Here’s the thing. I usually steer clear of posts involving topics like physical appearance because it can be such a fine line to tow between “loving yourself” and “bettering yourself.” It can seem like they are two distinct options, that one cannot possibly co-exist with the other. And often, at least for myself, this idea has taken deep root in my mind + heart so that it is an “Everest sized” task to change our perspective on these options.
But I gotta say, this “Mom bod” has revolutionized my self-image and instilled a freedom/confidence in me that I have never had before, even when I was “at my best” weight-wise. So now I feel compelled to dive into the weight loss/self-image scene—even if just for today.
First, a little history.
If you’ve followed me for any length of time, I’m fairly certain that you have read about my PCOS/infertility journey somewhere along the line. It’s been an all-consuming segment of my life. Prior to all that, I was skinny as rail and terribly naïve to think that my weight was one thing I wouldn’t have to worry about. Well. Enter my hormone wrecking birth control pills soon followed by a plethora of PCOS symptoms, including 50lb weight gain in less than three months with another 20lb to follow. And no, I wasn’t eating THAT much Buffalo Chicken dip. (You can read a more detailed post on my PCOS journey, pre-Jack here.)
I finally feel like my body has started to heal and my hormones have regulated…well, as regular as hormones can be. I believe Jack is proof of that. Not to mention, the wellbeing of my mental/emotional state. But man, the in between stages did a number on my heart.
The sudden weight gain (that felt more like someone pulled a pin and inflated me), the inability to conceive, the tireless efforts to reclaim my health that were “all for naught”…it dug deep into my soul and sprouted the lies that I was a failure, worthless, ugly, and a number of other unsettling things.
Originally, I thought that this was the beginning of my bad self-esteem. But if we’re being thorough, I’ve always had a less than great view of myself. From the time that “beautiful” became a part of my vocabulary, I began to punish myself for my flaws—listing them off as I looked in the mirror. So it turns out, this unhealthy self-esteem issue was nothing new.
In retrospect, there’s a number of things to blame. Society, perspective, negative comments, perfectionistic tendencies, women around me who struggled with self-image, too. And I have blamed them. I’ve shaken my finger at them and tried to run the opposite way, pursuing some sense of wholeness + contentment with who I was. It’s always felt a lot like a “two steps forward, four steps backwards” sort of process. And when I said that I was “ok” with myself, it felt a bit like a lie.
Then, out of nowhere, the pregnancy test produced two lines and my body went through the amazing, grueling, magical + exhausting process of growing a human. My belly stretched. My legs + feet swelled. My everything hurt.
Then, one week “late,” Jack came into the world and my body went through the amazing, grueling, magical + exhausting process of post-partum life. My belly became hollow. My skin felt spongy. My bones were (and still are) tired.
It’s that weird, post-partum time in limbo that one would be inclined to feel their worst. I mean there’s nothing especially attractive about mesh undies + leaky boobs + dark circles under your eyes. Even months later, my toenails remain polish-less + though my stretch marks have faded, the circles under my eyes have done nothing but darken. Yet amidst all this, this time has been transformative.
For one reason or another, my perspective shifted. I started to see my body for all the good that it was instead of what I spitefully wished it could be. Long story short…
I realized that my body was created for more than just myself.
My body has provided a safe home for my babe, split in two to birth said babe, nourishes my babe daily, rocks my babe to sleep, offers my babe a hand to hold as he takes his first steps, and the list goes on and on. My “Mom Bod” exists because my baby exists. I can’t think of anything more amazing for my body to do. Furthermore, my body was created for the glory of God, to carry out a life that lifts His name high. Whether that be motherhood, marriage, work, church, or just meeting up with a friend for coffee—any situation in my life is one that God has equipped me to live out that purpose—and the body that He has created for me is part of fulfilling that role. What God has equipped me with physically, the detail in which He has created me enables me to care for my family and ultimately, reflect His glory. And THAT is beautiful, friend.
I realized that my beauty is truly found in Christ.
