Why I’m learning to love my body, and why you should learn to love yours too

I’ve spent most of my adult life hating or disliking my body in some way. As a teen I was slim and curvy but still lacked confidence and constantly saw myself as fat and ugly. Having my first baby did nothing for how I saw myself, if anything I disliked my new body even more. Instead of just thinking I was fat, I could really see it now as well! It has taken several more babies and eleven years for me to first make some kind of truce with myself, and more recently to actually start to not only accept my body for what it is but to appreciate it and maybe even love it as well.

As western women we are constantly bombarded with images and ideals of how the ‘perfect’ female form should look. The reality is that this is bloody nonsense! There is a reason that only a select few women become supermodels – they are examples of the extreme end of fashion. The majority of women, real everyday women do not fit this ‘ideal’, and so we berate punish and abuse ourselves. Whole industries revolve around this aspiration to so-called perfection, undermining our femininity – in the true sense of the word – and playing on our insecurities, both creating the image to aspire to and the handy solution we can buy to get closer to it. The truth is that every woman is different, and so having one idealised view of how a woman should look is a fallacy and deeply counter-productive in our every day, non-catwalk based lives.

The female body is an amazing thing (and I’m sure it’ll only be women out there disagreeing with me!). Mine for example, has grown four new human beings inside it. It has gone through the incredible process of birthing these babies and then continued to nourish them for months and years after. It has done all this despite my worries, concerns and sometimes lack of faith in it, and has shown me that it can do exactly what it is meant to do in spite of what I might think of it or do to it.

Yes I have stretch marks galore, I could do with losing some weight and I have a host of other minor complaints I could list, but I also have some pretty fabulous features and reasons to love my body too:

  • My breasts are great – yes they point more to the floor these days (as my husband lovingly reminded me when helping me fix our newborn’s latch recently!) but they are as awesome as they were a decade or so ago. A little different yes, but in the best kind of way. I appreciate their awesomeness even more knowing that they have been and continue to be such an invaluable source of nutrition and comfort to my babies as they grow. I feel an immense amount of pride when I look at my 17lb twelve week old baby, knowing that me, my breasts and I are solely responsible for those gorgeous chubby rolls of fat.
  • My stretch marks are part of the package now – signs of motherhood, reminders of the cherished pregnancies that brought me my beautiful children. I’m no longer ashamed of them or embarrassed by them. I wear them with pride!
  • My belly isn’t flat and firm as it once was, but at twelve weeks after birthing baby number four I have a new appreciation and admiration for the strength and stamina it took my belly to contain that almost ten-pound baby for over 42 weeks and then to push him out, OP presentation and all. I’m amazed at how quickly those muscles shrank my post-partum belly back down, despite having held four big babies inside me.

If we don’t have confidence in our bodies, we don’t trust them to do what they were built to do. If we don’t trust our bodies we are far less likely to let them do what they are capable of doing. My confidence in my body was shaken towards the end of my last pregnancy. I had passed 40, 41, and then 42 weeks. I had never had a pregnancy that long and I was suddenly in unknown territory. I worried that my body had failed me, that I wasn’t going to go into labour naturally, that some unknown thing had gone wrong. However I was healthy and the baby was healthy so I declined induction, but knew that it may be on the horizon if problems arose. Unsurprisingly (from the other side of the fence anyway!) I did eventually go into labour naturally and I gave birth to a big gorgeous baby at home in water, with no interventions or problems. Had I taken the standard route, I would have been induced in hospital at 41 weeks. Letting it happen naturally allowed my body and baby to be truly ready for the enormous task of labour, birth and recovery. Trusting my body played a big part in this.

Experiencing the amazing, raw power of growing and giving birth to my babies has helped me realise that yes, my body is great! The female body can do some amazing things and I wish more women would realise just how amazing their bodies are, just as they are. As the saying goes; charity starts at home – love, cherish and respect your body and demand the same respect from others. You are fabulous! Have confidence in your body and trust it. Give your body the love and respect that it deserves!

6 thoughts on “Why I’m learning to love my body, and why you should learn to love yours too

  1. So very true, I’m on my own journey to appreciating and loving my own body despite the extra Christmas weight. For me though I find the further from pregnancy, breastfeeding and having a tiny babe I get the harder it is to love my body. I appreciated my imperfect body more when the memory of it carrying my precious babes was fresher in my mind. All part of the journey though 🙂 Learning to move on from the baby phase into the older kiddo’s phase and not being as needed as I once was.

    Really enjoyed your first post and am looking forward to reading more from you!

