One of the hardest steps on this journey (you know, the overcoming disordered eating and a sucky body image journey) has been coming to terms with and accepting the body I have, right now. Not the body I wish I had or hope to have one day, if I work really hard and push myself; but this body—the body that has a loose, squishy stomach and stretch marks and deflated breasts and round cheeks and thin lips. The body that won’t ever grace the front of a magazine and most likely won’t be caught dead in a bikini. The body that doesn’t always look right in clothes and the body that can look legitimately pregnant after a good dinner.
This is also the body that created and grew and birthed two (big) little babies. This body stretched and grew and ached and hurt, and it supported and sustained and nurtured all three of us. It’s a pretty nifty body, after all.
I don’t look like I did in high school. And sometimes, I get it into my head that I should. I think that I should look like an underweight, not-yet-developed fifteen year old girl, not like a woman and wife and mother who carried two children.
But guess what, self? I am a woman (whether or not I feel like it). I am a wife. I am a mother who carried two children, and those children left their mark on me.
And that is okay.
There is so much pressure sometimes. So much pressure to be better! stronger! prettier! thinner! and it can feel suffocating.
So a few months ago I just said, Screw it. I’m done.
I’m done feeling like I’m not good enough. I’m done with “self-improvement”. I’m done with all of these workouts and diets that are being pushed at me. I’m done with trying to be “stronger” and “healthier” when they’re being used as code words for “thinner” and “prettier”. I’m done with feeling like I have to be beautiful to be worthy of love and attention.
I’m done with trying to be a green, natural, media-free, creative, inspiring, perfect mother. I just can’t do it right now. I’m done with all of the conflicting parenting rules and impossible standards I set for myself before I realized what I was doing. I’m done feeling bad about everything I do because someone out there doesn’t agree with it.
I’m done with goals that never get reached, but taunt me later when I find the discarded slips of hopes, scribbled down in a fit of optimism. I’m done with feeling like I’m never doing enough, with being overwhelmed by all there is to do.
I’m not saying goals are bad. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to improve. Not at all. What I am saying is, you have to know yourself. Know when you’re okay and when you’re not okay. Know when you need to step back from everything, and know that it’s okay to take a break for a while if that’s what you need.
Know that it’s okay to be exactly who you are, right now, and to like that person. For a long time I thought it wasn’t okay to like myself. I thought it was vain or prideful. I thought women were supposed to hate themselves and criticize their bodies. That’s what everyone does, right? That’s normal.
That’s also a big, huge, freaking lie.
When I went to college and had roommates for the first time, I found out that I wasn’t the only one riddled with insecurities. All of these girls that I thought were so beautiful and perfect and intelligent had things they didn’t like about themselves–their stomachs, their thighs, their eyebrows, their hair, their lips, their arms…the list really is infinite.
What the hell are we all doing, treating ourselves like that? What is so wrong with us that we feel like we have to constantly be fixing and perfecting everything about us in order to be “good enough”? Who or what are we trying to be “good enough” for?
The secret is that we are already good enough to the people that love us; to our friends and our families. We are already good enough to God. And I’m giving you permission to believe that you, exactly as you are right now, with all of your supposed imperfections and insecurities and habits and mistakes–you are good enough.
Maybe that sounds cheesy or trite. But I spent years telling myself how stupid and ugly and fat and [fill in the blank with any negative word of your choice] I was and it took me a long time to realize that that is not okay.
It was scary at first, learning to like myself. It was scary to say, “Hey world. I screw up a lot and I might offend people sometimes and I’m not very disciplined. But I like myself, whether or not any of that ever changes.” It’s scary to decide that you look good the way you are. It’s scary to finally start buying clothes that flatter you, the current you in all your glory, instead of waiting until you’ve hit that ever-elusive goal.
If someone calls you fat (or ugly or stupid or whatever) it’s almost easier to just duck your head in shame than it is to stand up and say, “NO. I love myself, and it is not okay for you to treat me like that.” Sticking up for yourself can be terrifying. But you have to do it. You have to take care of yourself. And that includes (and starts with) protecting yourself from that nasty critic that is constantly monologuing in your head.
Again, I don’t think that wanting to lose weight or improve yourself or reach any goal is bad. It’s the motivation behind it that I don’t like. When your motivation is coming from a negative place, or from self-loathing, that’s when I think it’s time to step back, take a breath, and give yourself some space. Space to be, space to grow and change–or not.
And who knows–you might just surprise yourself.
So, in the interest of authenticity and solidarity (and oversharing?) I did something I never ever thought I’d do–post a picture of my bare, non-pregnant abdomen. So there’s that… 😉
Body image is something I’m really, really passionate about (obviously) so forgive me if I seem a little overzealous. That said, it’s something I love to talk about, so if you have thoughts and experiences, please do share.
And show yourself some love. You deserve it.