I was texting my friend the other day, and out of left field came a compliment I wasn’t expecting. “I am jealous of your figure.” I was shocked and laughed out loud. For reals? This woman is someone who I have fought the urge to be envious of. It amazed me she would tell me she was jealous of me and compliment my figure that I’ve struggled with my whole life. Only in the past two years have I begun shed the insecurities and embraced the way I was made. It’s a daily battle, it doesn’t go way, to combat the messages in my head that I am not enough. I know I’m not alone. The next day, I was texting a good friend and new mom who was struggling figuring out motherhood. She shared with me how she sees all these other moms out, done up, and she is struggling to get out of bed, eat breakfast, and ready before 11am. I quickly told her she was doing awesome and that it takes time to find your groove as a new mom, and I also told her to not compare herself with other people. We can’t compare our beginning with someone else’s middle.
Maybe you don’t deal with the issue of body image, but you compare your work or craft with others. Does your coworker seem “more successful” than you? Are you jealous of their personality or charisma? Are their numbers higher than yours? Or does that other mom seem to be Pinterest-perfect? Always posting photos of recipes she makes for her family, healthy and perfectly plated? With a spotless kitchen and well-behaved kiddos? Don’t let the Instagram feed fool you. I know that we all do the comparison thing. “My house isn’t decorated as cutely as hers…” “My kids aren’t dressed as well as her kids’…” “Why doesn’t my husband bring me flowers like hers does?” Everyone has this subconscious tendency within us where we all put our lives side by side and assess our identity based on all these things. We probably know how unimportant and how unhealthy it is, but we do it anyway. We have to constantly remind ourselves that what we see on social media are just snapshots of reality. We all share the best of our lives because we want to remember the good, and who wants to be the one who posts all the ugly? I like that vulnerability and #reallife are trending and hashtags. Let’s keep applauding and using these messages to help us all stop believing the voices that say we aren’t good enough.
A wise author once said that comparison drains the beauty out of life. It’s like taking the blood right out of a human. What does that do? You become lifeless, only a corpse of a person. When I first had my son Oliver, I compared my weight-loss progress with other women. So-and-so lost her weight in 6 weeks. Another friend lost her baby weight by 3 months. I started to stress that my weight was not falling off fast enough, and then it came to halting stop. I have an autoimmune disease and thyroid issues, and because of the medicine I was taking, I started having symptoms that were hard on my body. When I went to the doctor, and through blood work and several visits, they realize I needed to wean off the medication I was taking. I actually had gained 10 pounds postpartum! It was discouraging. I tried to eat healthy and workout, but the numbers weren’t dropping. I was discouraged and disappointed in myself. I talked to friends and family about it, and everyone was so encouraging, but it didn’t help make it any easier. My mom reminded me that I was breastfeeding, and I thought, “But all the other moms breastfeeding are shredding the weight!” I had to fight those thoughts of comparing my body with others. They don’t have autoimmune diseases. They don’t have YOUR BODY. There are lots of positive body image messages out there, and I’m so grateful I came across several different points. One was that I should be grateful what my body accomplished, and I was able to carry and birth my beautiful baby. I knew that, and I was thankful, but then that made me feel guilty for wanting and caring about losing weight. It was a vicious cycle of back and forth, trying to figure out how to find time to workout now with a busy baby.
As I was still wearing maternity pants up for 6 months, and then I borrowed someone’s jeans because I couldn’t fit into my postpartum body pants. What did I do to counter-act our culture? I embraced who I was. I literally had to re-work the judgment I had on myself and quit following or reading anything about pregnancy weight-loss. I was not on the same spectrum as everyone else. I remembered what a wise professor told us in college, “Accept the things you can’t change, change the things you can.” What could I not change? At the moment, my weight was where it was at. I couldn’t change that. What could I change? I could continue to eat right, sleep when possible, and try to be active. I could continue to work on my character and to focus on being a better human. So I did that. I felt less pressure, my life was joy-filled, and it made me a better mother, wife, and friend. Did I stop wanting to lose weight? No, but I wouldn’t even let myself linger on those thoughts. As soon as they entered, I would whisper words of gratitude. It takes mental power, but it is freeing.
Recently, my friend posted about a documentary on Netflix called Embrace. I decided to watch it, and I’m so glad I did. It is a powerful documentary on body image and everyone should see it. It follows a woman’s journey on her own wrestle with body image. The movie also highlights other people’s experiences, as well as statistics and unknown information that add to the nasty voices in culture that hate on our bodies. It is encouraging and life-giving, and it re-aligned my mind that gets off track sometimes because we are constantly inundated with these images of what we should look like. The pictures on television, in movies, magazines, online, and on billboards are ALL photoshopped. They are all fixed; none of them are real. We cannot compare ourselves to false realities. The porn industry doesn’t help this either. Those videos of sexual intimacy are all staged and re-touched to make people think that sex and women’s bodies should look a certain way. We must be vigilant with what we allow to fill our minds and warp our way of thinking. We can’t continue to abuse ourselves through these lies and inaccurate portrayals of real life. Those are not real women who get up and face the daily. Those are not real women who do all the things it takes to feed their families or to help others. Do those women love with their whole hearts? Those women are only posing, that is not who they really are. We are the real women who face gravity, pollution, UV rays every day, who carry babies for 9 months, who work hard and help others. We are the real women who live life to the fullest, who eat normal size meals, and we get to live and enjoy this wild and beautiful world. Don’t talk to yourself like that! You are wonderful. You are beautiful, and you were created to do amazing things.