For the month of September, I wanted to do a little challenge for myself, and anyone else who wanted to follow along, called Self Love September. I wanted to turn my focus to self love, body positivity, and self care. I think that this topic is so important, and is something that should be at the forefront more, especially for us women. I kicked off the month with a Mindset: Body Love workshop at Alma Yoga at the beginning of the month which really set the stage for getting my mind onto the self love train. I was SUPER inspired by the women that attended the workshop, and their bravery in speaking about their insecurities, the things they loved about themselves, and even the things they disliked about themselves. Being vulnerable, and open in a safe space allowed everyone to feel liberated in putting out there the things we feel unsatisfied with when it comes to ourselves and our bodies. I took this and used it to reflect a lot this month.
What are my insecurities? My fears? What do I look in the mirror and wish I could change?
I have always felt comfortable in my skin, I truly do love myself, and who I am. But, I often fall into the comparison trap, scrolling through Instagram of models, or athletes, or people that I think “have it all.” Suddenly my insecurities surface. I wish I had a flatter belly, even though I just had a baby 9 months ago. I wish my skin was flawless (again, I just had a baby, hormones take awhile to balance!) I wish I didn’t have unsightly bumps in my armpits, I wish I had a bigger butt, I wish I looked more muscular, and less “skinny.” I wish my hair was smoother, sometimes I wish it was curly. I wish I wasn’t so OCD, and could let things go more. I wish I could live more freely, and not let my fears overcome me. I wish I could have the *perfect* morning routine, drink my lemon water upon waking, oil pull, and eat a beautiful Insta-worthy meal every morning. I wish I liked journaling more, and could stick to my intentions like it appears so many people can.
See how easy it can be to get sucked into the comparison trap?
I could focus on these things. Let them get me down. I could get stuck thinking that these are the things people see when they see me, when they talk to me. I could waste my energy, my time, my headspace trying to *appear* like the way I sometimes wish my photos looked, or my life looked. REALLY though. How do I feel on the inside? To be honest, most of the time I feel AMAZING. I know I am unique, I am beautiful, I am passionate, I am enough. I really do love my body, I love who I am, I have the absolute best husband in the world, I have an adorable, loving, happy kid, I love my home, it’s my sanctuary. This life I have created for myself is my version of paradise, my own perfection. And perhaps, if I wasn’t the way I am, it wouldn’t be like that. Being who I am has allowed for all of these things to fall into place the way it is. Would I change a thing? Absolutely not. Would I change my body? No. I feel better now than I have in years, even post baby. But, two things happened that led me to loving my body and myself. Having a baby, and getting injured (not at the same time).
Body image is something that I think so many women struggle with. I was actually harder on myself before I had a baby (what…?). Before my baby, I used to feel like I had to workout, I had to run, especially if I ate sugary things during the day. Running was my go to workout. But I got injured, and had to stop. This was tough. Even though I would run even on days when I didn’t want to, running was my escape, my meditation. It was freeing, it made me happy, and de-stressed me like no other activity, and it was really the only tool I used to keep me in shape. I felt like I started to resent it though, as I mentioned before, I would push myself to run even if I didn’t really want to. Well, about 4 months before I got pregnant, I injured my leg, and had painful sciatica. I decided I had to listen to my body, and stop running, and let myself heal. I rested for 3 months and was going to start running again in June of last year…well…I got pregnant. And running didn’t feel good in my first trimester, and being pregnant for the first time, I just wasn’t comfortable running during my entire pregnancy. Going from being able to do it all, and actually pushing myself to do runs even though I was really tired, or burnt out, to not actually being able to work out much because my body literally wouldn’t allow it was eye opening. This taught me so much about listening to my body and it’s needs (as well as the needs of the growing little one in my belly), although I resisted this at first.
I started taking slow long walks in the woods with my husband, taking walks in town, doing some yoga stretches, and lifting small weights. I was amazed at how I went from being able to push myself so hard, to having really slow it down, even walking was tiresome at times. In the end, I was able to have my baby naturally, and bounced back relatively fast. After I recovered from birth, I was so so SO excited at the prospect of getting back to working out. Running again?! Yes! Now, I appreciate how my body is able to move and carry me along as I run, something I didn’t show gratitude for before (thank you body). I enjoy running more than I ever have (and I run maybe once or twice a week), I am doing a circuit training program to build muscle again (BBG), and am hiking more than ever.
