If you have been following my posts over the past year, you know I have been on a journey to improve my mental health. What started as a journey to learn how to manage my anxiety has become a journey of learning how to love myself, prioritize myself, and speak up for myself. Recently, I have been wanting to implement these lessons at home with my girls—because the skills I am learning through therapy are skills I know will help them navigate the world as they grow up. Routinely, when discussing my mental health with my husband, I explain I want to do this for the girls—to lead by example. It is no surprise, then, that body image and self-love are key components of that.
In the last ten years, I have finished graduate school, moved cities, gone to law school, finished law school, taken and passed the bar exam, run a half marathon, lost a dog, started my career, gained two more dogs, lost two family members, gotten married, lived in four different places (juggling with my now-husband’s two other places), and had two kids (and two c-sections). During that time, I have ranged from a size 4 to a size 12, my weight has fluctuated up and down across 40 pounds, my skin has changed, my hair has changed, and my body shape has changed (thanks, kids). Between the birth of my first daughter in 2016 and my second in 2019, I constantly obsessed about my weight, appearance, clothes, and was fixated on “pre-baby” or “pre-bar exam” weight. I felt gross, I was unhappy, and I hated how I looked. I swore to myself I would fit in various tops and dresses I once wore, or never got the chance to wear, and then I would be “happy.”
I am not exactly sure when I snapped out of this mindset. I remember standing in the bathroom getting ready and my four-year-old was watching me. She was asking me questions about my makeup, my clothes, and told me that I was so “pretty and stylish.” This was the first time I realized that my daughter notices me—and by that I mean my appearance, body image… all of it. I was miserable going from diet to diet, workout plan to workout plan, forcing myself to do things I hated to achieve some goal to be smaller. Suddenly, it felt like the wrong way to go about it.
Along with therapy, I began working with a registered dietician who focuses on Intuitive Eating. That is a story for another day, but my therapist and my dietician together put me on a path to perspective. I do not have to fit into a certain dress or pair of shorts or bathing suit to be valued and loved. I do not have to cut out carbs or restrict calories if I hate it. I can lose weight and still be unhappy. I can stay at my current weight and find happiness within myself. My weight is not indicative of who I am as a person, nor is it indicative of my value to my family and community.
For the first time in a really, really long time, I am enjoying my life and accepting myself. It is not always easy, and some days I have to work at it more than others, but it has been a tremendous weight off my shoulders.
If you are in this place like I was, below are the three things that helped me most on my journey to self-love.
Throw out the clothes that no longer fit.
This seems obvious, I know—but this is a big one. That dress in the corner of your closet you swear you will wear “one day”—get rid of it. Sell it on Mercari and get yourself a pedicure with the money you make. Stop letting that hang over your head. Those shorts from college? Get rid of them. Purge. Donate. Sell. Whatever you have to do, just get rid of it. While it may seem harmless to keep these items in your closet, it’s not. Start fresh. Take a deep breath.
Then, with the money you made selling your clothes on Facebook, Mercari, or wherever, get clothes that fit. I mean really fit. Clothes that you like, that feel good, and that make you feel confident. This may take some ordering, trying on, and returning. You may have some orders that are all wrong. You may have to figure out which items look good on your post-baby body. Take the time to do that. Slowly, you will begin building a wardrobe that fits your current body—that awesome body that carried children, or chases toddlers, or hiked a mountain, or whatever it does—that body is deserving of love and respect (and clothes that fit!).
For me, once I found clothes that fit that I felt good in—that I was comfortable in—my weight and body shape was less of a focus, and I was able to enjoy whatever I was doing at the time. Come on, no one wants to be stuffed in pants a size too small when trying to enjoy dinner with the girls.
Cleanse your social media.
Social media was killing my self-esteem without me even realizing it. When I was bored, I would aimlessly scroll through my feed and be bombarded by these women who appeared flawless (flawless because the images were heavily photoshopped), wearing outfits that would never translate to real life, with the most perfect skin (these women did not have pores because, again, photoshop). It was not healthy.
My dietician recommended I “purge” my social media. Huh? She suggested unliking, muting, or unfollowing anything that made me feel bad about myself, my appearance, or my weight. Instead, she suggested following positive individuals who are a variety of shapes and sizes. Follow people passionate about what you are passionate about.
This changed my life.
Now my social media is filled with mom bloggers (not the Karens—more cool-mom style like ACM—we aren’t regular moms, we’re cool moms), women of all shapes and sizes, women who are leaders in their fields, and women wanting to make the world a better place. It. Is. Awesome. I even found some fashion bloggers who wear the same size as me, which has been incredibly helpful in learning how to dress my mom-bod. Interested? Here are my favorite Instagram accounts to follow:
Move your body for your mind.
Since my senior year in high school, I have only worked out to be smaller. I spent years doing workouts I hated to achieve that goal. Early on in my sessions with my therapist, she suggested I move my body in a way that feels good, even if that just meant stretching or going on a walk. What? This was foreign to me. I have not moved my body solely because it feels good in over 15 years. Movement was done only because of an ulterior motive—losing weight. Instead, my therapist was suggesting I move my body to feel good and help with my stress and anxiety. Well, okay, I’ll give it the ‘ol “college try.”
Turns out, she was right (shocker). The beauty of moving for my mind was I no longer felt forced to complete workouts I hated. I have no desire to do agility training, but I love going on walks and lifting weights—so I did that instead. I love being outside with my girls, so I did that too. I love going on after-dinner walks with the whole family, so we also did that. To move my body for enjoyment was freeing—I did not need to track anything if I did not want to. There was complete freedom to move, be active, and enjoy whatever I was doing at the time.
These three things made the biggest difference for me in improving my self-esteem, body confidence, and body acceptance. Of course, some days are better than others, and some days I still feel trapped by the unrealistic expectations placed on moms. But now I can open up my newsfeed and see amazing, strong women and moms of all ages, shapes, and sizes, and remember that I am so much more than what I look like.