This is a picture I took last night at a day shy of 22 weeks pregnant. It has no fancy filter. No photoshop. Just a dark room and a flash from the camera. It’s just me – oh naturàl. It felt peaceful to sit there with my eyes closed. In my mind, however, I never pictured it would look this way. After a day of jumping nervously behind a camera with a friend to take some promotional photos with this body I feel so insecure lately about I just wanted to sit and be me, not posing for anyone. Not trying to impress or look a certain way. But….after opening my eyes and seeing how I looked, the harsh voice inside me ripped the photo to a million pieces. Look at the fat bulging over her bra and the belly with stretch marks and rolls, she looks giant and imperfect in many ways. Pointing a finger in disgust like the tabloids in the grocery stores that zoom in and point out the cellulite on a beautiful celebrity’s thigh.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we beat ourselves up and smother it with shame? Why do we compare ourselves to other people? Or younger versions of ourselves? Why does fat offend people soooo damn much? Sure in too large of quantities it can be unhealthy but the mental turmoil people put themselves through because of it can be just as unhealthy. And even when we bargain with ourselves, like ‘okay, I’ll love and respect myself again if I can just get back into my old size 6 jeans.” Or we put conditions around our satisfaction like ‘if only I lose 50 pounds and can wear a bikini to the beach next summer then I’ll be happy.’ Then we catch ourselves looking back at pictures of when those conditions applied and we know deep down we still weren’t completely happy then either. Years upon years of dissatisfaction. Of body shaming.
I have struggled with body image my entire life. I know the struggle of feeling helpless in a body people, especially myself, doesn’t see as ‘pretty’. I’ve hired personal trainers at the gym, I’ve done juice cleanses, and a few dozen different protein shakes and regimens, and even tried diet pills a few times. I have tried listening to the sensible caring advice-givers like my doctor, “just eat less, and exercise more.” Desperate to fit what I think society sees and respects as a beautiful, radiant, healthy woman. Why wouldn’t I, that’s how marketers make us feel. Turn on the tv, walk by billboards in the mall, you see solutions to all your fears – quick fixes for weight-loss, a firming cream that guarantees to hide that pesky cellulite. The ultimate anti-wrinkle cream. The size 2 lululemon pants on the marathon runner who’s barely breaking a sweat. All modeled by tiny, radiant, young, likely photoshopped women. Almost everywhere we turn we are taught to idolize them and in turn shame ourselves for not being like them. This isn’t about taking a right-wing, bleeding heart stance for shaming the people who are happily on a life-changing weight-loss journey either. Or for making people feel guilty about some reconstructive surgery they might of had or Botox injections they invested in. No shame from self-perception is ever helpful in my opinion.
The last few years I thought I had found a better balance of selflove – finally accepting my body as it was, finding a balance between my physical and mental health through what felt like healthier channels. But it only took the development of a growing baby bump and some extra fat around my thighs, and arms, and hips, and boobs, to throw me in a tail spin of insecurity once again. I know I’m growing a sweet baby miracle inside. And I’m beyond grateful to be given that chance again. But it doesn’t mean I don’t struggle. It doesn’t mean my practice of selfcare and selflove have given me immunity from my dark patterns of self-destruction. But they certainly have given me the tools to recognize it quicker and the inspiration to embody it and try again and again.
Today is my birthday. 34 years old. 22 weeks pregnant. And I’ve decided to give myself the gift of acceptance once again. To give space to the feelings of shame, to breath through it. To look at myself in the mirror through gentle eyes of love and smile at the beauty of who I truly am on the inside.
In Yoga there’s an ethical concept described in Patanjali’s 8 limbs of Yoga called Santosha. It translates from Sanskrit to mean contentment, satisfaction, acceptance; something I find much easier on my yoga mat without cameras or sight-seers. But a practice I wax and wain struggling with out in life off the mat. And I know so many women and men who struggle with the same thing, the same thoughts, the pattern of comparing. You are not alone!! We are beautiful and radiant in our own ways. And we can love ourselves, and BE loved this way. Together we can support each other as we accept our authentic natural beauty that is alive in each and every one of us right now in this very moment. Unapologetic, unconditioned — the kind of love a mother would give a child. That’s what we need from ourselves. It’s a practice but we are worthy.