I recently posted a blog with this picture:
And every time I look at it, I see my belly is a little too round for my liking. Now, I know I am well within the normal curve, but that doesn't mean I am happy about how I look all the time.
I thought, that's not how I really look. I can just smooth out that bump and the picture would be accurate. But that's a lie. The truth is, I do have a little belly. I carried two children in my belly, and gained 50 pounds with each pregnancy. At the time the picture was taken I was wearing a body shaper to smooth me out as it was. It is how I really look. It's just not how I want to look.
I am a huge proponent of loving yourself for who you are. I see beauty in all shapes and sizes -- in other people. I come down hard on the trend to Photoshop models into unrealistic images of beauty. On my Facebook page I post a lot of articles about how beautiful women are post-child birth. Looking at myself, though, it's not so easy.
I don't judge myself by the same standard. Here's another lie I tell: My stomach is not entirely due to pregnancy. Sure, my skin is looser, but I've had a belly since I was a kid, even though I was underweight. With my skinny arms and legs I called myself the "Ethiopian poster child." (My apologies if that is offensive. They were the starving children on TV of my youth, and they looked a lot like I did.)
Everyone in my family has the same lower stomach problem. We call it The Lillibridge Gut and some of us insist it's due to an extra length of intestine, but somehow I doubt it. It's just the way we are built. No matter what I do, my belly will always be a little rounder than I would like.
I know this because I got down to 110 pounds, and at 5'7" that was really thin. My stomach still stuck out. I'd like to be a supermodel, but I'm never going to be, and not just because of my stomach either. I'm also too old, too short, and my lips are too thin. Why do I care?
It would have been easy to just adjust the picture a little bit and show the world how I want to look. No one would have known, and I was severely tempted. I thought about all the perfect women I know that might see it. I thought about how superior they would feel. I decided theirs wasn't the opinion I want to judge my beauty on.
My boys love my squishy belly. My youngest says it's his favorite part of me, because it makes me good for hugging, but they don't set my standard for beauty either. After all, they are just kids. Saying I am a mother now and no longer care how I look is another lie.
I didn't Photoshop myself because in the end, I couldn't be proud of a fake picture. I'd rather cringe a little and know it is really me than to get a lot of compliments on a picture that isn't real. I think that would make me feel worse about my actual body.
In the end, my mother was right when she told me, "there will always be someone prettier than you, and someone thinner than you. You have to accept who you are, and appreciate the beauty you have."
After all, it is our differences that make us beautiful, and the only way I can learn to apply that to myself is to be honest about who I am.