Few things compare to the monumental changes your body goes through during pregnancy and childbirth. Sometimes, even more challenging than physical changes, are emotional ones. It can be difficult to accept and embrace your new body, especially if you aren’t comfortable or familiar with what you see in the mirror. Know that you’re not alone. Many moms struggle with body image both immediately postpartum and for years down the road, so shifting your perspective and learning to love yourself (inside and out) is vital and rewarding in so many ways.
Shifting your perspective can start very simply with an attitude of gratitude: Your body is amazing! Take a moment to look at the big picture and think about all the incredible things that your body has done and can do. Not only is your body powerful enough to grow a baby, but it can also feed that baby, soothe that baby, and so much more. You’ve been molded by love and sculpted by the gift of life – that’s a privilege not every woman gets to enjoy.
When you start by recognizing the power, beauty, and strength that you’ve possessed all along, you make room for your confidence to bloom. In the early days, even though your focus is on getting to know your new little one and fulfilling their every need, don’t forget to do things that make you happy. After all, you can’t take care of someone else unless you take care of yourself first. Give your body the energy and fuel it needs by eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and be sure to squeeze in a bit of exercise. Even a short walk outside can help release endorphins and boost your mood.
Another thing to consider: You never really know whom you’re setting an example for (or maybe you do). Who looks up to you and what do they hear? Think about your sisters, daughters, coworkers, friends, and family. Are you showing an example of a woman who loves herself and celebrates the power and beauty of her body? The way you treat yourself and the way you talk about your body sets the stage for other women in your life to do the same.
Finally, it might be helpful for you to step back and think about where women’s often-unrealistic standards come from. Every day – on TV, in magazines, in ads, and online – women are bombarded with images of perfect postpartum bodies and articles about losing baby weight, “getting your body back,” and celebrity baby news. Celebrities who “drop the baby weight” so quickly have access to an entirely different set of resources, including staff whose sole purpose is to make sure their bodies look perfect at all times. It’s hard to escape society’s pressures, but beginning to recognize (and resist) the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which women are made to feel inadequate is the first step to breaking free of unrealistic and harmful body ideals.
For realistic depictions of women’s bodies, check out this gallery of real moms of all shapes and sizes. Surrounding yourself with positive images and words can go a long way. You might also consider sticking a note to your bathroom mirror (or someplace else you see every day) that says, “I am enough. I am perfect just the way I am,” or, “My body is amazing.” Because, guess what – you are, and it is.