As if being a mom or even TRYING to become a mom isn’t hard enough, then there’s the weight gain. Whether it be through trying to conceive, the process of fertility or just the fact that we just gave birth, there’s always weight gain or even if you’re lucky enough to not gain weight, our body just doesn’t look the same anymore. Not only do we have some extra pounds, especially around the middle, we also have droopy boobs that you can literally roll up like socks into your bra (sorry men who might read this). So, on top of the fact that our whole world is changing and/or we want so desperately to start a family, we start to question our identity because we just don’t look the same as we used to.
I remember after having Kennedy how much I was affected by my weight. I never wanted to go anywhere with Daniel in public because I thought people would see me with him and think, “Why would he marry her? She really out-punted her coverage there.” I remember not fitting into any of my clothes and feeling like people looked at me differently at the store or took me less seriously at work. One of my friends told me a story that she felt so fat and ugly after gaining weight from her pregnancy that she cried on the stairs before a pool party with friends. The weight gain and body change is SO hard, and it’s okay to feel that way. We have all been there (See photo above that I hated myself in and cried after seeing because I felt so unattractive).
The media doesn’t help either. We live in a culture that is constantly lying to us about our identity. If you aren’t beautiful, you aren’t lovable. And the only way to be lovable is to live up to this ridiculous standard. The media tells us that if we aren’t a size zero with a butt that looks like you have an invisible pole holding it up 5 minutes after giving birth, then you just aren’t working hard enough. I mean celebrities actually get insurance on specific body parts that are especially “valuable.” Ridiculous. I have a theory that this is how satan likes to attack women. God made us in such a way that we DO want to be loved and seen as valuable or lovely. So, the enemy takes that good desire in us and twists it in such a way that we feel we can never actually achieve that standard, so the result is that instead of feeling joy about being a new mom, we end up comparing ourselves to other women, and always falling short.
If the media’s standard of beauty is really what determines our value, then Hollywood marriages would be thriving. A majority of those beautiful hollywood models or actresses had a man look at them one day and say, eh, I’m done with you. So obviously this standard of beauty (which isn’t even real, hello airbrushing), can’t truly be what determines how valuable and loved we are as women.
So what do we do about this culture of lies and false identity?
1. Lean into Jesus: If you find yourself buying into the lies of this world, then the only thing left to do is lean into Jesus. Haven’t we all met that one girl who was so confident in who she was that all of a sudden instead of critiquing her flaws, we started noticing all of the beautiful things about her? I think of those women in my life and realize that true beauty comes from a humble confidence in who God made you to be. I want that kind of confidence. Don’t feel like you have that? Me either, but there’s hope.
If you surrendered your life to Christ, then you have the power of the Holy Spirit within you. Which means you have a direct line to God, the creator of the universe, the creator of YOU. So God wants us to bring these things to Him and lay them at His feet: One, you can take that crappy feeling you have of yourself and pray God helps you find the time to get to the gym or be disciplined enough to put healthy food in your body. I remember praying a very similar prayer! Two, pray for a right perspective on how God sees you. What’s that thing you struggle with? “If only I could lose this weight. If only I could get that surgery. If only I had a smaller nose.” What is that one thing that causes you to compare yourself to other women constantly and causes you to feel less about yourself. What is that one trait you see in other women that causes you to be jealous instead of love them? God made us to be in REAL relationships, and when we can finally find our confidence in who God says we are, then we can be free to love one another despite all of our many differences. We can start to celebrate one another’s strengths and not compare. And the only person who can change this perspective in you is the One who made you.
