Body Image. Wow, is this a touchy subject. Over four years ago as my body was growing my third and last baby, I stumbled upon this incredible blog post: Mom, I’m Fat. To this day I can’t get through it without crying. I can shout girl power from the rooftops and do all the “right” things to keep these dreaded words from my daughter’s lips, but the truth of the matter is, there is more influencing them than just their mama. And…to be even more honest, even this mama has her own feelings of inadequacy when it comes to my body.
There are two things here that I want to stress – things that I’ve been personally wrestling with as a woman and a mother.
Create Your Own Message
“Mama, when you run it’s like there is a ball bouncing around in your bottom.” Ellie, age seven. Why thank you ever so much. What a way to make me feel awesome! Or how about the time Clara, four at the time, told me that my bellybutton was like a big squishy mouth. Even better, when I hopped on my husband’s back goofing off, and he said “wow, you’re a lot lighter than I thought you were!” (open mouth, insert foot).
I could take offense to all of these. I could really be hurt and feel criticized. But, like so many communication issues, I have to stop and look at the goal of these statements. Did any of my loved ones say “you’re fat?” Nope, not a single one of them, ever. Those are my words echoing inside my bruised ego. They were making observations in pure innocence. Yes, tact is a sweet lesson to learn, but these were not attacks on my confidence. (Poor Nathan will never live down his awesome foot-in-mouth statements).
My first and foremost lesson here:
I cannot control other people’s judgements or observations about me. However, I can make a choice on how much of an impact they will have on my confidence. I alone am in charge of my reaction.
My belly (and apparently my butt) jiggles. I have stretch marks and rolls and “imperfections.” My daughters see it all and I am unashamed. I remind them what those stretch marks are from, and the love and effort my body went through to bring each of them into this world. My body houses my beautiful soul, and I have to show it love for it to thrive.
When my children point out something on my body, I can add in the message that they are doing so because it’s wrong. Or, I can take it at face value. I need to recognize that they have the confidence to point something out because they don’t see it as a bad thing – it is simply a part of me. My body has plush points and that does not mean my inner dialogue has to scream “you’re fat!” all day long. I will create my own message about my beautiful body. I am so much more than a stretch mark. Every ounce of fat, blemish and mark on my body has a story that is part of who I am.
Love Your Body
Now that I have decided to love my body as it is, I also love my body enough to not let it stay stagnant. Our bodies, like our minds, need to be exercised in order to grow and stay strong. I believe whole-heartedly in the body/mind/soul connection. My “women’s Bible” is a book by Dr. Christiane Northrup titled “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom.” This is a must-have resource, in my opinion. Northrup does an incredible job of outlining the medical world and it’s relationship with holistic, mental and emotional health and well-being.
I was emailing with one of my coaching clients today and we discussed some of the blockage she’s had with her workout routine. She stated that she had been “training like a warrior”…but what had happened was that she was so focused on pushing her body to the limit that her body was crying for mercy. Boy did I relate!
My tendency is to beat myself up to push myself to the limit with working out. In the past, I would really go to the extreme and force my body – keyword of FORCE. My fuel was anger and I would lash out at my body to make it prove itself to me.
Nathan, however, works out with ease, goes twice as hard as I do, and has a smile on his face. What the heck!? I would get so frustrated with his fluidity and how quickly his body would respond. I swear all he has to do is think about working out and he gets a six-pack. Here is what he has to say on the subject:
“Instead of seeing your body as a force to control and conquer, see your workout as an opportunity to love and connect. You’re stretching and pulling and meeting your body where it has an opportunity to flourish and thrive, and you are allowing that to bloom vs. forcing it out. Ask permission of your body and respect it as you would a beautiful lover. Envision yourself playing and that heaviness of “work” will shift to the lightness of ‘play'”
And that is why Nathan has rock solid abs and a gorgeous physique. It’s not because he lives and breathes the gym, or that he has figured out the perfect diet and routine. I believe the largest contributor to his overall physical beauty is a direct correlation with his one body love. He sends that love and play into his physical workout and it rewards him royally.
I’m working on my own shift in this arena, speaking love and affirmation to the energy I feel when I work out. I challenge you to try it as well. Be your own workout coach and speak love and warmth into your exercise routine. Let your body bloom and grow, and you’ll see the strength and confidence come to the forefront of your own body image.
I’d love to hear from you – how do you instill a positive body image for yourself and your children? What is your favorite workout routine and why does it motivate you?