Growing up I never had an issue with body image. I had that natural athletic build and I made full advantage of it in my extra curricular activities.
I heard the other girls around me talk about aspects of their shape or looks that they liked or didn’t like all the time. I watched them consume themselves with looking in the mirror, making sure everything was just right. I heard comments about butt size, thigh size, breast size, hair length, hair consistency, height, foot size, skin complexion, skin color…and much, much more.
I couldn’t identify.
I suppose they were so concerned because they were so intent on winning over the attraction of some boy (which I couldn’t have cared less about – the reasons why are for another post). Or perhaps the caddy friends they kept made comments that damaged their self-image (I only had one female friend so I was safe there). Maybe it was just the way I was raised, just learning that there are so many other important things to be worried about.
Or maybe, just maybe, the real truth is that I didn’t worry about it because I was always fit and it wasn’t until I became “un-fit” that I’m finding that I’m really not much different than anyone else.
I was excited about the thought of being pregnant. I often looked forward to having SEVERAL children. I would joke that I wanted my own starting line up. I daydreamed about looking at a basketball bench and hearing the coach say “put in all five of those – whatever last name I would have – kids”. Over time my expectations became more realistic, but still I thought we would at least have three. Wow, but after the first I have found myself fixated on aspects of my body image in ways I have NEVER dealt with in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to go on some extreme, teenage-like, food disorder type stuff but I do find myself looking in the mirror and pulling out the scale more than I ever have before. And it’s not just the weight gain, but pregnancy brought on a whole onslaught of physical change that I was not ready for and whether I get the weight off or not the impact from those things might remain a constant for me the rest of my life. Things like acne and an increased level of facial blemishes and also dark marks all over my body from an allergic breakout I had while pregnant.
When I look in the mirror there is a lot to get used to, a lot of change. I’m realizing that I’m not any different than those girls I grew up with. I’m just like them. I AM them. I didn’t battle because I didn’t have to battle. I liked the way I looked, I was satisfied, but we’re not in Kansas anymore and clicking my heals three times doesn’t automatically port me back to the bodily “home” that I crave.
Again, this post is not to alarm anyone. No need for an intervention or reminders that I’m still beautiful or anything like that. I’m just acknowledging that I’ve been hit with the reality that the uber strong self-image of the past is more fragile than I thought and my uber deep thinking may be more shallow than I thought.
There is a part of this that is healthy right? There is nothing wrong with being in shape and living a healthy lifestyle and I can use these feelings as motivation to get back to my pre-pregnancy body. But there is a part of this that could be potentially damaging as well right? In my fixation I could lose sight of the fact that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made”, or that it is a privilege to give birth, or that my thoughts could be poisoned by the images portrayed in the media, or that by focusing on what I think others are saying about how I look I completely lose sight of God’s thoughts or my husband’s thoughts or even my own thoughts apart from others.
This is truly new territory…in a way.
There was a point in my life where I had to take anti-depressants and those pills caused what I believed to be significant weight gain. I went from a size 2-4 to wearing a size 8-10. And as if I weren’t already trying to get out of a slump I remember fielding comments from someone I admired about “getting that under control”. I remember battling a little bit in my mind but when I was able to stop the pills I very quickly lost the weight and got back down to the size I remember. Things today are a lot different. I pulled out the jeans I wore during that weight-spike and I cannot fit them. When I look at my face I find myself tempted to wear makeup just to cover the marks. And the belly…let’s not even talk about the belly.
Things are different. But at least I can recognize it and speak about it. The mental struggle is real but I will not be consumed by it.
Here is My Resolve
1) May I take what can be healthy thinking and be motivated towards healthy living, but…
2) May I not embrace unhealthy thinking and lose sight of the joys of motherhood and the honor of carrying a child…
3) Furthermore, may these thoughts never shape me to the point where I forsake doing this process again just for the sake of body image.
Did you battle with your body image during or after giving birth?
How did you overcome those thoughts?
What encouragement could you share to others who are going down this road?