The other day, my husband remarked that he noticed some back muscles on me.
“Really?” I asked, all excited. “Take a picture!”
He obliged, and I attempted my best effort at flexing. When he was done, I grabbed my phone to look.
And was suddenly mortified.
I’ve had three kids and worked very hard to get healthy and back to my pre-pregnancy weight, but all I could think of when I saw that picture of my back was, “I have so much back fat!”
Motherhood is full or ups and downs, and nowhere is this more evident that our perception of our own bodies.
Our emotions go up and down like our pregnancy and postpartum weights as we deal with how to feel comfortable in our own skins. Most of the time, we aren’t.
I still have days where I think I’m fat. I have days where I look at the sagging remnants of my baby-producing body and feel sad. I still have areas where I think, “If I could just get rid of this back fat/ armpit fat/love handle/fill in the blank…”
Regardless of my health journey, I still struggle with body issues. Almost daily.
Which leads me to the first harsh truth:
Harsh Truth #1. Until you learn to love and honor yourself apart from your appearance, you will never be happy.
Most of us have it completely backwards. We think, “Once I lose 20 pounds, I’ll be satisfied.” or “If I could just get down to (fill in the blank) size, I’d be happy.” We have this imagined if-then mindset that we constantly adjust as life goes on. “If (insert) happens, then I’ll be (insert.)”
We imagine that on the other side of weight loss is happiness or success. We think that will we never again have troubles with our self esteem and self confidence.
But it never works like that.
Harsh Truth #2. If you base your self-worth on how others perceive you, you will never be happy.
So much of our time is taken up by the pursuit of pleasing others. More often than not, we buy clothes to please and impress everyone else. We go into debt trying to keep up with the perceived level of success of those around us. We buy cars or houses we can’t afford. We question our own judgement with our children, base on what other mothers seem to be doing.
We want to think that if we’re are fit enough, people will admire us. If we are pretty enough, people will love us. If we dress/act/ eat/ a certain way, we will win the respect and affection of others.
And that is simply not true.
I struggle with this, and I know you struggle with some or all of this. Because we’re human, we’re women, and we are fighting the daily barrage on our self-esteems, from magazines, advertisement, movies, and social media.
We are told that if we follow these ideas that marketing presents to us, we will have the life that marketing presents to us
This is a lie.
Marketing and social media likes and a smaller size and fancy clothes and weight loss are all fine things. There’s nothing wrong with pretty clothes or wanting to lose weight. But these things will not bring us the happiness that comes from knowing our own self worth and feeling good in our own skin.
So let me share with you 5 things you can start to do now, to help you love and cherish yourself.
Turn it off.
Social media has become a major part of our lives, and a major contributor to people feeling bad about themselves. I’ve experienced it; you’ve experienced it. We see the highlight reel of other’s lives, whether it’s the mom who makes the time to be fit and has the killer bod, or the fitness model who knows how to perfectly strike a pose. (Did you know if you pigeon-toe your feet and slightly lean forward, when you take a picture of your post-run legs it looks like you have a thigh gap?)
That’s not real life.
Social media is not the only culprit. TV and movies, bilboards, magazine articles (oh the magazine articles! Don’t get me started!) all present this imagery life that we feel we must attain in order to be happy. Only problem is, it’s completely unattainable. Where does that leave us? Feeling bad, worthless, guilty, or shamed.
So turn it off. All of it. It’s just useless noise anyway. Just an annoying, yippity dog yapping in your ear.
Turn off the TV marketing and advertising. Turn off the fabulous Instagram lives. And for the love of Moses, turn away from those blasted magazine covers that promise you a bikini body in 4 weeks!
Instead tune into your wonderfully flawed, crazy, and meaningful life. Sure, it’s madness, and far from perfect, but it yours and it’s beautiful! Your Heavenly Father blessed you with your life, your family, and your body and none of it’s perfect, but that’s ok! You don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful or significant. So turn off everything that says you do.
Stop listening to yourself.
This is different than listening to your body. I’m talking about the self talk we engage in on any given day. For example:
“I’m a mess.”
“I haven’t showered and I have bags under my eyes.”
“No one would want to hear my opinion anyway.”
“Ugh, my body is disgusting.”
“I hate my thighs.”
“I’m a worthless piece of garbage.”
Don’t pretend for a moment that thoughts like that haven’t entered your mind. The negative critic that lives in your brain is enough to drive any woman to self-loathing. We listen again and again to that voice until we eventually believe that we’re fat, worthless, and boring.
The little voice in your head is a liar.
Because you are precious. You are worth more than rubies. You are loved by many.
When we can practice tuning out the liar in our heads, we can start practicing the next topic.
Start talking to yourself.
If you were able to tell your daughter or mother or best friend anything to encourage them, what would it be?
“You can do anything.”
“You are so beautiful, inside and out.”
“I love you so much.”
“You are so important to me.”
You would never call your daughter worthless, so why do you speak to yourself that way? You are someone’s daughter! You are someone’s mother! Start speaking to yourself as if you were speaking to a friend: full of forgiveness, grace, and love.
Remind yourself of how far you’ve come, how you’ve grown and matured as a person, how you have brought tiny humans into this world through your amazingly created body!
When you start talking to yourself in love and grace, you drown out the little negative voice in your head. You can control the words you say to yourself, and shut the little negative voice up.
Your words have so much power; use them to encourage yourself.
Change the dialogue.
There as been an amazing push on social media for embracing and loving your own body. I love this! The more we can see and encourage real women to love their God-given bodies for what they are and can do, that better we will be.
Let change the dialogue! Let’s change the attitude of what women’s bodies are supposed to look like! Because I have to tell you, I’ve seen beautiful, intelligent, funny, amazing women in a variety of shapes and sizes and I love them all!
When I’m with my girlfriends, I’m not thinking about whether or not they lost the baby weight or if they are “bikini ready”. I’m admiring their faith, their dedication to their families, their spiritual encouragement, and their ability to make me laugh.
Let’s stop pretending that in order to be considered beautiful, you have to look a certain way. That’s absolute nonsense and we need to change it! Let’s start promoting the real beauty of women.
Remember whose you are.
I cannot emphasize this enough. There’s no point in me encouraging you to love WHO you are, if you don’t know WHOSE you are.
You are a blood-bought daughter of Christ.
Because without him, guess what? We are worthless. Those nasty voices in our head are right. We are nothing without Christ.
Through him we are everything! We are forgiven and made holy. We are daughters of a King. We are called according to his purpose to love our husbands, mother our children, and share his Word. We are created with magnificent bodies that can do amazing things!
Through him we are worth loving and being loved.
Let’s change the attitude about our bodies. Let’s celebrate the beauty of all women, and honor the glorious creatures God made us. Let’s throw away all expectations and stereotypes of how we “should” look, or “should” act, or “should” be.
The first part of starting a journey toward a healthier version of yourself is believing that you are in fact worth it. Love the amazing woman you are.