My arms. I’ve always been self conscious about my arms. I remember spending hours looking at them in the mirror, analyzing them, and hoping that if I stared at them long enough, they would shrink instead of being an indicator that I was gaining weight. I hated my arms and dreamt of a day when they would be slim and toned. If only I could take a huge scissor and cut off the excess flab! It’s truly sad that I had those thoughts about myself, and my arms. However, what’s even more horrifying is the fact that many women and young girls feel exactly the same way about a certain part of their bodies. Through my self love journey, I have learned to appreciate my arms, photograph them, and place them on display for all to see. These same arms that used to make me cringe now bring me joy as I know these arms have comforted countless laboring women and enabled my hands to safely guide almost 400 babies into this world. These arms have given the best hugs, have held others up, and have been the support of everything I accomplish with my upper extremities. I’m thankful for my arms.
I want you to be thankful for whatever it is you are struggling to accept about your body. I’m always asked how did I build my confidence up. However, I feel that I haven’t really taken the time to outline the very real steps that I have taken to do that. It’s work, believe me, but it’s critical and rewarding once you take the time to do the work and dedicate yourself to the process. I wish it was as simple as snapping my fingers and erasing all the hurtful things that I, the media, and others have said about my body. It just doesn’t work like that. You have to show up everyday and decide that you are ready to love yourself. Then do the work. Today, I wanted to discuss 4 steps that I continue to take in order to keep building my confidence.
1. Your Body Is Useful
The media has convinced us that our bodies’ purpose in life is to look a certain way. A lot of times that “perfect” body isn’t even real as we are desiring to look like people who have had surgery. We are setting ourselves up for failure because not only can I reproduce a body that a surgeon created, I also can’t reproduce YOUR body. The same way we are all different colors and heights, we are different sizes and shapes as well. I used to obsess so much over how my body looked, that I never gave it credit for all the amazing things that it actually did! I learned this exercise during a day retreat hosted by Yogi Yuli last year. I had to write down everything that my arms did that were useful and unrelated to how they looked. That’s when I realized these arms enabled me to be a fantastic Midwife who served women and to comfort others who may need it. When you start to view your body as useful and appreciate all of the wonderful things that it achieves, you will start caring less about the actual size and shape of it.
2. Mirror Exercise
If you’ve been part of my community for awhile, you definitely know this one. However, for anyone who is new or just needs a reminder, I encourage you to start doing the mirror exercise. It’s when you stand in front of your mirror and challenge yourself to say something positive about your body before saying something negative. Automatically, the negative thoughts will start to attack you in the beginning. However, if you force yourself to show up everyday, over time you will be able to think of something positive. The goal is that eventually, you will be able to say something positive BEFORE giving the negative thoughts life and ultimately stop the negative thoughts altogether (I’m still working on this). You have to retrain your mind to love your body because it has undergone years or even decades of hating it. If you need some assistance, you can consider thinking of positive aspects about your body beforehand and writing them on post-its that you stick to your mirror. That way they are literally in your face to remind you. This one is difficult, but a great way to build your confidence daily.
So many people think therapy is for those who are “crazy” or going through a rough time. However, I like to use this analogy to explain why therapy is necessary for everyone. Every year, you go in for your physical exam to ensure that you are healthy and that something serious isn’t going on undetected. It’s a fact, those that engage in preventative care are healthier than those who only go for a health care visit when they feel sick. This is called public health. Your mental health is a part of your body and deserves maintenance care as well. If you never see a therapist, trauma and unhealthy coping mechanisms can continue to build up, which becomes risky and life threatening. This is similar to how if you go for a health visit after 10 years, cancer is often diagnosed in the last stage when there is not much that your provider can do. We have to start prioritizing our mental health and dealing through past trauma that is causing us to be less confident and unhappy. I see a therapist weekly, and it has greatly improved so many areas of my life. Here are some resources:
4. Seek Out Positivity
I had to make the conscious decision to surround myself with not only images of people who looked like me thriving, but also connecting with those people. I attended so many body positive events last year where I was able to learn from others going through the same journey as me and receive tips for building confidence. While attending Fat Camp, I learned an exercise that I found incredibly helpful. When you are around someone who talks about how they hate their body, tell them “don’t talk about my friend like that!” Basically, if you wouldn’t say something hurtful about your friend, don’t say it to yourself. We have to learn how to speak to our own selves in a positive way. Right now, it’s difficult to attend any events with the pandemic, however, I encourage you to follow body positive accounts on social media. My feed is saturated with body positive goodness, so I spend the day feeling affirmed, seen, and beautiful. If you scroll through your feed and constantly see people who are talking about changing their bodies or worse making you feel bad about yours, maybe it’s best to unfollow them. You have to be active in seeking out positive vibes to have in your life.
I still work through all 4 of these steps because self love is a continual journey. There are three options you can take. You can either stay where you are and remain unhappy in that place. You can fall even further into low self-esteem and confidence. Or you can start traveling down the road of being happy. You may stumble and backtrack a bit, but if you keep showing up for yourself every day, you will be in a better place than if you just decided to stay where you were. I believe in you!
xoxo, Global Midwife