Sure, you might love your eyebrows, say, or your long legs, but try to also think about qualities that aren’t so tied to what’s on the outside (because even fixating on your favorite physical traits is just another way to attach your value to your appearance). Instead, you might scribble something like, “I don’t look the same as I used to, but I have great friends and a fantastic new job that I’m proud of.” Or, “I may not have a six-pack anymore, but I’m in a healthy romantic relationship with a partner who loves me for me.” By jotting down (and revisiting) these affirmations, you’re arming yourself with a new secret weapon for fighting off intrusive, negative body thoughts: a healthier, more optimistic perspective and a boost of confidence, Dr. Daniels says.
Think of your inner child or future, older self.
Remember when we asked if you would be as harsh to your loved ones? Rollin says it can be an effective exercise in self-kindness to also consider your inner child, or even your elderly self (a.k.a. you as a cute-as-hell old person in 30, 40, 50 years).
You can hang up a favorite photo of adorable little seven-year-old you near your bathroom mirror or maybe set it as your phone background—a reminder that this sweet, innocent kid doesn’t deserve unkind words about their thighs, say, or their under-eyes—and neither does your adult self.
If you’re not a big fan of the whole “healing your inner child” thing, not a problem. Instead, Rollin suggests imagining when you’re 80 or 90 years old after having lived a long, full life and asking, “What’s going to matter most to me in my final days?” Is it going to be the wrinkles and fat on your body—or the lack thereof during your younger years—or the friendships you’ve made, the goals you’ve accomplished, and the memories you’ve cherished? (Hint: It’s probably the latter.)
Resist the temptation to constantly scroll through your camera roll.
Perusing old Instagram posts or camera-roll photos can be heartwarming on occasion, but this habit can turn self-destructive if you’re obsessing over evidence of your former body.
“Many of us are guilty of zooming in on our stomachs, faces, legs, or arms and then critiquing them,” Rollin says. If you’re regularly tempted to search for proof that your body was definitely “better” back in the day, there are ways to manage these harmful behaviors. One example is to zoom out and actually look at the full image (including the sky and scenery, for example) so that you can see yourself similarly to how others see you: As a whole person, and not just isolated, magnified body parts.
If the urges to pick your photos apart or create side-by-sides of your past and present self are just too strong, you can also straight-up eliminate your ability to act on them. Dr. Kwan recommends transferring any triggering images onto a hard drive, say, or adding them to a Google Drive folder. We know you probably won’t want to permanently delete these memories, but tucking them away can ensure that you’ll still have access to them—just not right at your fingertips, 24/7.
Reevaluate who you’re following on social media—and who you’re surrounding yourself with IRL.
Even though you’re comparing yourself to yourself, the expectation that you should look the same as you did in 2013, say, is probably at least partially stemming from external factors, like a loved one’s negative body comments echoing in your mind or that pervasive cultural pressure to “slim down” we keep mentioning.