‘I haven’t lost my baby weight. And I’ve stopped hating myself for it.’

 

It had finally happened. After months and years of looking in the mirror and wondering if I looked overweight, someone finally said it to my face. In an off-hand comment, someone told me that I had put on weight and did not resemble the thinner person that I used to be.

I thought the rolls and lumps had been well hidden underneath baggy t-shirts, or that my bright makeup and big hair would distract from my rounded, post-baby tummy. I thought that my nearest and dearest were supposed to reassure me that I was already perfect, or that I looked “fine” at the very least. But this time, someone else spoke the words that were always in my head, and it left me with a choice: to agree, or fight back.

It’s one thing to constantly tell yourself that you’re gross and that you need to lose weight. But when someone else voiced my secret thoughts, it made me realise how cruel I had been to myself.

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I’d piled on the baby weight, and had also piled on the self-hate. It was my weapon and motivation for reclaiming my pre-baby body. Every time I looked in the mirror or at a photo of myself, I silently screamed that I was disgusting, unattractive, lazy… things that I would never say to another person, and yet they had become my personal mantra. It was this self-loathing that helped me get on the cross-trainer at five am, or stay that little bit hungrier during the day. I didn’t want to be gross. I wouldn’t be gross.

And so, when I was told quite bluntly that I was no longer thin or glamorous, my thoughts of self-loathing began to spiral. I cried about it to my husband. He understood how bad I felt, when I was already self-conscious that none of my pre-baby clothes fit.

I felt miserable all day – until I got angry. I was mad that someone would police my body, and I was furious that I had been treating my body in a horribly negative way. The hatred of my body and appearance had to end.

I replaced my baggy t-shirts with fitted v-necked t-shirts. I bought a bra that actually hoisted up my boobs properly. I started wearing tighter, flirtier skirts, and told myself that I was sexy and attractive, even though I didn’t believe it. Because if no-one else was going to have my back, or give me a compliment, or say anything nice about my body, then I’d have to damn well do it myself.

I started to catch myself out. Glimpsing my reflection in a window, that sinister thought would quickly surface: “Ugh, you look awful.” I would quickly remind myself that no, I didn’t look “awful”, and that it didn’t matter what I looked like, anyway. I tried to think about things that I liked about myself. I started to feel better.

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Every day, several times a day, I would try to be kinder to myself. To nourish my body with filling food, to think positively about my own actions (more “you’re awesome!”, less “why did you do that, now everyone will think you’re an idiot”), to listen to music and catch up with girlfriends and play with my kids. It took effort to feel confident and happy. But then again, it also takes a lot of effort to hate yourself. It just depends where you want to put your energy, and whether you want to build something or tear yourself down.

I’ll never be the type of woman who loves her stretch marks, or is glad that her body changed after having children. And I think that’s okay. I will never be perfect – and thank goodness for that. I enjoy being a work in progress. The woman I do want to be is the one who thinks kindly of herself and others, who is gentle and loving to her body and mind. You can be that woman, too.

Carla Gee is a Sydney writer, illustrator and podcaster. Find her on Instagram and Facebook.

What are your tactics to encourage self love? Share your answer below.

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