Pregnancy gave me womanly curves, it gave me confidence, it made me stronger, mentally, and physically. Yes, my belly is still softer than before, yes, my boobs are somewhat…floppier than before. But I feel so free and grateful in that I can move my body again, and so appreciative of what it was able to do, that it leads me to somehow forget about the things that we so often see as the marks of a “perfect body.” I was using running as something that I thought I “should” be doing to stay in shape, whatever that means, rather than doing it because I actually enjoyed it. My mindset eventually took the joy out of it.
Now, I go when I want to, and I really enjoy it. I enjoy how strong my body feels, I enjoy being able to push my baby in her stroller on my runs down tree lined streets in the sunshine. And when I’m done, I don’t feel burnt out, I just feel so dang happy that I am able to run, to let my lungs breathe deeply, that my legs can carry me along. I look at myself in the mirror and am so much happier with what I see, despite the changes that pregnancy brings. I love that pregnancy has taught me to respect myself, and to listen deeply to myself. To eat the foods that nourish me on a cellular level. To move my body so I sweat, to open my lungs, and work my muscles. I love that my injury took something away from me for a bit, to learn to appreciate the ability that I have to do whatever form of movement I please now. I am happy that I (eventually) listened, and rested when my body needed it. It somehow instilled in me confidence that I did not have before. I feel like, body, I GET YOU. I will feed you positive thoughts, healing foods, healthy movement, and you give me the gift of health, providing nourishment for my baby, the ability to allow me to see the things in life I want to see. It’s a respect that goes both ways, for me anyway.
Yes, I feel like anyone would want washboard abs, a perfect peach booty, nicely toned arms, you know what I’m talking about. But at the end of the day, the things that bring me joy, and make me feel full are spending days in the woods, sometimes going for a run, maybe it’s just doing yoga. I personally don’t have the patience or want to be in a gym all day working to attain that type of body. I thought I did. And then I realized, I wouldn’t be doing it for me, because I really do love myself how I am. Yes, there is always room for improvement, but I am doing on my scale vs. trying to compete with the media.
Don’t forget to learn to love yourself for you and you only.
Don’t try to find validation for your body through another person. It is so important to learn to love yourself for yourself. Workout for yourself. Eat well for yourself. Indulge in self care for yourself, and no one else. If you don’t enjoy running….don’t do it because you think that’s what you should do to stay in shape. Find movement that makes you happy, that you look forward to. Eat healthful foods that you love, don’t force yourself to eat salad if you hate it, find whole foods that you enjoy and look forward to eating. How else can you learn to love yourself just for you? Indulge in some self care acts a few times a week. Below are some ideas of things you can do to show yourself some love:
- Cook yourself a nourishing meal
- Take yourself out for coffee
- Buy yourself a treat-that kombucha you have been wanting to try, an expensive juice or smoothie, a bar of real chocolate
- Go to a yoga class
- Indulge in 20 minutes of meditation
- Dry brush before you hop in the shower
- Find a mantra that you love, say it to yourself throughout the day
- Compliment yourself
- Say no more. Say no to things that don’t bring you joy
- Sun bathe, get some vitamin D
- Buy yourself a book to read
- Ask for help if you need it
- Put your to do list away, do something for you instead
- Create a relaxing, inviting home environment
- Get dressed up for yourself
I also truly believe in the power of supporting others. We are all usually struggling with similar things. Let’s start by showing each other more love and compassion. Learning to judge less, and be more open to understanding allows for love to cultivate and grow. You never know what someone else is going through, that’s my general rule. Simply smiling at others, or complimenting them, or leaving a nice comment on their post can really go far. Think about it as a ripple effect, one small kind act can improve another’s day, which allows them to go forward with happiness, and so on and so forth.
As a mother now too, I find it to be so important for me to hold this idea of self love close to my heart. I feel a huge responsibility in knowing I am raising a little girl, and I want her to have confidence and love in her heart. I know that if I display this in my everyday life, I am setting this example for her, so there is no better time to cultivate a deep love for myself, and spread that to others. I take care of myself, and practice self care so that I can be the best version of myself for her, to be the example. I have flaws, I am not perfect, but that’s what makes each of us unique and beautiful individuals. No matter how you look at it, we all usually are struggling with the same things, let’s work on being more open with each other, and learn to LIFT one another up, rather than putting each other down. Together, we are a force, and can learn to create a world where we celebrate our bodies, and our personalities. Self Love September may have come to a close, but I am definitely taking these lessons with me onwards.