Like many women, I’m just not a fan of my appearance. I can catch a glimpse in the mirror and feel instant disapproval of my reflection. Not tall enough, not thin enough, not fashionable enough, blah blah blah.
Also like many women, I’m reeeaaally not a fan of my pregnant appearance. I begin the pregnancy by gaining weight in my face. Then my arms, then legs, and finally a baby bump appears to round it all out and I succumb to stretchy pants that stretch all the way up to my chest. This all certainly does a number on my not-tall-enough-or-thin-enough-or-fashionable-enough ideal image.
Soon after I learned I was pregnant with my fifth baby, I had a hunch that there were new lessons to be learned these 9+ months. So I began to observe my thoughts to see what was going on in the ol’ pregnant brain. It took only half a day to realize that I was absolutely, 110%, utterly cruel to myself. Seriously, I woke up at 6 am, looked in the mirror, and felt disgust. 10 minutes later, I saw my reflection again and thought, ‘Ugh. Just gross’. A few minutes later I was again looking in a mirror and saying, ‘Why can’t I be one of those tall, thin pregnant ladies?’ And then to complete the self-torture, I recalled an article I read years ago about Julia Roberts filming a movie scene in a bikini while very pregnant and no one noticing. And then I shuddered at the thought of being filmed in a bikini.
*No joke. As I write this an advertisement pops up promising maternity clothes to help you look cute while pregnant.
I was completely shocked by the sheer volume of self-hate comments I uttered to myself within 30 minutes. And also by how unaware I had been of my inner thoughts. How long have I been saying things like this to myself? The truth is, since my earliest childhood memory.
I thought of my beautiful, vibrant, confident 4-year old daughter and how I would never ever ever ever think- let alone say– such mean things to her. *She is sitting with me as I type this and just saw my bumble bee picture and gasped, Oh how pretty!
*She just saw this picture too and gasped, “Oh how pretty!”
So I backed away from the mirror as if putting down a weapon and retreated to my journal, my other weapon. Not knowing exactly where to start, I decided to begin listing the positives. The gratitude. the antidotes to all that cruel inner chatter. It looked something like this:
- My body has served me well these 35 years, even though I’ve not always treated it kindly.
- It has allowed me to travel the world and have all sorts of adventures.
- It has given birth (all-naturally!) to 4 souls in 6 years, with a fifth on the way.
- It has provided nourishment for those 4 souls for years (I’ve been nursing with very few exceptions for the past 7 years!)
- I have always been able to ‘loose the baby weight’ and continue a healthy, active lifestyle.
- I teach fitness classes that I enjoy and can actually perform
- The greys, the crows’ feet, the sags are all signs of living a full and adventurous life.
- They’re also signs of living in a finite body. It’s just reality.
My list became a type of written apology to my body- Sorry for being such an unloving friend. I’m going to work on being a more loving one. It also became a written thank you note to my body- thanks for not bailing on me even though I’ve put you through a lot! It also became a prayer to God- How can I change these toxic thought patterns and behaviors?
The answer came pretty quickly and clearly when I inevitably passed my reflection later that day and instantly noticed those hissing, mean thoughts. Man, they’re like an infestation! And then this wave of strength and grit and It-Stops-Here-And-Now-Attitude swelled up and I said out loud:
TAKE CAPTIVE. TAKE CARE.
TAKE CAPTIVE every thought and make it obedient to Christ, who gives us the gift of human bodies and loves us regardless of what that human body looks like but also desires us to care for that human body for our good and His glory.
TAKE CARE of that human body. Feed it healthy, whole foods. Hydrate it with clean water. Give it the exercise it needs. Fill it with nurturing, true thoughts. Honor it.
If I had a dollar for every time that I have now said out loud TAKE CAPTIVE (in a stern Momma Voice) and TAKE CARE (in a nurturing Momma Voice), well, I’d have enough money to buy all the maternity clothes in that pop-up ad promising absolute cuteness. Though I’m not sure I’d want to. Ok, a few.
I realize this blogpost has some holes in it and that it may not apply to your personal situation. However, I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you notice similar thoughts? How do you combat them? How do you help your daughters embrace a healthy body image?