One glance at Katy Perry’s Instagram page shows that she doesn’t take herself too seriously. She has posted a video of herself with quinoa in her teeth, and recently put up a ’90s throwback photo of herself sitting at a computer in a sports bra, followed by a shot of herself getting a jaw massage. But early Wednesday morning, the pop star randomly posted a sexy shot of herself in a bikini top and cutoff shorts.
“Was feeling insecure about my last two posts so,” she captioned the screenshot from her phone, which clearly shows that she found it by searching online for “Katy Perry hot.” Her post is hilarious and oh-so-relateable, but experts say she’s actually on to something.
“Looking at a good photo builds self-esteem and self-confidence,” clinical psychologist John Mayer, Ph.D., author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, tells Yahoo Beauty, adding that he uses this technique “all the time” with patients who need a confidence boost. But the practice can also give people feedback and reinforcement, he says: “Looking at good photos gives us feedback on how we are doing mentally and physically, and it reinforces our efforts toward goals we have for our improvement, life balance, growth, and positive lifestyle.”
Referencing an old photo of yourself can not only make you feel good about yourself; it can also motivate you to eat better and work out more.
And when it comes to diet and exercise motivation, Beth Warren, R.D.N., founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Living A Real Life With Real Food, tells Yahoo Beauty that people are often visual. “We all feel more motivated and positive when we feel we look good,” she says. “It may help, therefore, to find pictures you enjoy of yourself to get motivated.”
But Jessica Cording, a New York-based dietician, tells Yahoo Beauty that it’s important to choose a photo that reflects a realistic goal. For example, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to get your body to look the way it did when you were in high school if you’re now in your late 20s or 30s, but the way you looked in a photo taken a year or two ago might be more attainable. “I often encourage people to choose a picture where they look happy,” says Cording. “That positive energy can help us feel more upbeat and able to stick with activities and habits that support our goals on days we may be struggling.”
Warren agrees. “Although there may be a positive to looking at good pictures of yourself, it will not be helpful if you turn it into a negative experience,” she says. For example, if you become frustrated that you can’t look the same way you once did, or feel pressured or anxious when you look at a certain photo, that’s not the one for you. If you find that looking at old photos is just stressing you out, you may even want to look outside the physical for motivation, Warren says.
Licensed clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., tells Yahoo Beauty that it’s more relateable to look at a photo of yourself than a stranger. “It can seem more possible when it’s us in the picture,” she says.
Everyone’s needs are different, but if you like the idea of stealing Perry’s trick, Mayer recommends adding it to your feel-good arsenal and using it regularly. Maybe you want to frame a great photo of yourself and place it somewhere you pass by regularly, use it as your phone background, or tack it up someplace that’s linked to your goals — like your fridge, if you’re trying to eat healthier. Just know this: You shouldn’t feel weird about it. “This is not narcissism,” Mayer says. “It is reinforcement and feedback.”
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