Lately, I have really been struggling with the same issue over and over again--my self-image. I have gone over and over it in my head, asking myself "WHY???" Not "why am I fluffy in certain areas?" but "why do I care so much about whether or not I have a little more love on my handles than other women might?" The fact is that COMPARISON has stolen my JOY in this area. I have a hard time loving the body I have because I am constantly comparing it to other women's bodies who I view to be "ideal."
Before some of you roll your eyes at me, I am aware that I am not a big person. No, I don't think I am massively obese. Honestly, I can't say I have ever ran into a woman who wasn't self-conscious about some part of their body. I know some women who are more confident at 300lbs than some of my friends who are 110lbs. I don't care how big or small you are, every woman struggles with insecurities about their figure. Personally, I think it's stupid that we as women do this to ourselves...to each other.
I can honestly say that as soon as I hit puberty I began to be self-conscious of my body. I remember clear as day a time when I was in 7th grade. I was going to wear a two piece bathing suit for the first time and I just kept thinking my belly looked big....I was 120 lbs. TRUST ME, there was nothing big about my belly. I also remember feeling insanely self-conscious of my figure my senior year of high school when my friends and I all went on Spring Break together. Ha! I found some of those pictures and was in awe at how amazing my body looked. Zero cellulite, tight abs, boobs where they are supposed to be, and the only love handle to be seen was the natural curve of my body. I asked myself "why the heck did I think I was fat then?!?!" In talking about it to my sister, she made the joke that we will probably look back at pictures of ourselves from now in ten years and ask ourselves the same thing. Why can't we just love the bodies we have in the moment?
I have spent so much time over the past 15 years being self conscious of my figure that I have very rarely taken the time to love the body I have (although, there was for sure a when time I took full advantage of low cut tops and short shirts that showed just a bit of midriff. I didn't love ALL my body, but I sure made certain to show off my best assets). I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to love the body that God has given me in a way that is not vain.
Here is what I know to be true:
- I am going to be 29 this year. It is time to stop thinking I can compete with all those girls between the ages of 18 and 25. I AM aging. Time to own it, right?
- Speaking of competing with other girls, why am I? My husband thinks I am beautiful and he actually has to see me in all my glory. If he thinks I am hot, why should I care about how I measure up to the nearest teeny bopper.
- I have so many things to be proud of in my life, so why is my poor body-image clouding my perception of my overall beauty? I have worked really hard to earn a BSW and an MAC. Those were huge accomplishments for me. I can crochet anything someones asks of me, and have started a project collecting hats for babies in the NICU in honor of a sweet baby girl born too soon. I have a phenomenal group of friends that love me for my inner beauty. My husband really is the greatest person I could have asked for. I love to sing and think I am actually good at it. I really make the best popcorn around, etc, etc
- My body is never going to look tip top amazing because it has been a home for the two most beautiful girls I know. Yup, I have a big 'o scar under my belly button from my c-section with Evie. I have stretch marks on my belly and my hips from my skin being pulled to make room for my babies. My belly muscles are for sure not tight and taunt after 2 babies have stretched them out. And, sorry to say it, but "the girls" are for sure not where they used to be after nursing two babies. Ha, nothing a good bra can't fix! What I look at as my most ugly "flaws" should really be my most proud "beauty marks."
- Let's be honest. I know how to get a rock solid body. Working out and eating healthy. Can I do these things? Yup. Do I want to? No. I can't imagine waking up earlier than I do to go for a run. I'd rather sleep in and have a bit more energy for the day. I would rather eat french fries than carrots (doesn't everyone?). Self-discipline is not one of my shining personality traits. Just because I am not great at getting a rock solid body does not mean I am not great at other things (see point #3).
- The more I focus on my problem areas, the more my girls will suffer. I want them to know that they are beautiful because of who they are on the INSIDE. Their dress size does not determine their worth. I need to teach them this by my actions and my words. I never want this to be them:
Again, I am not writing this because I think I am a huge, fat, blob. I am writing this because I am so sick of being held prisoner by negative, self-loathing, thoughts while comparing myself to others wishing I looked like them. I want freedom. I don't want my girls to ever feel like they are less than who they are because they have cellulite in their legs or arms that jiggle. I am so beyond sick of the perfectionist society we live in that expect women to have perfect bodies and bounce right back after a week after giving birth (no thanks to Heidi Klum). I am even more sick of allowing society's expectations to get into my head and to make me feel less than who I am.
My new goal is to love myself inside and out despite what the scale says. I want to stop being a slave to society's ideal of how a woman should look. I do think it is important to be healthy, and I know I can always do a better job at this, but it is high time I spent more time striving for health rather than vanity. There is a difference. It is time to strive for God's approval, rather than man's.