More than a mumbod

A sort of 360 on the body I have loathed for so long

I am more than just a body.

Three years into parenting and at thirty-three years old, I am finally able to utter these words without adding silent caveats, such as: “but it would be nice if my thighs were a bit thinner and my legs were a bit longer”.

Being pregnant, giving birth and the (to use the words of the brilliant Mother Pukka) mangled undercarriage aftermath did not destroy my body confidence. There was never really much there to work with.

It’s taken all this time since he was born, but my son has bestowed upon me a gift that has come as a huge shock: a sense that actually, I do not any longer need to define myself according to what my body looks like.

Confidence for me has been, in my living memory, inextricably linked to how I feel about how I look. Sure, I’ve been up there with the best of ‘em all these years, faking it and putting on a good show. Underneath? Train wreck.

I’ve had stretch marks since I was 12. Overnight I grew boobs, a bum, hips and thighs and my skin couldn’t keep up. My weight fluctuates and has done ever since then; I’ve been overweight for my build and I’ve also fought through a debilitating period of anorexia in my mid-late twenties. One thing I now know is that what I look like and what size I am are immaterial: my mind’s opinion of my body, no matter how much weight I lost, remained the same. I was not good enough.

I think that embracing and accepting the fact that the messaging we’re conditioned by dictates our definition of ‘perfection’ and that the mythical body-we-all-think-we-should-have does not actually exist has been one part of my newly-acquired appearance freedom.

But more than that – for me, anyway – feeling better about myself and the value that I have to offer the world beyond my physical being has been a process of distraction. I simply don’t have the time to be as self-involved as I was when it was just me. That is another part of this gift that Xav has given me.

The final part is that he has taught me the joy I can experience by placing more importance than I ever did before on my real achievements, like teaching him ways to cope calmly with a daunting situation and watching his face break into a beaming smile as he looks up, searching for my face to share in his pride at having accomplished it by himself. Why would I choose to cloud moments like that with the worry that my tummy isn’t flat enough today or that I’ve put on a few pounds over the summer? (Both are thoughts I’ve had, and batted away, today.)

This body, the body that I have loathed all these years, has created human life. It is more imperfect than ever, but I’m trying to love this mumbod as it is. No caveats, no ‘if only….’.

It is because of this body that I have experienced everything I have with these precious days and years. It is the vessel through which I see, feel and breathe in the beauty of this world hand-in-hand with my husband and our baby, and through which I will achieve all of my dreams.

Confidence, I am learning, grows when we pursue the things we love and which make us happy. It grows when we nurture the things that make us feel great and do more of them. It grows through our achievements as people, as parents and in our professional lives. I’m learning that neglecting ourselves only serves to perpetuate this most vicious of circles. Concerning ourselves with what other people may or may not think of us consumes time that cannot ever be reclaimed; time that could have otherwise been spent soaking up something infinitely more fulfilling.

Do we really look at each other, silently analysing one another’s bodies and competing against those we love, expecting that more love and adoration will beat our doors down if only we could just be a step closer towards our un-achievable vision of ‘perfection’? I don’t think so. But my paranoid brain used to believe this was true. Sure, there are some judgy people who would think those thoughts. But that says so much more about them than it does about you or I. Let them get on with their miserable lives.

The decision to choose to feel comfortable in our own skin is a complex one, but by making that choice repeatedly, we can – slowly but surely – change our minds. Our brilliant minds that mean we are so much more than our mumbods.

I choose, for the first time in my life, to accept this flawed body and to declare that it is beautiful. It has created a human, for crying out loud.

It’s imperfect, but maybe that’s the new perfect.

I kinda like it.

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