big thighs, blue dresses, and self-love

woman in mirror

Under the bright dressing-room lights at Target, I try on countless outfits. I am seven months pregnant. My body looks different now with new curves and indentions and a belly that swells each day. “I am really pregnant” I think and put on long blue dress, hoping it won’t look as bad as the others.

I turn around and through the light blue fabric I can see new parts of me in very unwelcome places—extra layers that weren’t there before. Self-loathing kicks in.

I start analyzing this new body I’m living in. I focus on my arms, then my butt, then my thighs. My thighs always absorb the majority of the self-hatred. Today is no different.

Part of me wants to move aside my pile of clothes and start doing lunges right there. Another part of me wants to bolt to the front of the store and buy a soft pretzel and an Icee, and drown my feelings in calories.

I wish the story was that I never had moments like these before getting pregnant, but this Target dressing room scene has happened before. I wrote about overcoming my struggle with body hatred in Real Men Don’t Text, but it still plagues me. It’s a struggle that we are never quite free from; one that has to be tackled a little more each day.

It’s so easy to hate ourselves when our body doesn’t follow ‘supposed to’, isn’t it?

I take off the less-than-flattering blue dress and see my bare, round stomach. I am reminded of my sweet girl. My body is doing an extraordinary thing—growing a life—but I’m focused on the size of my thighs? Guilt rushes in. I don’t want this self-hatred for my daughter.

How is my daughter supposed to love herself if her mom hasn’t quite learned yet? How is she ever going to believe me when I tell her she’s beautiful, that she isn’t fat, and that she has nothing to worry about with her weight if she’s seeing me glare at my body and long for it to be different?

In that dressing room, I suddenly feel a deep sense of accountability that has always existed but not accountability I’ve accepted before. Learning to accept our bodies doesn’t just affect us, it affects everyone around us. Especially our daughters.

Brene Brown, one of my all-time favorite authors, talks about the best thing that mothers can do for their daughters. In her parenting manifesto she writes,

“I want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see me practice self-compassion and embrace my own imperfections.”

It’s easy to think that once we get to an ideal weight, look like her, tone up, or become pregnant that self-love and acceptance will flow freely. But the old saying stands: wherever you go, there you are.

We won’t learn to love ourselves later; we must learn now.

I hang the blue dress back on a hanger and touch my belly in adoration of the beautiful life growing inside me. I love and accept myself, just for a moment, all parts, even my thighs. It seems like a dressing room with fluorescent lights is the exact place this lifelong journey must continue.

Will you share your ‘dressing room’ experiences with us? Have you ever thought that self-love would start after you reached certain milestones?

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Comments
3 Responses to “big thighs, blue dresses, and self-love”
  1. Melissa says:

    Hi Ruthie,
    I think pregnancy is probably the worst time to critique your body (if not the initial post-pregnancy weeks)! I have two children (11 and 9) and both pregnancies were difficult in the sense that I had to relinquish control over the changes my body was undergoing…I simply could not stop the expanding waistline, the rounder rump, etc. Quite frankly, it was terrifying. But here’s the silver lining: I now celebrate my body more than I ever have. Birthing children shifted my focus from what my body looked like to what my body was capable of. Our culture programs us with a level of superficiality; I’m increasingly interested in the beauty of functionality. SInce that shift in awareness, I train harder than ever – trail running, surfing, and dancing – and discover afresh the complex and miraculous machine this human body is. Blessings to you, your husband, and your child.

  2. Sandi says:

    Hi Ruthie,
    I have had issues with loving my body too. I have often thought that I would love myself more if I lose more weight or if I am a certain size. But I keep learning that I should love myself now the way I am. Simply because even after I lose the weight, I may still not like me. So I might as well start liking me now =)

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