Having a baby is a beautiful thing. God is literally weaving together life within you, taking parts of you and parts of your spouse to create a whole new being in His image.
Pregnancy and childbirth, as creepy and gruesome as it can be, is beautiful because it is part of God’s design. The same is true for the mother’s figure after it’s all said and done–every stretch mark is a paint stroke from the work of art the Lord has created within you.
So why is it so hard for me to see my #mombod as a thing of beauty?
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of days when I can look at myself and remind myself I am a mother now and my appearance simply reflects that. And then there are other days when I see the trailers and ads for Infinity War and see Black Widow, Scarlett Witch, Shuri, and Gamora and sigh, knowing my days of having a chance at a figure like theirs are likely over.
But these are comic book characters, I remind myself. Even if there are real people portraying them, they are made up, dressed, and filtered to look like they are drawn. It’s unfair to compare myself to them because they don’t even exist! I continue eating my ice cream sandwich with renewed peace of mind…
Until I check Instagram and see that @fitmummywithaflattummy22 has uploaded her 6 week postpartum selfies after baby number 3 and looks better than I did back in college. Suddenly that last bit of my ice cream sandwich weighs 20,000 calories.
I know I’m not alone in this, and this isn’t to say moms are the only ones who suffer with body image issues. Most of you reading this have likely gone through similar struggles, or know someone who has. Most people are unhappy with their overall appearance, regardless of parental status.
A study conducted in 2016 by David Frederick, Ph.D., assistant director of Psychology at Champan University, revealed women and men are about equal in number when it comes to being dissatisfied with their appearance. It concluded that 15% of men and 20% of women were “extremely unsatisfied,” with their appearance, the lowest possible ranking in the survey. And, according to a survey conducted by The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in 2014, 40% of women and about 20% of men were so unsatisfied with their appearance they would consider plastic surgery.
Why do we hurt ourselves so much to achieve the “perfect” figure, face, etc? Aren’t we forgetting we have already been made “perfect?”
By made perfect, of course I mean made in the image of the One who is perfect. I trust most of us are familiar with Psalm 139:14 and know we are fearfully and wonderfully made. From the hairs (or lack thereof) on our head to the tips of our toenails, we were made the way God envisioned us. So why is this not enough?
Studies have shown the higher a person’s exposure to media (social and otherwise), the more likely that person is to be dissatisfied with the way they look, even to the point of dysmorphia and/or disordered eating. The constant barrage of hyper-photoshopped and filtered images, whether we’re aware of it or not, can slowly wear away at a person’s self-esteem over time.
Despite all of our best efforts to look a certain way, God could really care less about how we look, as long as we are taking good care of ourselves. He does not look at what we’re wearing or what we weigh like some of our peers might, but He looks at what is in our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7).
Of course we have to take care of our bodies, eat right and only when we need it, drink plenty of water, don’t drink alcohol in excess, and dress our bodies modestly and to protect ourselves from the elements. However, despite all of this, and despite any extreme measures we could take to achieve a certain look, we are all fated to grow older and have our physical form reflect that.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting way, our inner self is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).” It’s a simple fact: looks are meant to fade. So why waste so much time in the temporary when there’s so much more we can do to improve what really matters?
It’s not always easy to love ourselves, and sometimes we need a little reminder. So the next time you feel “inferior” next to that Instagram model or protagonist in that graphic novel you’ve been into lately, take a deep breath, a sip of water, and remind yourself who you were made for, and what really matters.