I've struggled fiercely with a lack of self-esteem surrounding my looks for years now. It is only recently that I have begun to seriously work on building it. Sometimes it felt as if I was building it from nothing. I have old tapes of my mother's direct and indirect criticisms of my height, my weight, my skin's darkness and flaws, my "short neck" that I have had to force myself to stop playing--realizing that it was her issues that she was dealing with. And I have had to stop believing/paying attention to what society at large says is beautiful. Really, it's been a lot of work and I am still working at it. Some days I look in the mirror and I can't stand it. Other days, I have to do a double take at the absolutely stunning woman staring back at me. It's definitely a work in progress.
Being pregnant and having children has forced me to really tackle my issues of self-esteem regarding my appearance. See, I had convinced myself that even if I wasn't pretty at least I had a banging body. And that I did. In tight jeans and a blouse with a plunging neckline, I used to stop traffic. My measurements were impressive. My body, I felt, was my draw. My curves made up for what I thought lacked in the face. After a few years of drawing men to me simply because of my behind and breasts, I got so tired of being objectified and hurt. I hid behind modest clothes. Modest and drab clothes. I stopped placing as heavy an emphasis on the way I looked. Dropped the makeup. Dropped the jewelry and accessories. And then, because of my serious lack of self-esteem, convinced myself that men were no longer interested because I was hiding and no longer using my only "draw". Does that make sense? It did in my mind.
But it was at that time that I met my hubby who found me beautiful nonetheless and luckily, he didn't take advantage of my state of mind (like many other men before him had) but constantly tried to show me what he saw.
Anyway . . . I'm so serious when I say that I used to think in my mind, "Well, even though I'm not pretty at least I have a great body"--warped way of thinking but there it is. Having children has . . . changed my body. My "draw," if you will, is gone. I'm carrying extra weight. Things that were tight before are not anymore. And my stomach--well, let's just say that's my major problem area and I could very well call it the bane of my existence--or at least it feels that way sometimes. Buying a bathing suit is now a seriously time-consuming effort. And so I have had to face that damaging thought process head on in order to correct it. Because to believe that "all I had" was my body and that now it is gone would lead to some serious issues.
When I talk about working on healing one's mind, I know what I'm talking about. While I'm not super thrilled about this new body and I have no idea if my stomach will ever be flat again, I don't feel like all is lost. To the contrary, I'm okay psychologically. Yes, I am very self-conscious about my belly but I am also very conscious of the fact that my body and my face are not all that I have to offer. I'm not relying on these things as my draw.
I know body image issues are something common to women who've had children. It's only a very small percentage of us that look the same post-kids as pre-kids. And of that very small percentage, there's an even smaller percentage of mothers who haven't had to work their asses off to get back to that body.
You will find tons of articles mourning the loss of pre-pregnancy bodies. So many of us fall victim to the narrow ideas of beauty and attractiveness pushed on us by the media. So many of us wish we had our old body back. We add it to the "List of Things We Have Lost [by having children]". Ah, but for me, all that I have gained is so valuable. So priceless.
I won't front . . . I wouldn't mind having my pre-pregnancy six-pack back. I miss it at times when I see cute outfits that just wouldn't flatter what I've got going on now. It's tough sometimes embracing this new body, this woman's body. It's not girly anymore. I'm not a girl anymore. This baby belly, this body is here for a reason that I wouldn't trade for the tightest of bodies.
It totally helps to have a supportive hubby but at the same time, it's important to feel attractive to other men. And I'm realizing that these days, if I put a little effort into it, this not-so-flat belly doesn't keep men from noticing me. Doesn't keep me from being flyy.
I work out in hopes that the weight will eventually vanish but what keeps me motivated more so than dreams of re-gaining my pre-pregnancy body is dreams of living a long and healthy life. Dreams of watching my kids grow up and having grandchildren. And doing and enjoying all the things I have always wanted to do. I want to be limber and strong well into my old age. That grandma still practicing yoga and riding her Harley. Yes, I'm serious. I will own and ride a motorcycle yet!
So while I'm not bold enough to "let it all hang out" anymore, I'm bold in other ways and unabashedly proud of myself. Because it's been a lot of work to get here. A whole hell of a lot of work.