2. Memorize some Scripture: You need some “It Is Writtens” is your life. Our pastor often says that when we know our weak areas or struggles, we need some it is writtens memorized so that we can battle against it. What that means is that if we believe that Scripture is alive and active, then we need to memorize that Scripture that tells us the TRUTH about how valuable and how loved we actually are.The Bible says that “charm is deceitful and beauty is vein” (Proverbs 31:30), and that “you are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Proverbs 139:14). Write these out on sticky notes and stick them everywhere: your bathroom mirror, the fridge, your car dashboard (for when you see all of the super fit moms in the carpool line). Here are a few that come to mind that help me: Proverbs 31, Psalm 139, Romans 9:25, 1 Peter 3:4, Psalm 46:5, Proverbs 31:25.
3. Check your friend circle: Do your friends make you feel awesome or do they make you feel like crap? If being around the women you surround yourself with brings you down, makes you compare and become jealous, then you need some new friends. If your friends judge and gossip about other women constantly, why in the heck would you feel confident around them, much less like you can actually be real with them. (Disclaimer: Yes, you should most definitely have lots of non-christian friends because how else will they know about Jesus.) But, you absolutely need women who love Jesus in your life so that they are constantly pointing you back to the Truth about how beautiful God made you to be. After having Kennedy I needed those friends who allowed me to be truthful about how bad I felt about myself and let me vent. I needed those moments when I could cry and they would bring me chocolate and wine. But, I also needed those friends that encouraged me to get up and get to the gym so I could be healthier for my family! The fact of the matter is, we need friends we can be real with, and friends that will lovingly be there for us and point us in the right direction.
4. Fake it until you make it. Attaining a humble confidence in who God made you to be doesn’t come overnight. But, maybe we can all start faking it until it does. Being humble isn’t thinking less of yourself; it means thinking of yourself less. So for starters, we can stop being so self-absorbed all of the time. “I’m fat. I don’t look good in this outfit. I could never pull off a dress like that.” One thing I try and do when I notice something I like in other women is always say it out loud to them, even if I feel a twinge of jealously about that said trait. You have no idea what that does for you and for that other person who probably at that very moment is wishing she had your toned arms or long eyelashes. We all compare, so once we start actively loving and encouraging each other, then all of our confidence goes up, we love each other more, and that ugly green monster called jealousy gets a boot in the you know what.
A Note for the Men: As husbands, dads of daughters and even brothers, you have a big job to do. It’s your job to speak the truth into your wife, daughter or sister. It’s your job to shatter those lies that an unattainable beauty standard is the only thing that makes her valuable. It is your job to not allow her to speak negatively about herself. It is your job to speak truth to her about how beautiful she really is, how valuable she is to you and your family. So even though this is hard for you, start telling those women in your life how beautiful and valuable they are. I promise even small compliments go a LONG way.
Conclusion – At the end of the day, we all probably want to look nice and fit into our clothes again. I want my hubby to be proud to have me by his side, and after going through years of trying to conceive and having Kennedy, I ultimately wanted to feel like myself again after spending years giving my whole self to starting a family, including my body. And we will get there one day; we will get back to feeling like ourselves again. I mean, hey, they say your 40’s are some of your best times! But, the scars, extra layer of fat, and smaller boob size will have all been worth it because there is nothing in this world like becoming a mother.
In the mean time, let’s lean into Jesus, making sure that we aren’t putting the wrong kind of value on that weight gain and beauty-striving. Let’s all remind ourselves and also each other that our beauty is found in who God made us to be, that we each have so many beautiful traits. Let’s celebrate one another instead of compare ourselves to one another. It’s when we can finally attain that humble confidence we talked about, in who God made us to be, that we can truly love ourselves and love others.
Side Note: These are two of my very favorite “it is writtens” because they make me feel valuable and beautiful. Because of how rooted I am in who God made me to be, I have confidence that I will not be moved. Because I have seen God provide for me time and time again, and give me peace despite my circumstances, I know how very loved I am and therefore have no fear of the future. I know that God is a good Dad who loves me, and that He formed every part of me from my round face to my short legs, and dang, that’s beautiful (and some days I have to remind myself of that even when I don’t feel it).
“God is within her, she will not be moved.” Psalm 46:5
“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Proverbs 31:25