"I gained so much weight while pregnant."
"I just hate that I'm getting so fat."
"It's taking so long to get my body back!"
"My kids have ruined my body."
"I used to be so beautiful."
"I just don't want to be one of those women that lets themselves go."
I heard these phrases everywhere. Playgroup, preschool, church, group dates, family reunions, and in front of the mirror. That's right -- I was one of those women repeating these phrases, trying to grasp for some kind of sense about what had happened to my body. And I wasn't alone. I've seen a myriad of women and their experiences with their bodies, all levels of body shaming, and I've seen the damage it can cause to not only their minds and hearts, but the very bodies they keep obsessing about.
I understand it on a very personal level. In my efforts to justify my weight (gain and loss), I found myself in total depression. Choosing to hate my body hurt my spirit. Badly. I still struggle with it.
It's so very easy to fall victim to the cycle of body shaming, hating, resenting, etc. because we are surrounded by a bunch of lies. For example, the beauty industry says:
You are not good enough.
If you were, you would look like this.
Since you don't look like this, you will never be good enough.
But wait! Try this product, pill, herb, surgery, food and you will be good enough.
Probably not, because this "good enough" doesn't exist --it's something we've made up.
Why have we made it up?
So you will feel shame and buy our products.
If you buy our products, you'll think you've made it and when you realize you have not, you'll buy more.
There's a reason we're worth more than 20 BILLION DOLLARS.
And you just keep coming back for more.
We will always win.
And you will always lose.
Honestly, why do we keep buying into it? This isn't about boycotting all make-up or pretty clothing, dear reader. This is about believing the lies about what makes a woman worthy and what makes a woman beautiful. And mothers are some of the hardest hit with this arsenal because their bodies change so much when they give birth.
I cringe every single time I read about a new mother who is desperate to erase all the evidence that her body ever created life. It makes me angry at the culture and sad at the generational perpetuation of it. How many daughters hate their bodies because their mothers hate theirs? How many of us, even after years of therapy, cognitive feedback, education, and truth-seeking still struggle with this?
I read a powerful essay about how women are not supposed to go back to who they were before becoming mothers. Not physically (an impossibility, down to our DNA, anyway), not emotionally (how could we??), not mentally (we know more, now, why would we go back?), and not spiritually (we have shared in creation with the Divine!).
Here's a good quote from the essay. Read it slowly. Mull it over in your mind. Really think about this for a minute. Because you won't find this truth in very many places:
We’re not meant to “bounce back” after babies. Not physically, not emotionally, and definitely not spiritually. We’re meant to step forward into more awakened, more attuned, and more powerful versions of ourselves. Motherhood is a sacred, beautiful, honorable evolution, not the shameful shift into a lesser-than state of being that our society makes it seem. The very notion that we are meant to change as little as possible, and even revert back to the women we were before we became mothers is not only unrealistic, but it’s an insult to women of all ages, demographics, shapes, and sizes. It makes a mockery of the powerful passage into one of the most essential roles a human can live into, and it keeps women disempowered through an endless journey of striving for unattainable goals that wouldn’t necessarily serve us even if we could reach them.Read that again, dear reader. Read it a dozen times.
Can you imagine a world where women were just loved for who they are? Where mothers, who have changed for the better, are glorified and held up as good? Can you imagine a society that sees the evolution of the human body as a beautiful, wonderful thing?
Society tells us:
Aging is bad.
If you get old, wrinkly, gray, or slow, you're just not beautiful anymore.
Also, you can have babies, but don't let that change your body.
We don't want to know about your changing body.
Change it back. Pregnant women and new moms are gross.
Seriously, change it back! Gross!
The beauty industry tells us:
Buy this product and you won't look old and gray.
That means you'll be beautiful and worthy of love.
And you'll have to keep buying and applying because, well, we can't stop biology, so you'll keep getting older.
Also, here's a product to erase signs of stretch marks.
Have some surgery to erase any sign of a stretched stomach, nursing breasts, or even a uterus.
Your body may change, but here's the products you can use to pretend it didn't.
Keep buying more.
You'll have to buy until you die.
Taking care of our bodies is so very different from hurting our bodies to attain a specific shape, size, or look. When we eat good food, keep ourselves clean, and move around, we are doing enough. I'm not saying exercise as a hobby is a bad thing --it's not --but ask yourself this (and I would say this to anyone who has a significant beauty regimen or is dieting significantly): Why am I doing this? Is it to give into the lies of perfection, or is it because I like it? Am I doing this to be stronger or thinner? Am I doing this because I hate my body or because I love my body? The answer, dear reader, will make all the difference. And yes, it matters. It matters so much it's not even funny.
Once upon a time, I was thin. Very thin. I had four children behind me and, unbeknownst to me, three in front of me. I ate hardly anything. I exercised hard. I was, according to society, gorgeous.
And I was absolutely miserable.
Would I like to be thin like that again? Maybe, someday. But not at the cost. I can honestly say that even though I still struggle with the body shaming now and again, I love my body more than I did when I was that thin. I love what my body has given to me and I am so grateful for the one I have!
I wrote a few essays before about my body, but I feel prompted to share those links again. I feel like I need to write about this again and again until every single mother loves their bodies and thanks their bodies for giving them such amazing gifts. Here and Here.
I want to mention one last thing, though. I spoke about it at the end of a previous post, but I want to go deeper.
Your body is a glorious, beautiful, amazing gift. It's not perfect because we live in mortality. But your body houses your spirit and together they are a soul! An incredible soul that work together to do amazing things. Satan doesn't have a body. Nor do those who followed him. The evil spirits who tempt us to do things to hurt our bodies are enraged with jealousy because they will never have the chance to be given a body. They want you to hurt yours, and it doesn't matter to them how you hurt them, just that you do (from addictions to drastic altering to just plain ol' body shaming/hating). Every time you are grateful for your body, every time you love your body, you are allowing more light to enter into your soul and more darkness to leave. Every time you give your body the chance to do amazing things without succumbing to the lies of the world, you are fulfilling a divine purpose of learning how to connect your spirit and body together.
Young mothers, I want to remind you that the act of giving birth is miraculous. Not only are you allowing a body to grow inside of you, you are allowing a spirit to join with a body inside of you. You are the vessel that God uses to send His children to the Earth! Be grateful for those stretch marks, hips, veins, sagging breasts, and all the other changes that come from giving birth. Be grateful such a miracle has occurred inside of you. Don't wish for your previous body --it will only bring you heartache and frustration. Love the body you have. Take care of it. Honor it. Thank your Heavenly Father for it. I promise if you do, you will have real happiness and true joy!