I stumbled upon this self-help article about how to build a better perception of yourself, physically and one tip it suggested was writing a letter to yourself from the body part that you dislike the most.
As I imagine what my stomach would say to me, how it would justify itself and how it would accost me for my cruelty, I realized how hard I really am on myself.
Steve compared me to a woman I know who is very lean and muscular. He told me that she doesn’t work for it, that skinny is genetics and skinny people have very visible muscle when they work out a few times a week. He told me that he didn’t care about her flat stomach and that the reason he thought that my stomach was beautiful was because inside of it our two babies grew. He told me that her flat stomach was a gift – genetics – but that I took mine. I worked for it. And that’s why he loves me stomach, because it’s part of me.
I’ve been thinking, really trying to change my perception about how I look at my body. So many people have said to me that my kids are worth loose skin and saggy breasts and yes, of course they are! But to me, the two really weren’t connected. Wishing my belly button didn’t look like a perpetual frown didn’t mean I didn’t love my kids, it just meant that I missed my perky, happy, 24 year old belly button. After reading that article, I tried thinking about what my stomach or breasts would say to me. And I realized that they have helped me with the biggest gifts. My stomach housed my children. And my breasts fed them, for months and months.
Maybe I can start to look at these things as badges of honour. Maybe woman (not girl) breasts and stomachs are something to be proud of. Maybe it’s this “Get your pre-baby body back!” mentality that we all have. You can’t get your pre-baby body back because it doesn’t exist. And it’s not even that it doesn’t exist as in it’s gone, it’s just that you, as a woman and human being have evolved.
My body is stronger now. I am stronger now. And in a way, that’s weird to say because I am so glaringly aware of all my twisted thoughts and mixed up perceptions when I wasn’t before, but I believe that being aware of them is part of what makes me stronger. Because if you don’t even realize why you’re so hard on yourself, you can’t really understand how to fix it.
Maybe one of the reasons it’s so easy to cast stones at my physical perception of myself is because taking the safety net of physical critique leaves nothing but my soul.
I wonder, if when you’re happy with yourself, truly content with who you are you wonder about the state of your muffin top. (I wouldn’t think so.) And so maybe I focus on the exterior because I’m actually afraid to lift up the outside layer and check out what’s underneath.
In the past four months, I’ve coached 13 people through half marathon training. I’ve motivated them. I’ve given them (good!) advice. I’ve made them laugh and I’ve helped them see a side of themselves that they may not have seen before. On the first day that we met, we ran 4k together, and for a lot of them, that was the farthest they had ever run.
In the past four months, I’ve run two half marathons myself (and will be running a third on Sunday). I’ve swallowed down guilt almost everyday that I left my children at childcare to go to school or to come home and do school work. I am currently coasting at an above 3.0GPA (which is higher than my BA GPA was). I decided to finish my program this year, and I am almost there.
In the past five weeks, I have gone to the gym four to five times a week to lift weights and strength train – something that I really don’t enjoy – because I know that for my hike in April I need to be stronger.
In the past year, I have changed the way my family eats. I have cooked real food for them most nights.
Despite all of this, I have also learned how to slow down. Every night I say a bedtime prayer with my babies and sing them a lullaby. Every morning I spend five minutes in bed with them, cuddling.
So why am I afraid to look deeper than physically at myself? What is it exactly that I’m afraid I’ll find?