So let’s talk Body Image. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about repurposing a blog post I wrote a little over 2-years ago. It thought the theme of it fit in nicely with Pam’s latest post on dieting.
Here is my original post:
This morning when I read G’s past two blog posts it really hit home for me. She talked about self-doubt and what can be our own poor self-image. How many times have you downplayed someone’s compliment of you? Or how many times have you looked at yourself in the mirror before going out somewhere and said “good enough” because you KNOW that you can’t possibly look better because you are fat, bloated, ugly, NOT WORTHY…I can step up and easily tell you that I am guilty of that on a daily basis.
I gave birth 16-days ago. I gained a total of 28-healthy-pounds and of that I have 11-pounds to lose in order to get to my pre-pregnancy weight. Those 11-pounds are already weighing on me (no pun intended). The little voice in my head is beating myself up for not being at pre-preggo weight; it is yelling at me for having a flabby belly.
I thought long and hard about this. I am so critical of myself that I can find something wrong in most photos: my hair looked bad, you can see a roll of flab, my smile was terrible, my lazy eye was REALLY lazy, I looked fat…
However, when I really thought about it, I came up with two photos that made me feel beautiful, that made me feel strong, that made me feel complete–they are photos taken of me during both of my pregnancies by my dear friend Amy, of AmyRo Photography . When I think about how I am upset with myself for not being back to pre-pregnancy status 16-days postpartum, I stop and look at my son and daughter. The body that I scold and berate grew two children and nourished them after birth. When I look at these photos and then look into the faces of my children, I ask myself how I can say I am ugly or weak when I think that they are the most beautiful children in the world? I am a part of them and they are a part of me.
I am beautiful and I am strong and when I forget or doubt that, I need to simply look at my children and those doubts will be erased.
Two year later, I still believe that those are two of the most beautiful photos of me ever taken. I think they are beautiful because pregnancy is one time in your life (at least for me) where it’s OK to look a little tired, heck, to not have to worry about sucking in your stomach! It’s one time that you can step back and embrace being a woman and know that society isn’t judging you (unless you’re Kim Kardashian wearing horrific gladiator stilettos with incredibly swollen feet). But I have to ask the question—why? Why is it OK for us to feel that way only when pregnant? I think it’s because society and the media place a large emphasis on beauty pretty much every other time in our lives.
Last week Runner’s World reminded me of a post that uber-amazing Oiselle athlete and track star, Lauren Fleshman, wrote last year called “Keeping It Real.” In the blog post Lauren points out that not every photo is to be believed. Lauren had appeared in a runway show for Oiselle with a crazy-ripped stomach (that I’m sure you’ve seen on Pinterest before) and had the courage and frankly, balls enough to post a comparison photo from a week later with her mommy-paunch hanging over her track attire. Both images were powerful and inspiring. I love her runway photo for the obvious reason—she looks A.MAZ.ING and her abs are frankly to die for (as is her glowing tan). I mean really, that photo is badass. But her mama-belly photo is just as amazing because you can see that she is a REAL person—someone that despite being an athlete still has the mommy paunch. Someone that doesn’t look perfect all of the time. Lauren challenged everyone to post an unflattering photo of themselves and hashtag it with #keepingitreal to show the world that it’s OK to not be the airbrushed goddesses that are shown in the magazines.
I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t acknowledge that I totally screen what photos I post of myself—cropping out my stomach if I have some love handle action going on. I will use the filters on my Instagram if the lighting was bad. I’ve used Photoshop to whiten my teeth because I hate them. I’d also be lying if I said that my Pinterest isn’t filled with “motivational” images of really ripped women with physiques that I will likely never be able to obtain; that it isn’t filled with make-up techniques, hair styles, and fashion images that I find drool worthy (which of course I try to copy and emulate on occasion). I enjoy looking and feeling pretty and glamorous. I don’t think that it’s wrong to admit or to enjoy any of these things. What I do think is wrong is when these things—these fantasies begin to paralyze us. When they begin to overtake us and make us feel like we aren’t good enough in our own skin.
I honestly feel the same way about motivational photos. I used to pin a lot of the tumblr images of fitness motivation but I stopped last year when I realized I was becoming consumed with the idea of looking like those women. They are not who I am. I can strive to be more fit (once I move to North Carolina and hopefully start Crossfit again) and toned, but when those images began to make me feel that my current self was not beautiful I realized that those images began to take control over me instead of motivate me. The fact of the matter is I am not perfect. None of us are. I am a 5’5”, 118-lbs woman. I’ve birthed and nursed two children. Despite my weight, I am still “skinny fat”—I have love handles, a mommy-paunch, and droopy boobs that are in constant need of an underwire. I have yellow teeth, a lazy left eye. I have dry-skin in my T-zone on my face. I have three bald spots on the back of my head due to an alopecia areata outbreak. And yet, in spite of all that I am beautiful. I don’t just tell myself that—I believe that (OK—I don’t tell myself that all the time…I tell myself the contrary lots of times, but deep down I do know it). No amount of make-up, fabulous blowout, or fancy clothes will ever cover that up. I not only believe that for myself, but I believe that because I need my Lil One to see it’s OK to love yourself just as you are; that you don’t need to look like everyone else or like the pictures on the newsstand in order to be beautiful. It’s all about balance—images can be motivational and fantastical—but they can also overtake us. At the end of the day, we need to love ourselves—like Mark Darcy said in Bridget Jones’ Diary—“just as you are.” Don’t second-guess your beauty and strength; the moment that you do is the moment that you break your spirit. Let your spirit shine and glow brightly for the world to see.
I challenge you all to follow through with Lauren Fleshman’s challenge—post an unflattering photo of yourself and hashtag it with her phrase #KeepingItReal