The five stages of self-loathing

I am YET ANOTHER person doing a 365-day project.  Four weeks in, I am happy to report that I am four weeks in.

Inspired by this post, I decided to undertake 365 days of self portraits.


After nearly a month, I have cycled through every emotional state available, from Avoidance to Zealousness.  I have been impressed by my eyes, whose colour ranges from dark amber to jet black depending on the lighting, and annoyed by my skin, which presents as more 14 than 40.

In the end, I’ve identified five major stages or phases experienced while doing to this project, based loosely on Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ model.  These stages may apply to other 365-day projects but honestly, if you’re feeling “doubt” at your new-word-a-day efforts or “despair” at a year’s worth of food photos, I think you might have cause for abandoning your cause early.  I won’t judge.

Herewith, the five stages of self-loathing, with accompanying photos:

1. Enthusiasm: “This is exciting!”; “I am so original!”
2_365Intense in the beginning, enthusiasm is short lived. The novelty of the project is initially enough to sustain interest but is slowly replaced with an appreciation of the commitment and duration involved. An individual who fails to progress past enthusiasm is more likely to suffer from smile-induced facial lines and the gradual loss of friends, online and off.

2. Surprise: “I am kind of pretty!”; “Those lines look permanent.”
365_surpriseThe individual who persists in this type of narcissistic endeavour will inevitably experience surprise. This may manifest positively (feelings of attractiveness) or negatively (a growing awareness of one’s flaws). Like enthusiasm, surprise is unsustainable in the long term, unless the long term involves facial reconstruction.

3. Doubt: “I have run out of ideas.”; “Why hasn’t my mother liked this yet?”
365_doubtThe third stage of self-loathing is characterized by doubt — first occasional, then all-consuming.  The individual will begin by doubting their own attractiveness, followed by questioning their creative skills, then wondering why no one has told them it’s a stupid idea.  It is during this stage that the subject is most like to photograph their hands, feet, elbows, etc.

4. Despair: “I wish I hadn’t read about those Botox horror stories.”; “At least I’m smart.”
365_despairDespair is the most enduring and challenging stage.  The realization that one’s nose is larger than previously thought, that an offset spatula is the ideal tool for applying concealer, and that photography provides incontrovertible proof of one’s aesthetic shortcomings makes this stage particularly difficult. Subjects will often resort to distraction, such as including “cute” images like kittens and babies in their photographs.

5. Resignation: “Asymmetry is nature’s normal.”; “Only 48 weeks to go.”
365_resignationThe final stage, resignation, is marked by a renewal of commitment to the project.  Some individuals describe a growing acceptance of their flaws, describing them as “natural” or “authentic,” while others focus on the end goal and the time remaining to achieve it.  Images are less likely to be altered and edited as subjects effectively — sometimes literally — throw in the towel.


  1. I have my moment like this went I go on holiday to a sunny place after a long winter and see myself devoid of soft lighting and shadows. shudder.

    • Heh. What’s so interesting is how things that I used to really like about my face are now nearly invisible to me, while other “flaws” rise up to take their place.

      • so much is frame of mind, before now I have had a day of feeling ugly with bad hair only to get home and see its all settled down and I actually looked pretty all day..

        • You’re totally right. I’m changing up my Facebook profile pic every day and the ones that people seem to like aren’t always my personal favourites.

  2. Ah, good luck! I did a 365 of self-portraits a few years ago. There are definite ups and downs and many times when I wanted it all to end. By the end of the year I couldn’t stand looking at myself, but I did learn that I, in fact, do have a good side, and had become a much better photographer in general.

    Celebrate every single milestone you can, it’s what will make it easier!

    • Thanks, Maryam. I am one of those people who looks “alright” in person but does NOT photograph well … I’m already getting a sense of best angles, ideal lighting, etc. And when none of those tricks work? Throw in a cute kid and call it a day.

  3. Sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder who the hell is that woman staring at me?

  4. Good for you! I absolutely hate pictures of myself. I could do a year of them and find maybe one that I like. ;) I like the towel one best. It’s so every-day-of-your-life. It’s great.

    • Thanks — others really seem to like that one, too (as do I, for exactly the reason you noted). I figure out of 365, I’ll probably get a handful of images really like and a dozen or so that I don’t hate. I can live with that ratio. :-)

  5. He’s a bit on the young side, but get Seve to take photos of you. I still prefer being behind the camera, but my son (even from an early age) has always managed to get shots of me that I actually like.

    • Actually, Seve has his own brand of photographic genius — we’ve got a folder of his shots already on the go. Now, most of the pictures of me are wholly unflattering — think “up-the-nostril shot” unflattering — but they’re very honest. It’s what he sees. :-)

  6. I started this challenge a few months ago. Frankly, only because I was dying to make a video of it at the end of the year. But after 5 days I gave up. Simply becaause, each time, it would take me a million tries to get a photo if myself, that I wasn’t critical of. Ah, the pleasures of self loathing! LOL! Good luck on your challenge!
    Ps: I love the last two photographs. So natural. Especially the cute photo bomb peeping over your head in the second last one :)

    • You would LOVE today’s pic. It’s me holding Seve’s toilet seat to my head like a great turquoise fascinator. Once I gave up on looking non-silly in every shot it got a LOT easier. :-)

      • LOL! You had me laughing so hard just imagining that photograph. I’m glad your sense of fun is making this challenge a whole lot more fun that it would have been otherwise.

  7. Lol love this post lots

  8. I’m super impressed you are doing this. Do you post them somewhere? I would be doing re-take after re-take every day and would eventually just resign myself to photographing feet, ankles, elbows… strictly speaking personally: the cute bits.

    • Right now I’m switching up my FB profile pic daily. I’m keeping on- and offline albums, too, but so far have restricted access to just me, haha. I’ll probably do monthly composites or something like that …

  9. Thank you for my morning chuckle. I’m right with you on the “Why hasn’t my mother liked this yet?”- only one person in my family follows my blog – what’s up with THAT????

    • What’s even weirder? You might not have a huge family following, but I’ll bet you have a pile of acquaintances who read your blog … they’ll casually mention it one day and shock the heck outta ya.

  10. Just think–you’ll have so many choices of photos to submit when giving your bio for all the speaking engagements sure to come your way for completing this project ;)

  11. Verity Keen says:

    Soft focus is a wonderful thing… I think you should do a 365 of the kids instead, they change so quickly… but then again they don’t sit still for long enough – V

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.

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