A few weeks ago I sat myself down for a serious chat. From the beginning of my current pregnancy, I’d noticed a lot of negativity and bullying in my inner dialogue, and it was time to do some honest-to-goodness re-evaluation and psychoanalysis.
The majority of this inner chat was directed at how my body looked. I’d make snide comments about my appearance, things like, “My gosh, your hips are getting huge,” or, “You’ll need to quit eating after this baby comes if you’re ever going to fit into your old jeans.” One phrase I found myself repeating over again both in my head and out loud was, “When I get my body back…” It was as though I had an internal clock counting this pregnancy down, just dying for the moment that I could get back to my regular fitness routine and tighten up what was becoming flabby. I’d feel the need to apologize or make excuses about my increased appetite and body size. Yet despite all this negativity, my exercise and eating didn’t improve. Rather than motivate me, I felt more compelled to let healthy habits slide because, really, what was the point? I didn’t have my “real” body—just a more hippo-esque replica.
Now I know this is all unimportant in the big picture. I’m ashamed that I was so fixated on such silly things; but like the pubescent girl adjusting to her developing physique, I find all the changes pregnancy brings to my body difficult to swallow. I thought I’d moved on from the body image insecurity that plagued me as a teenager, but it turns out that I hadn’t, and I desperately needed to change my way of thinking.
After a lot of thought, I felt my problem revolved around the idea that it would only be after pregnancy, that I’d “get my body back.” But this didn’t make sense, because my body hasn’t gone anywhere. Every day it works so hard to nourish and develop my precious baby. Millions of physiological processes dance in miraculous harmony, sustaining not only my life but the life of my growing baby boy.
My body allows me to get down on the ground to play with my toddler and feel the warmth of his little embrace. It allows me to snuggle up to my husband, enjoying the comfort of his presence and love. It allows me to go for the walks I so love, soak in enchanting sunsets, eat my favorite foods, listen to my favorite music, read and think about great books, and talk to my wonderful friends. It has allowed me to be the mother of two little boys. All of the things that I love to do, I can do, because of this miraculous, wonderful body.
Like any gift, this body of mine deserves to be cherished and nurtured. Rather than belittle it with negative talk and unhealthy living, I ought to do my best to keep it strong, and then use it as the instrument for good that it’s meant to be. I’ve noticed that when I commit to healthy living and then use my strength for helping other people, I’m far more confident and kind to myself.
Sure, I may not have the most attractive physique, but I recognize that I’m so much more than someone to be ogled at. Plenty of sleep, regular exercise, healthy eating, taking time to enjoy the people and things I love, and a large dose of thinking about others are the keys to my self confidence.
In a couple of months this swollen, cushioned body will deliver my child and continue to help him grow through a perfectly concocted formula of milk and warmth. In that moment, when I get to snuggle my newborn my chest, I don’t want to waste an ounce of strength worrying about how my body matches up to the unrealistic ideal we so idolize in our society. In a world that seeks to remove all traces of motherhood from a woman’s body, I will choose to be different. I will look past the saggy skin and stretch marks and be grateful for what a treasure it is to have a body. I won’t need to “get my body back” because it was here the whole time.
QUESTION: Do you struggle with a negative self-image? In what way?
CHALLENGE: Make a list of some of the wonderful things that your body allows you to do right now.
Edited by: Katie Carter and Amanda Lewis.
Image from Shutterstock with graphics by Julie Finlayson.
Originally published on October 5. 2015.