How I Learned to Love Myself
How I learned to love myself in five easy steps:
Get pregnant and gain 60 pounds
Give birth to a 9-pound baby with no drugs
Have life-threatening medical experience
Lose 70 pounds
Love myself forever
Okay so maybe that’s not entirely accurate, or really accurate at all. While all of those steps actually happened to me, there were a lot of up and downs in between. A lot of soul searching. A lot of tears. A lot of figuring out what makes me happy. A lot of standing in front of the mirror and hating what I saw. It was a long, hard journey that still isn’t over yet, but I think it’s necessary for me to share how I got from being the girl that hated every single thing about my body to being the one who posts bikini pictures on Instagram and preaches about self-love.
I couldn’t tell you exactly when the shift happened, there was no ah-ha moment where I went from hating myself to loving myself, but I can tell you how much happier my life has been in the nearly three years since then.
I’d like to tell you that loving myself and finally feeling positive about my body was a purely mental shift, that I finally figured it out after years of battling my negative inner voice, but that’s just not true. The start of my body positivity journey came on the heels of a 70-pound weight loss. I don’t even like admitting that out loud because I am constantly preaching about loving your body just the way it is and not waiting for some magical number on the scale to make you happy, and I still 100 percent believe that, but for me it didn’t start that way.
Learning to love myself started shortly after I had my first baby. He was just over 3-months old when I developed blood clots in my lungs, it was a super scary experience that left me with anxiety about what would happen if I died and left this tiny new baby behind. It also motivated to me get healthier. I had talked about getting healthier a million times before, but in those cases healthier always meant reaching a certain weight or jean size so I looked good. This time it was strictly about being healthy so I could show up for my baby boy. By the time he turned 1, I weighed 70 pounds less than I did when I was hospitalized for the blood clots. And for the first time I can ever remember, I didn’t hate every single thing about my body. I felt comfortable in my skin for the first time, maybe ever, and I had more energy than I had had in years.
As a watched my body change, I couldn’t help but be appreciative of all the things it had done for me. I couldn’t help but be amazed at all the amazing things my body could do, like growing an entire human being and bring him into this world, like doing workouts I had never done before and getting stronger every day.
When I started losing weight and started appreciating my body, I never imagined it would impact my life so much. I never imagined how much happier and motivated and free I would feel. In the early days of my body positivity journey, I was fueled by the feelings of finally liking how my body looked. I would be lying if I said my entire mindset had shifted at that point. But then I got pregnant again. And gained back all of the weight I had lost. And my body changed again. But I was determined not to let myself go back to the dark place where I hated myself, because that was not a fun place to be in. I was determined to continue finding ways to be positive about my body, I was going to find a way to love myself regardless of whether I was fat or not.
But with a growing belly and thighs (because apparently pregnancy makes my thighs fat), it wasn’t as easy as just liking what I saw in the mirror. I had to turn inward and start looking at some of the feelings I’d been hiding for years. Where did my lack of self-confidence come from? When did I start hating myself? Why did I hate myself? Why did I let people on social media and in magazines make me feel bad about myself? I still don’t have all the answers to those questions, but taking a hard look at all my insecurities has truly set me free. Free from the soul-crushing expectations that are placed on women’s bodies, free from the idea that I have to weigh a certain amount to be happy, free from the guilt and shame of not having the “perfect” body.
I didn’t set out to become an advocate for body positivity. It sort of just happened. I loved what I was feeling so much I had to share it with others. And so in May of 2017, I posted my first picture of myself in a swimsuit on Instagram. I started slow but I dreamed everyday for more than two years of starting a blog where I could share my stories and maybe inspire someone else. It took me a long time to work up the courage and belief in myself to start this blog, but now I’ve started I can’t go back. I can’t go back to being quiet. I can’t go back to hating myself.
And in case you’re wondering, step 5 is a lie. I don’t believe I’ll ever get to a place where I love myself 24/7, where I have no insecurities and I never think about my body and what’s wrong with it, but that’s okay. There is no one way to love yourself. There is no right way to practice body positivity. There is no shame in stumbling, just get back up again and keep trying.