Positive Self Image
It’s easy to compare ourselves to others these days. All you need to do is log into any social media platform, turn on the T.V., listen to the radio, or buy a magazine and you will be instantly inundated with ways we can improve the way we look. This might be through breast enhancement surgery, weight loss, hair extensions, etc. Learning to love who you are is crucial to happiness. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to be the best versions of ourselves, but always remain true to who you are while creating your own positive self image.
My Self Image
I vividly remember standing in front of the mirror at about 8 or 9 years old and thinking about how much I HATED my freckles. No one had ever told me that I should dislike this part of myself, I just did. I also remember actually praying to God that He wouldn’t give me a big butt as I got older. Most women I knew complained about having one, so I just figured it would be awful to have one. (What’s funny about that though, is that as I got older I regretted that prayer. Big butts were all the rage, and I wanted one. I tried to pray that into existence, but no such luck.)
At about age 10 or 11, I weighed 125 lbs and I was a very short child (and continue to be a very short adult at 5 feet 2 inches). I was bigger than everyone else my age and I knew it. I had to shop in the women section of the store to find a size that fit me; while my Mom was able to shop in the Junior section because she was so skinny. I was teased at school and often felt a bit left out. I did have some friends, and they were great, but it was obvious that I wasn’t popular.
The summer before 7th grade, I had had enough. I all but starved myself, and lost 20 lbs. I still ate, but I ate the bare minimum to get by each day. As 7th grade came to an end, I felt great. I had more friends, had my first boyfriend, and was told that I was beautiful. This only fed my weight obsession. I don’t remember being told I was pretty, outside of my family, until I was skinny.
Over the years, my weight yo-yoed a bit. I was usually able to keep it within reason though. It didn’t take much at all for me to put on the pounds. I joked, but was really quite serious, that I could just think of an M&M and gain 5 lbs. I was envious of those girls who could eat like crap day in and day out and still look amazing in a bikini. I had to work really hard to maintain an even weight.
When I got pregnant with my son I watched my body transform into something I didn’t recognize. There I was, having gained 50 lbs, stretch marks, scars from 20 weeks of the PUPPS rash, and crazy hormones! It took almost a year, and although I couldn’t erase the scars from the PUPPS or the stretch marks, I was able to “get my body back”.
Then I got pregnant again. This time it was a girl. Not too long after I found out I was expecting a girl, I remember my Mom saying that I needed to try my best to not pass along my obsession about weight. She knew that she obsessed about it while I was growing up, and that was partly where my obsession came from, and she didn’t want me to do that to my daughter. That resonated with me. I didn’t want this perfect, beautiful baby girl to think that she was anything but that. She is only 6 right now, so I’m sure that as she enters the pre-teen years I will hear much more about how she dislikes this or that; but as of now, if you tell her she’s beautiful she will say, “I know”. Damn right, kiddo! You are!
After starting Zoloft for depression and OCD in 2012, I watched the line on the scale creep higher and higher. I worked out more and more and tried to eat less and less. It didn’t seem to matter much. Each year that line would creep up another few pounds. Then I had my last baby in 2014 and have continued to add more and more to my waistline each year.
The Person I least Expected
After Olivia was born, I watched my self criticism. I tried to keep my mouth closed more and say things like, “Mommy just wants to be healthy.” But kids aren’t stupid, they can see right through you most of the time. Not to mention, they are always listening, even when you think they are not!
What ended up catching me off guard though was how much my son began obsessing with his weight. He’s always been a big kid. By big I don’t mean fat. I mean he’s just been solid. He came out of me just under 9 pounds and looked like a line backer! He has always been taller than most kids his age, and weighs more than most kids his age. After we moved to Sweden, and he began school, he lost A LOT of weight. I don’t know exactly how much because I threw out my scale, but I do know that a lot of his clothes no longer stayed around his waist.
Since then, he asks me almost every day if I think he’s gaining weight. If a shirt is too small, simply because he has gotten too tall, he thinks that he’s fat. He has gone off for a run or wanted to exercise with me because he says that his belly is sticking out. He will often want to wear a shirt with a bathing suit because he is insecure about his body. I always reassure him that he is absolutely perfect just how he is, no matter what size he is. He’s smart, witty, funny, he’s a great friend, he has a huge heart, he’s sensitive, etc. All of those qualities outweigh any number on the scale.
We often think about our girls as the ones who need to be told that they are beautiful; but they aren’t the only ones. Boys also need to be reminded that they are perfect just as they are.
Creating a Positive Self Image
Fixing years of thinking that you are less than perfect is hard to do, but there are absolutely ways that you can begin to love yourself more.
- Throw away your scale! What does that number actually do for you? It lets you measure your self worth in a number. You are so much more than that!
- Surround yourself with positive people. It’s really easy to be negative when you constantly have negative people around you. We all have our days or moments where we just don’t feel positive, but try to be the uplifting friend/colleague.
- Do something you love. When you are doing something that you enjoy, and that you feel good at, you begin to see how unimportant everything else is. Your mind will be focused on the fun and excitement that your job/hobby brings that you will have less time to worry about how your pants fit.
- Walk/ride bikes with a friend or loved one. Having positive self image doesn’t mean completely neglecting yourself and your health. Be active when you can, but don’t beat yourself up if you were too busy one day to run 5 miles! The best kind of for me ‘workout’ that I can do is one that is with friends. I try to squeeze in a few squats while supervising homework, but it’s so much more enjoyable to go for a walk with a friend. We can chat about life all while staying healthy.
- Love yourself. When catching a glimpse of yourself in the mirror try not to notice all of the areas that aren’t perfect. Instead try to find one thing about yourself that you like. Maybe you’re having a great hair day, or your shirt looks amazing, or your makeup is on point…whatever it is. Notice it and love it!
At the End of the Day
You only get one body in this life so love what you got! Embrace who you are and people will love you for you. Of course when it comes to weight, we should always encourage healthy eating and an active lifestyle, but let’s not let it take over our lives. As my crazy Aunt Sherry says, “If being fat is the worst thing I did in my life, then I think I did pretty good.”