Body Image and Self-Esteem – The Struggle

Before I became pregnant and I would hear mamas-to-be make pessimistic comments about their ever-changing bodies. I would furrow my brow in confusion; they are pregnant, not overweight, what is the big deal? A growing baby is a healthy baby they should accept their changing body with ease. Now, being pregnant myself; I understand the uneasiness.

The last couple of weeks I have mentally struggle with the changes going on with my body. While I am amazed at what my body can do and beyond grateful for this experience, I never anticipated the anxiety I would feel. Since I have been encountering this mental struggle, I decided to do what I find to be the most therapeutic and write about it.

My Body Image and Self-Esteem Struggles in the Past

The root of this uneasiness lies in the previous battles I have had with body image and self-esteem. I always have struggled with acceptance of my body which has ebbed and flowed throughout my life. I found myself focused and pessimistic upon different parts of my body at various periods of time while I was going through varied experiences.

When I was in my pre-teen, and early teenage years I struggled to accept my figure. I have always had a more muscular figure with meat on my bones where other girls I was friends with did not. I use to get down about this until someone at the dance studio where I danced pointed out that I was built like my Aunt. While I had been told this most of my life it was during this period that this comment resonated with me and altered my train of thought. My Aunt is a woman I have greatly admired and looked up to my entire life, and she always exuded confidence and embraced her toned and muscular build with ease. I made up my mind then and there from that point on I would accept my figure as is, I was built like my strong and beautiful Aunt, and that was something of which I could be proud.

The next thing I became self-conscious of was how fair my skin was. In high school, tanning was all the rage, every girl I knew seemed to tan, and I always felt I stood out in a way that made me feel uneasy. I envied those who had this perpetual look of sunkissed skin where I always seemed to struggle between blending in with white walls or looking like a cherry. Then one summer I was reading the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Gilbert was discussing how we often want what we do not have. There was one passage that resonated with me during this period of self-consciousness. Gilbert wrote:

But at some point, you have to make peace with what you were given, and if God wanted me to be a shy girl with thick dark hair, He would have made me that way, but He didn’t. Useful, then, might be to accept how I was made and embody myself fully therein.

The passage was powerful because it made me see and understand that if God had wanted me to be tan, he would have made me tan. I embraced and accepted my fair skin from that point on, and I have never fussed over it since.

My final struggle with body image and self-esteem happened when I was twenty-two. I was living on my own and had developed some unhealthy habits which resulted in me gaining thirty pounds. I also was in a school program that made me deeply unhappy, and I knew the career path I was on was not at all where I wanted to be. Bernard was going through a difficult time himself and with both of us individually struggling with personal issues our relationship was at an all-time low. I eventually pulled myself up by my bootstraps and made the conscious decision that I needed to make changes if I wanted things to be different. So I did, and I became a much better person for it.

My Body Image and Self-Esteem Struggles Now.

I recently spoke to Bernard about my current anxious state regarding my higher creeping number on the scale as I move closer and closer to the weight I was when I was thirty pounds heavier. While I logically know, it is from a baby this time and not poor eating habits, I still find myself feeling uncomfortable because mentally my body changes feel similar to what it did then – shortness of breath, clothes too tight or not fitting, the stretching of the skin, etc. Speaking to Bernard about my fears was a huge help. The last time, as I mentioned he was going through a lot personally and wasn’t exactly the most supportive. Irrationally, I attributed his unsupportive behavior then to my weight gain and not to what he was going through so when I mentioned that he squashed my worries. I admitted I might need more compliments and mental boosts which he has been happy to oblige.

What Am I doing to Accept these changes Happily?

  1. Speaking to a loved one and admit to your needs. I need more compliments now more than ever. Sometimes with everything else going on, I can’t always give myself the boost I need. Disclosing this to Bernard has helped me immensely because when I can’t seem to find a positive thing to say, he can.
  2. I have a mantra which I say to myself daily when looking in the mirror. It sounds cheesy, but I find it to be helpful. My mantra is, ” Your body is beautiful, it can grow life.” Nothing reminded me of this more than when we went for our second-trimester anatomy scan the other day, and I was able to see this little life that I am growing. Positive mantras are helpful for encouraging positive thoughts.
  3. I recognize there are more important things in life than body image. Even though we live in a society that seems obsessed with looks, it really isn’t the most important thing. I have been focusing my energy on all the stuff of which I am blessed instead. Count your blessings, write them out if you have to and re-read the list over and over.
  4. Accepting that I have the power to change things in my life to have a better outcome. I can eat healthier, exercise more, think positively, love more deeply, these are all things in my control. The challenge is wanting the good results enough to do it, but I have that power, no one else.

What body image struggles have you faced? How have you learned to accept it? What do you do to love yourself more?