~Number of pregnancies and births: 2
~The age of your children, or how far postpartum you are: 14 & 11 years old
I find it ironic that I appreciate my body now more than I did when it was a relatively tight little thing in high school. I used to curse what I called a “pot belly” and would wear oversized sweatshirts to hide it. Over two decades later my tight little pot belly is softened, scarred and sagging in places, yet I can now look in the mirror and rejoice in the beauty of my body. I no longer try to hide it, but wear clothes that reveal my curves and in which I feel feminine and sexy. I also now know that my body is not just for looks and I appreciate and feel grateful for all its blessings. First of all, it gets me through my life just fine: I walk, skip and dance. I give and receive hugs. I make love. I’ve made and nourished babies. I am strong, flexible and healthy!
When I see teenaged girls and young twenty-somethings with bodies similar to the one I had, I just laugh to myself and think “I used to have that cute little body and I didn’t even appreciate it!” When I see teenaged girls and young twenty-somethings with bodies larger than the one I had wearing cute outfits and strutting their stuff confidently, I am filled with a longing to have had that kind of confidence when I was their age.
I didn’t treat myself very well as a young woman and I now ask her for forgiveness: “Forgive me, dear girl, for not appreciating you. Forgive me for discounting your beauty and your worth. Forgive me for trying to hide you and all your love and light from the world.”
But how did I get from self-loather to self-lover? It’s something I’ve been actively working on since my late twenties when someone suggested I look into my own eyes in a mirror and tell myself “I love you.” Have you ever tried that? I couldn’t even maintain eye contact with myself! But I did it anyway, even though I felt like a liar as I uttered the words.
After I had children, I was struck by the way they and my husband loved to touch my belly; they told me it felt good! So I tried it. I closed my eyes and pretended I had no judgements about my belly. I touched, caressed and kneaded. I felt the texture of the skin, the softness of the fat and the firmness of the muscle. I felt the smooth parts and the bumpy parts; the taught parts and the parts that fold over. I was surprised that I was actually enjoying this very sensual experience! From that moment on I vowed not only to look at myself in the mirror lovingly and appreciatively, but to touch myself lovingly and appreciatively as well, and I can honestly say that I now mean it when I tell myself “I love you!”
In case you’re wondering, YES I still treat myself unkindly at times! If my clothes don’t look or feel right for whatever reason, I can easily spiral into a desperate place. If I’m going somewhere where I think there might be people who may judge me harshly, I feel anxiously insecure. Luckily, I’m very creative with clothes and I’ll try on item after item until I come up with a combination in which I feel at least presentable. And I feel grateful to my husband for being so patient while I fling clothes all over the room as I make us late for a party.
I’ve learned to be very kind and patient and compassionate with the self-loather in me. After all, she’s just a girl who got hurt by some pretty insensitive and sometimes cruel remarks when she was at the tender and confusing age of adolescence. She’s still trying to protect me by hiding me. It’s up to me, the woman I’ve become, to hold her lovingly and calm her fears: “It’s OK sweety – you’re beautiful to me!”