As adults, it’s not unusual to see our reflections (if we even dare to look at a mirror) and name things we don’t like (anyone else remember that mirror scene from Mean Girls?). We live with so many expectations of what beauty is, while also dealing with the stress of a busy day-to-day schedule.

The thing is, we aren’t born with that critical voice in our heads – we’re just letting it live up there, rent free.

If you’re ready to work on kicking out the rude and hateful tenant in your mind and house a chill, or even loving, replacement, try out some of the following:

Counter the Voices

Think about how often you look in the mirror and think negative thoughts. Now think about how often you compliment yourself. If you compare the frequency and you’re doing more of the former than the latter, it might be time to increase your intentional self-love practice.

Try this. Stand in front of the mirror. For every intrusive negative comment that enters your mind, come up with something neutral or positive to say – even better if it’s out loud. This might feel silly at first. But if you think about it, you’re likely bombarding your mind with negative statements regularly – aka, you are primed to receive those criticisms. That priming has probably had a negative effect on your body esteem. It will take time and practice to reprogram that messaging, but if you were able to train your mind to believe the negative, you can also train it in other directions.

Bonus: You can try this activity clothed, but also try it naked. The more time you spend with your naked self, the more you will get used to your body and the less scary it will become.

Movement with the Mirror

Once you’ve gotten some practice countering negative voices, a next step can be to engage in activities in front of the mirror. It’s not uncommon to present the mirror with the version of ourselves that feels the most attractive. We do this by wearing clothing we find flattering or in postures that pop what we want popped or slim what we want slimmed. However, if that’s the only version we are confronting, we’re essentially hiding from ourselves.

Try doing some yoga, dance, or other movements in front of your mirror. See how things poke out, roll, move. You might be tempted to let the critical voice come knocking as you see things you try to avoid. It’ll happen and that’s ok! Make sure you also bring in that self-loving voice. Think about what fascinates you about how your body moves. Watch how fat and muscle do a dance while you work. Are there sexy things you can try now that you were too scared to watch yourself do before? Keep practicing the counter voice practice. The reflection you’ve avoided will lose power.

Become a Work of Art

Think about artwork from around the world and across time. The bodies represented have varied greatly in size, shape, skin color, body hair, level of nudity, and more. The thing these pieces have in common is that someone saw art in another’s form and chose to memorialize it. I invite you to become an artist and create a self-portrait. You deserve to be seen as the masterpiece you are.

Your self-portrait can take many forms. As a lover of plants and colorful furniture, I use these things, along with a mirror, to curate a background that brings me peace and joy. Then, I position myself within it and have mini photoshoots. For visual artists, grab your medium of choice (pencils, paints, clay, collage materials, etc.) and, while staring at your reflection, create something in your likeness.

Make Love to the Mirror

This is an opportunity to connect deeply with your sensual and sexual energies. You may feel silly doing this the first time but embrace yourself! To really get into this activity, try setting the mood. You can play with lighting, music, and even incense for both the scent and the erotic smoke it emits. That’s my go to, but your mood might look more like dark shawls, fake spiderwebs, and dead plants or red leather and latex. Whatever will make you feel sensual and excited is the right vibe.

Once the mood is set, lock eyes with yourself in the mirror and play. You can walk suggestively towards yourself, do hip circles, slowly touch and tease across your body. You might slither or crawl, slowly, towards your reflection. You could spin your wheelchair so that you are looking over your shoulder seductively as you run your hand down your arm. It doesn’t need to be a long activity and not everything you do will feel exciting, but this is a time for play so experiment and see where that takes you.

It’s a Practice

Remember that even if you begin to transform your relationship with your body, the obnoxious tenant who is all about self-hate might still come around and bug you. Think of this practice like changing the locks on the house. The jerk might visit and make a mess in the street in front of your home, but we can keep the door closed and wait it out. Intrusive thoughts will still happen but these practices will help build you up so you can wait out the negativity and return to a state you find more soothing.

Yael R. Rosenstock Gonzalez

Yael R. Rosenstock Gonzalez

Sex Educator, Researcher, Author, Speaker
Yael R Rosenstock Gonzalez is a sex educator, researcher, author, speaker, and curriculum developer. As a queer, polyamorous, white-presenting Nuyorican Jew, Yael has always been interested in understanding the multi-level experiences of individuals. This led her to found Kaleidoscope Vibrations, LLC, a company dedicated to supporting and creating spaces for individuals to explore and find community in their personal identities. Through her company, she facilitates workshops, develops curriculum, offers Identity Exploration Coaching, and publishes narratives often left out of mainstream publishing.

Yael has been engaged in workshop development and facilitation since she joined the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) as a teen peer reproductive rights educator at 15 years old. Since then, she has served as an educator with children ranging from 10 months old to adults in their 70s with different organizations and communities. In her work as first Program Coordinator, then Director of Programming, and finally Associate Director of the Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding, Yael developed and led events, workshops, and programs with an intersectionality lens.