pick out the things you like!!! And I promise you’ll have things you like.
It takes time. Also, it feels VERY stupid and ineffective when you start. But if you keep at it, things will eventually improve.
And you should know that enjoying the way you look and having confidence are good things!!! It doesn’t make you arrogant or vain, those are completely different. Everyone deserves to look in the mirror and think nice things about themselves.