Body image is something I have struggled with personally for most of my life.
I have memories of being in ballet class at the tender age of five slumping my shoulders and slouching so that I was no longer a head taller than all the other little petite ballerinas. Five years old. That’s when it started for me. And now, twenty years later, I still have trouble accepting myself, loving my body. Frankly, even liking my body is a challenge for me about 80% of the time. This struggle is most likely something that I will always deal with.
My husband knows that I have problems with my self image. He also struggled with some similar issues when he was younger, and as a result he has always tried to be as supportive and positive as possible when it comes to helping me fight this incredibly difficult fight. Although he does still have some body image issues of his own that he is working through, the progress that he has made just since we have been together is astounding. For example, about a year ago Big Man came home and announced that he was going to take a stab at nudism. I was surprised, naturally, until he explained that he believed that being casually naked (in private, of course) would help familiarize himself with his own body and eventually would help him become more comfortable with his natural physical state. I, of course, was supportive of his choice, but stated firmly that I would not be partaking in this “nudist challenge”. The idea of casual nakedness felt completely foreign, one that I instinctively shied away from. It took a while to get used to my hubby walking around the house completely unclothed in broad daylight; but now, a year later, I not only expect it- I admire it.
Until Big Man’s experiment, I hadn’t realized how little either of us were naked outside of sex.
Nakedness is such a natural, beautiful thing, yet our society has perverted this natural state into something that is at the very least provocative, at the most obscene. And after having a baby, I was even less inclined to give my natural self the freedom to simply exist. Society has imposed a rigid standard of physical beauty on both men and women, especially women; and it has also imposed expectations of returning to those standards as soon as possible post-birth. Women are not allowed to look like we ever gave birth at all. And although there are now new body acceptance movements that focus on the female body and accepting things like stretch marks, loose belly skin, and cellulite, I have found myself caving under the pressure of “getting my pre-baby body back”.
This pressure is ruining my sex life.
It’s ruining my relationship with my body. It’s ruining any chance I have at teaching myself to love my body now, not once I finally lose the last of my babyweight or have stayed off carbs for a whole year. It’s ruining my attempt to be a body positive role model for my son, my nieces, and my nephew. Sure, I could “just ignore it”. Except I can’t, because it is EVERYWHERE. Even other moms have bought into this lie that society has perpetuated into eternal existence. How many times have I heard a cluster of women chatting with a new mother about how great she looks and how much weight she has lost, or reassuring her that if she breastfeeds her remaining fat will practically melt away…..all the while ignoring the fact that said new mother looks TERRIBLE. She is exhausted, hormonal, scared, confused, alone, hungry, and definitely in need of a shower or three. Why aren’t other women asking about her mental health? Why isn’t society concerned with how quickly mothers recover from the physical and mental trauma of birth?
Why is it that instead of inquiring about the overall well being of the woman whose body just spent almost a year giving life to another person, we are demanding that her body be immediately be available for further objectification?
I would love to be comfortable enough with my post baby body- no, with my body- to prance around our house naked. I’m confident I will get there someday, but it will take me a while to learn to love the things society has coerced me into hating. So I will think of my husband, of the battle he is fighting and winning, and I will take it one step at a time.