A few years ago, I ran my first marathon.
It was exhilarating, hard, and amazing all at the same time. After crossing the finish line and reuniting with my family, I looked at their pictures of me along the course. My first thought? Ugh, my thighs look huge.
I wasn’t focused on the fact that I successfully ran 26.2 miles. My thoughts weren’t on how proud I should be of myself for pushing through a hard race and accomplishing my goal. Instead, I was immediately feeling down because I didn’t like the way my body looked.
I was sad that those were my initial post-race thoughts. But I couldn’t help it. Growing up and into my 20s, I had always been hard on myself about my body. I wanted it to look different—whether I could run 26.2 miles or not.
Fast-forward to today, and it’s been seven years after I ran that race. Six months ago I had a baby, and my body is very different than it was after running that marathon. There’s no question that my thighs are much larger than they were when I was marathon training. My once smooth and flat stomach is anything but.
I have a lot of photos from pregnancy and the past six months of motherhood. When I look at these pictures, my thoughts couldn’t be more different than what they used to be.
When I look at these pictures, I see a strong, nurturing, and caring body. Even though this body is bigger than the one I formerly picked apart, my perception of it has immensely changed.
Going through the incredible physical changes of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood has made me look well beyond the surface. I can finally appreciate my body for what it is capable of and not just what it looks like.
During each week of pregnancy, it seemed impossible that my body would keep growing. But it did. And instead of freaking out about the increasing number on the scale or that at a certain point even my maternity clothes were feeling snug, I was in awe of the amazing things my body was capable of.
I wish I could take this mentality back into my younger years. I wish that my younger self could focus on the personal accomplishment of running a marathon, not what my thighs looked like while I ran that marathon.
Instead of freaking out about the increasing number on the scale or that at a certain point even my maternity clothes were feeling snug, I was in awe of the amazing things my body was capable of.
I know I have come a far way. I’ve grown a lot since that marathon. I’ve gained confidence and acceptance.
Of course, I still have my moments. We all do. Sometimes I see other moms on Instagram and wonder how they have such perfect bodies after birthing a baby. Sure, I do wish that I was among the genetically blessed women that didn’t get stretch marks or saggy skin. That wasn’t in the stars for me, but more importantly, I’m glad that I finally understand that my body is so much more than what it looks like.
Since having a baby, I’ve had many conversations with other new moms about our bodies. We tend to tear it apart, wishing our old clothes fit and that we didn’t look quite as postpartum as we are feeling. I voice these opinions too, but I always remind myself and my friends that we grew a human! A baby was created, kept safe, and eventually, was birthed from our bodies. That’s pretty incredible. And if we have a few stretch marks to show for it, so be it.
For the other women out there who are focused on the way their body looks above all else, I hope you can take a moment and thank your body for all it does for you. I will too.
I also wish this for my daughter. I hope to instill the values in her that we should thank our body for all it does instead of constantly wishing it was different.
It‘s about what we can accomplish, not what we look like while doing it.