I’m generally happy with my body, and I’m so grateful that I can truthfully say that now. I’ve struggled to accept my appearance over the years, and there were definitely seasons in my recovery where I was merely tolerating my appearance rather than actually liking it.
Given the culture in which we live, I don’t think it’s realistic to expect all women to love how they look all the time. I certainly don’t love how I look all the time. But for the most part, right now, I do. But today, I want to talk about the days that I don’t, and how I’ve been approaching those roadblocks.
I want to transition through body changes with grace.
Nowadays, when I’m struggling with bad body image, it has nothing to do with my body. I can wake up one day and feel less than enthusiastic about pretty much the exact same body I felt affectionately towards the day before. Even in the winter, when my body naturally holds onto a little more insulation, my appearance doesn’t shift in noticeable ways. Nobody in my life notices, my pants still fit the same, pretty much the only thing that changes is my attitude from day to day.
But, one day, my body is going to change.
Sometime in the next few years, my husband and I hope to start a family. God willing, when that happens, I’m going to gain weight. Based on what I’ve learned from other women in my life, I’ll start gaining weight before I actually “look” pregnant. Then, I’ll be all belly. Then, the baby will be born and I’ll be living in a very different body than I was ten months prior. The postpartum period is hard anyways, and I imagine it’s significantly more difficult when compounded by self-criticism, negative body image, and an obsession with weight-loss.
My future postpartum self is someone who has been on my mind a lot lately. Right now, as someone who has only ever witnessed such a season of life from the outside, I feel an enormous surge of compassion and grace. Bringing a child into the world is an incredible miracle, and it’s something I very much desire to experience one day. To think that my first months as a mom might be clouded by hatred for my body makes me so sad, because right now I think of that body with awe and inspiration. Once I carry and deliver a baby, my body will never be the same as it was before. Literally, my body will be permanently changed after conceiving a child. To think that my body should be forced back into a pre-motherhood form not only seems cruel and abusive, but even irreverent of the truly supernatural process that God designed in women.
In my current body, I look young. I’ve always had a baby face, but I’m also a relatively small person. Add this to the fact that I don’t like to wear much makeup, I sometimes think it’s difficult for other people (namely, my patients) to take me seriously because I don’t “look” old enough to be a healthcare provider. Once I become a mom, I likely will look older (thank you, sleep deprivation) and my shape will inevitably change, too. To me, those changes seem appropriate. Parenthood will grow me and stretch me physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and all of those are good things. It’s okay for women to look different as moms from the way they looked before they were moms because, quite frankly, they are different.
Even beyond parenthood, my body is going to change throughout my life. My skin will become wrinklier, one day I’ll go gray, my proportions of muscle and fat will shift, and all of these things are normal and natural pieces of aging. I don’t look the same in my twenties as I did in my teens, and I likewise will look different in my thirties, fifties, seventies, and nineties, should I be blessed to live that long. When I think about who I will be ten, twenty, or even fifty years from now, I don’t envision a woman who is obsessed with looking like her twenty-year-old self. I desire to become a woman who handles herself with grace and humility, something that isn’t possible if I’m preoccupied with my appearance.
So, all that to be said, one of the ways I’ve been striving to gracefully endure days of bad body image, even today when my body hasn’t changed much from the day before, is to envision my future self. I’ve been telling myself that today is one more step in the direction of the woman I am becoming, and the woman I’m becoming (i.e. older) has a different body than I do today. I literally envision myself in a body that is softer, squishier, and with more cellulite than the one I have now, because those changes will probably take place over the course of the next few decades (statistically speaking, at least.) Being okay with the body I will have in ten years starts with accepting that body today.
For more on healing your body image, check out…
this post is about dealing with days of negative body image.
this post about how being thin isn’t the most important thing in life.
this post about praying away weight gain.
this post about buying pants that fit, among other thoughts.
and this post about how God didn’t put us on earth to spend all our time dieting.