I feel like that phrase can be such a cliché which makes it a turnoff, I’ll be the first to admit it. Honestly, I’ve uttered that phrase many times through my teenage years but never really grasped the truth of that statement. But I’ve recently been thinking on this and if I can get past the cheesy slogan vibe, it is WONDERFULLY TRUE. First of all, God himself created me. Did he make a mistake? Isn’t that what I affirm when I list off my flaws? Simple because He created me in His image, I am beautiful. But going even deeper—without God’s saving grace, I’m ugly—defined by sin. Because He has saved me for a greater purpose—He has also made me beautiful—defined by His holiness. The thing is, I could be physically gorgeous by all our standards YET truly hideous because of the nature of my heart, by God’s standards—the only one that truly matters. Regardless of the number on the scale or how perfectly I nailed my winged eyeliner, I am beautiful in His eyes. I’m SO thankful that God has redeemed me to a greater purpose and has made me beautiful by changing my heart and washing away my sin. The more that I grow in Him and reflect Him, the more beautiful I become.
I realized that I never lost my body
I’ve been hung up on this idea that my body has to get back to what it was before PCOS hit to be what I want. I demand that my body stay the same even though it’s gone through so much in the meantime. I isolate a certain idea for what qualifies as beautiful and it makes me angry when my body struggles to become that. I automatically fail. That equation cuts out one very important factor: experience. We tend to equate experience with age and nobody likes aging…right? But I’ve come to appreciate both experience and age because they deepen the quality of beauty. As we grow and mature as a person, our body grows and matures alongside us. That isn’t a bad thing! It shows what we’ve seen, what we’ve survived, how much we’ve laughed, the children we’ve carried. So often we forget to credit our body with what it’s accomplished. We look at the aftermath but forget the journey. Not only do I feel compelled to cut myself some slack but I also feel proud and appreciative of what this body has carried me through. We do not lose our bodies. They simply evolve with us. There is beauty in time and change—don’t fight it, respect it.
I realized that it’s ok to pursue change
I mentioned in the beginning that it often feels like we have to choose either loving ourselves or bettering ourselves. I’m here to say that they are one in the same. If you truly love and respect the body that God has given you, you’ll want to take care of it. Taking care of your body naturally leads to bettering your body. So, you can in fact love your body and still want to make it a better version of itself. Loving your body starts with a right perspective—outlined by the three ideas that I’ve just listed. With that right heart/perspective as a foundation, good growth/change is bound to happen and it’s ok to want that and even actively pursue it. It’s even ok to admit that you don’t entirely enjoy cellulite or that muffin top isn’t your first preference. Wanting improvement does not equal self-hate. For the record, it is entirely possible to pursue physical change from a place of desperation, self-hate, shame, or jealousy. You can achieve greatness on the outside but maintain a poor perspective of yourself. The right kind of change is so beautiful because it stems from a beautiful heart, another piece of the journey that comprises who YOU are.
And finally, I realized that my body will age but my heart will remain
It’s inevitable. This body isn’t going with me when I go and yet I tend to let something so temporary define what I believe about myself. Doesn’t this mean that it’s way more important to invest in what goes beyond time—a heart that seeks God, encourages others, loves selflessly? Now let’s be real, all that I’ve said sounds great on paper but does this mean to feel truly beautiful I must let go and let be what will be? Not care about looks? Not worry about trends? NO. And again, NO. Personally, I still have weight loss goals, I’m still trying to find the right mascara, and I still love clothes shopping. However, it does mean that those things are just icing on the cake. Though they can still be things that we enjoy, these things do not define our beauty. These things are just an extension of what is already there, the foundation that has been laid by our heart. It you haven’t caught my drift yet…it always comes back to the heart. It defines you, determines your perspective, and reflects your beliefs.
Bottom line: don’t cheapen your beauty, your worth, by limiting it to a certain weight or trend. You ARE beautiful because you have been given a body that is capable for yourself and purposes greater than your own. You ARE beautiful because God has made you so and in your belief, removed the ugly stain of sin. You ARE beautiful because you have evolved + experienced + LIVED. You ARE beautiful because you truly improve out of self-love. You ARE beautiful because of what is in your heart.
Rock that body. Be proud. No matter the stage of the journey. No matter where you’re headed or where you’ve been. Love this wonderful body that God has so carefully created for you, appreciate the things you’ve been able to do because of it, and when you see a stretchmark remember the precious face that put it there.