Sometimes I look in the mirror and I don’t see an accurate reflection of myself. Instead, I see what my body has been through in the years since I’ve become a mama. Never even mind the whole creation of life and bringing it into the world part; I’m talking about the gains and losses, the growing then shrinking, the filling then deflating and all the other delightful ups and downs we are subjected to. It’s not surprising to me that so many moms have body issues and self-esteem struggles after taking a hard look at my own journey.
If I were being truly honest, I would have to admit that I’m not happy with my body right now. In fact, there are days when I hate it and put myself through irrational thoughts and behaviors due to what I see in the mirror.
Here’s an example. My husband and I will be getting ready for a rare date night and I will spend a good amount of time trying to get ready. I start with jeans and a top, only to find out that the jeans that were once my “fat” jeans now make my belly pop out like a tube of biscuits. Quickly, I take those off and throw them on the floor, reaching instead for a trusty maxi skirt. Only, the moment I look in the mirror, I am painfully aware that I am 20 weeks pregnant. I mean, obviously I know that I AM NOT PREGNANT, but I totally look pregnant. In this outfit, it looks like we are going to the big gender reveal ultrasound, not a night out on the town. So now I’m stuck standing there in my bra and underwear, looking down with disgust at the soft stomach covered in stretch marks, the thighs that act like roadblocks to anything labeled “skinny” and the breasts that now resemble my kid’s beloved birthday balloons five days after the party guests have gone.
We have to leave in five minutes and I have found myself in that all-too-familiar predicament of having a closet full of clothes, but nothing to wear. Now, before we just file this under #firstworldproblems, stay with me a moment. Once I FINALLY land on clothes that I don’t feel like a total troll in, I emerge from our bedroom and my husband immediately compliments me on how nice I look.
Before I even know what’s happening, the words are flying out of my mouth:
Look, I know I don’t look good, ok? I tried to wear the pink top, but my jeans don’t fit anymore because I can’t seem to say no to french fries and I’ve been too stressed out and too tired to get up early in the morning to run or go to the gym so I took that off and tried the skirt and NOW I NEED TO GO SHOPPING FOR JEANS, but then I realized I look super pregnant so thanks but no thanks, babe. I know I don’t look good. I need to go change.
And my son is standing right there. Hearing every word.
I’m trying to raise him into a man who believes that God’s creation is beautiful – ALL of God’s creation. (Except snakes. Those are just gross.) What kind of mixed message does it send him when I am so quick to describe myself as anything but beautiful? Moms of girls are always talking about how important it is to model an attitude of self-worth and establish good body image habits from an early age. Moms of boys, we have a responsibility to not only do the same with our sons, but additionally we need to show that the standard of beauty for women is not determined by the cover of Cosmo.
I owe it to the female friends my son will have in middle school, high school and college.
I owe it to the women he will encounter on the street, in classrooms, in offices, and the grocery store.
I owe it to my future daughter-in-law.
I owe it to my son to teach him that every woman is beautiful. Whether she is a 2 or a 22, brunette or blonde. Whether her stomach is flat and chiseled or soft and stretched. He needs to know that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, but also in many varieties. What a disservice I would be doing if he somehow came to believe that beautiful women did not include those whose skin color was black as ink, or those born with an extra chromosome, or those even those women like his mama who struggle desperately to see the beauty in themselves.
I need him to be that man. The man who sees the beauty and fights like hell to get her to see it. The man who treats women as a precious treasure, to be protected, cared for, and prized above any other jewel in this world.
So as hard as it is for me to say this, I know it in my heart to be true….
I owe it to my son to believe I’m beautiful and then ACT LIKE IT.
We all owe it to our children to be a healthy role model of confidence and self-worth. The world they are growing up in is one filled with criticism and prejudice. It is a world with a twisted sense of what is good and valuable. They are looking to us, their mothers, to show them the beauty that can be found all around us. Let’s start with owning the beauty we find right in the mirror.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a psychological disorder in which a person becomes obsessed with imaginary defects in their appearance, something that has become all too familiar for me as I have begun treatment. Left unchecked, this disorder can lead to eating disorders, depression, and emotional distress. If this is something you struggle with, you are not alone and I would encourage you to get help to work through it.