A Work in Progress: Building Self-love, Self-acceptance, Self-confidence, and Body Positivity

I have always had a difficult time with my own body image.

There have been times when I have been happy with how strong I was. There were times when I was happy with how thin I was. There have been times when I didn’t care what I weighed or how it looked because my body was creating a miracle and incubating a child.

Finally, there have been times when I have been disgusted with my weight, my shape, my wrinkles, my stretch marks, the springy, kinky silver hairs that stick out of my head at odd angles, and my inability to fit in my clothes.

I know that I am not alone in not feeling satisfied with or loving my own body image. Many people of all demographics struggle with the same issue. I think women and mothers, face this issue more than most.

In pregnancy, women are told comments like, “You’re eating for two now, have a little more,” or, “Don’t you just look so adorable with that baby belly!” Their fullness, roundness, and waddling shapes are celebrated and admired.

Then, after birth, they are judged for not walking out of the hospital wearing their pre-pregnancy skinny jeans or criticized for their body not “bouncing back” to its previous measurements three weeks later when they haven’t even fully recovered from giving birth or adjusting to taking care of a tiny human.

Between hormonal changes, lack of sleep, possible postpartum depression and anxiety, trying to be Supermom, and even the isolation and loneliness that accompanies having a child, it’s no wonder that we feel bad about ourselves.

Pardon my language, but that’s just bullshit.

Women are judged for being too skinny, too fat, not having a thigh gap, not having a Kardashian butt, being too short, being too tall, being too young, being too old… really, I could go on and on.

We give others the power to make us doubt ourselves, our greatness, our loveability, and our worthiness.

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It’s no wonder so many women struggle with self-esteem, self-confidence, and loving themselves, myself included.

Why do I have a messed up view of myself?

The short answer is that I never looked like everyone else. I never felt like I fit in. I never felt pretty or attractive.

In these last few months I have tried to eat healthy foods. I have tried to exercise. That’s what normal people are supposed to do, right? That’s what you do to be healthy, right?

But now I weigh as much or more than I did at the time I gave birth to my son, two years ago. I weigh 205 lbs. (l can’t believe I am sharing that- I’m kind of having a mini-meltdown…) This is the heaviest I have ever been in my life.

I have self-sabotaged myself by binge eating and emotional eating when I have been stressed out or trying to deal with issues beyond my control. I have a tendency to use food as a crutch to stifle the anxiety and depression that remains even with self-care and medication.

I recognize this is a problem.

Knowing my triggers, I have been actively working to heal myself, take care of myself. I have been trying to practice self-acceptance, self-love and body positivity.

Self-love, self-acceptance, self-confidence, body positivity: these buzz words seem to be everywhere these days. But what should we take away from them?

Don’t judge yourself or criticize yourself, especially based on others’ opinions and expectations.

Show yourself kindness and grace.

Know that you are enough, just as you are.

Understand that you are not perfect; you have your own unique strengths and faults just like anyone else, but accept yourself as you are.

Celebrate what your body can do and what it has done for you.

Actively participate in self-care. Take care of yourself because you love yourself.

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Don’t compare yourself with others.

Accept your physical self as is, don’t beat yourself up because the image in the mirror is not the type of image seen on television, in magazines, or advertisements. Societal norms related to the “ideal image” have changed throughout the decades and will continue to change.

Realize that loving yourself as you are does not mean that you can’t make changes.

Understand that your body will change over time, no matter how you eat, what supplements you may take, if you exercise, if you have children, if you age. It is a natural part of life that can’t be controlled.

Don’t let a preoccupation with your body and it’s perceived flaws keep you from doing amazing things.

Celebrate what you love about yourself and your body.

What have I been doing to feel better about myself?

I have been focusing on taking each day one day at a time.

I have been trying to hone in on my strengths and not think about my “flaws.”

Instead of worrying about how my dress looks or if I have a muffin top, I try to think about how great my hair looks today or how the color of my eye shadow brings out the color of my eyes.

Each day I take some time to relax and meditate. Often it is only five minutes before the rest of the household wakes up, but it is some quiet me-time.

I have been trying to do things to take care of my body, like drinking more water, taking breaks when I get stressed and walking around, choosing healthier snacks, stretching before bed, trying to do yoga in the morning (when I can).

I have been trying very hard to silence and ignore the critic that resides in my brain who tells me that my pants are too tight, my face is too round and puffy, that I don’t project a professional image because I look fat and sloppy, etc.

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I try to remember that the person I see and may envy because they look like they have their shit together is probably as messed up and insecure as I am.

I try to avoid the negative people or situations in my life that cause me stress or intensify my anxiety.

Practice gratitude: each day I send thanks for all of my blessings out into the universe.

I concentrate on all the good in my life.

I try to take time to journal and put my feelings on paper so they are not continuing to rattle around in my head.

I take solace in the fact that I am not alone. There are many other people of all ages, heights, weights, skin colors, etc. that feel the way that I do.

I’m not going to lie; it is a work in progress.

l am a work in progress. We’re all a work in progress. It isn’t easy to change your perspective, your body image, or how you react to others’ perception and treatment of you.

But in the end, you hold the reins, you have the final say in how you think and feel. You have the power.