    1. I know what you mean Jenny! Ask me again how I feel in 6 months! I’m hoping I’ll still feel the same! I’ve been trying for a while now to be kinder to myself. It started with forcing myself to accept compliments, and having baby #4 has really brought it home for me that I have no business thinking badly of something that can do such amazing things!

  2. It has always struck me that, as mothers, girlfriends, wives/partners.. we constantly encourage others to value themselves and tell our loved ones how amazing they are. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we gave ourselves the same love and boosted our self image!
    I love you Claire, and think that you are a truly beautiful woman with an amazing, beautiful and powerful body 😀

  3. I actually think that the obsession women now have with their bodies is quite selfish, we really think that people should be that bothered – why don’t we stop thinking about ourselves and divert a bit of that negativity and do something useful. We think that how we look should be how others react to us. Well, people of all shapes and sizes fall in love and have successful lives. It’s time we gave up thinking that our life experience is and should be attached to our looks.

    I no longer care how I look. I grew up being bullied for how I looked and teased for having no money (they were linked apparently – I looked ‘poor’ as I didn’t wear the right stuff). However at about 17 I blossomed. The national health specs were put away and I lost weight. Then I was suddenly considered one of the beautiful people and I was treated differently. Well by some – they certainly took an interest but women did not like me and I have worked hard to change that. I know that I find it hard to get a job if interviewed by a woman but not if by a man. I am bemused at how men treat women, they really do only have time for you because they find you attractive. I never exploit this (and as most personnel departments are run by women this is a problem). I always wear trousers and never skirts or low cut tops. Women do not like you to be funny or clever, men do. I digress. The thing was I have always still been the little kid who no one likes. To be liked only for your looks is not a good thing! A certain type of man is attracted to you and you get exploited. I do not have happy relationships. So to be side lined by women and not really liked by men is horrible. I am alone. It is better now as I get older.

    Because it was only when I suddenly got good looking that I got noticed, I pinned so much on my looks and worried about my imperfections. Facially I looked pretty good, everywhere else I looked as if I ought to be pretty good too. But I wasn’t as I had a fat tummy! I had such hang ups about this that you wouldn’t believe. I always thought I must be a disappointment with no clothes on and not what was expected at all. Anyway I got married and had a baby. (Divorced within 4 years). My body hardly changed due to the pregnancy at all. A couple of minor stretch marks which I have always liked and seen as a reminder of the best thing that ever happened to me. My weight went up and down a bit. But even when the rest of me is a 6-8 I still have a fat tummy as it is my shape. While at my lowest weight I do not look nice (it happened after a break up and I was sad). My tummy is part of me, I am now used to its squidgyness and would miss it!

    I now see the good side of having a fat tummy though, as although its pudgy it isn’t lose skin so in a way I don’t mind anymore. I don’t care now I am older as why would I want to parade around for everyone to gawp at me? Why do so many women do that? I am not interested in how I look now, it has never done me any favours! I allowed an ex to see my grey roots the other day – this after he had made nasty comments over a female friend of his having grey hair, which showed through after a while; he laughed at her actually. At the time I thought I had better not tell him that I colour my grey roots! I let him see me in glasses and no make too. It was like blowing raspberries at him as I just didn’t care less. I never let anyone see me without make up when I was young as I never felt I was good enough. When my husband left I thought it was because I was ugly. Now, when I daresay I have looked better (I’m 46) I feel quite happy with my natural me because there is no one to impress. I am happy in my skin. I look OK to me and that is good enough. I put on a few pounds over Christmas but why should I take them off? Why is it the thinner the better? It really isn’t in many ways. It is not even about being fat or thin any more it is about being thinner and thinner and thinner. You can (and should it is implied) always be thinner.

    Motherhood leaves signs like bigger/smaller, inflated/deflated breasts, soft tummies and stretch marks but bodies are there to do a job. When they do it we berate them and hate them for it. I’m sure in the old days such signs would be taken as fertility and admired. The nubile young body is an unknown. Those fertility goddesses are fat and fertile looking not skinny! If our bodies work, if they are pain free then we should celebrate them.

    1. Loved reading your experiences with body image over the years JJenny. Thanks so much for sharing, its kinda an eye opener (i.e how life really is for the stereotypically beautiful). How many larger (wobblier) ladies look at those with perfect BMI’s and pretty faces and envy them. Our feelings of inadequacy inevitably turning into distaste for these women who look like they have it all. We assume it’s all rainbows and sunshine for the hotties. Fitting the perfect mould is an unreachable goal for most of us, so all we can do is sit back and hate on the lucky few. It’s silly, you’re absolutely right…we all have our struggles and when it all comes down to it I love the way you put it, “If our bodies work, if they are pain free then we should celebrate them”.

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