Thursday, July 23, 2015

Changing My Outlook

This is a picture that Jeff took of me when
I was pregnant with Ethan.
I spent my teens and 20's disliking the way that I looked.  I was filled with self-doubt and I would knit-pick every aspect of my physical appearance.  I've spent years trying to overcome this unhealthy view of myself, and in the last few years I started to notice a big change.

The most recent change occurred with this pregnancy.  Up until now, at 34 weeks pregnant I've been thinking, "Wow, I'm a really in shape pregnant person, with a tiny little belly."  Then I'll be walking by a mirror in the mall, glance casually at it and think,"Look at that huge pregnant lady! Oh my gosh that's me!"  A lot of it has to do with this being my second baby. When I was pregnant with Ethan I was very aware of my growing bump, but with Alice there is so much going on that I often forget I'm already in my third trimester.  One minute I'm crawling around on the floor pretending to be a lion, the next I'm sprinting down the street because a breeze blew the door open and Ethan has super human speed. Who has time to acknowledge their belly at a time like this?

When I look back over the last couple of years, I realize that as time has passed so has my outlook.  Even before being pregnant I would get ready for an evening out with Jeff, pick a nice outfit, do my hair, make-up then look in the mirror before leaving and think, "Wow, I look really good! I mean, I'm not going to be approached by a talent agent and asked to be whisked away to Milan for the next fashion show, but for me, I look good."

Don't women usually have the opposite problem, especially as they age? They look in the mirror, think everything looks terrible, criticize every aspect of their physical appearance and curse every outfit in their wardrobe.  Why is it that I seem to have a magic mirror image of myself, especially after years of doing the opposite? I've thought about it a lot, and I've brainstormed a few possible reasons:
  1. I'm kinder to myself: A few years ago I read an article about how women are so much harder on themselves than we are on other people, and how detrimental that is to our self-esteem.  The article recommended that when you look into the mirror, instead of criticizing yourself act as if you're looking at your best friend and they've just asked you how they look, what would you say to them?  Ever since I started doing that I really did become so much kinder to myself.  I often even hear my best friends' voices as I'm looking in the mirror and imagine what they would say about my reflection.
  2. I've found someone that appreciates me: My significant other makes me feel absolutely gorgeous.  Now I know you shouldn't depend on another person to make you feel good about yourself, and I don't, but someone else's view of you can definitely be infectious.  Knowing that when my husband looks at me he sees the most beautiful person (both inside and out), a person he's committed his whole life to, makes me feel so incredibly special that it permeates my entire being, it completely consumes me.  The best part is it doesn't end when I'm pregnant, he's so in awe of the fact that I'm growing our amazing little babies that I feel more beautiful than ever while I hobble around like a watermelon being held up by toothpicks.
  3. I love my age: Being 31 is awesome! I had been so unhappy with my looks all the way up until I turned 30.  I'm so appreciative of everything I have and how I look now.  I've come to love my life so much and how I look at myself has completely transformed in my 30's. 
  4. Pregnancy has transformed me: Being pregnant has made me really get to know and love my body.  After carrying my children I look at myself so differently.  My body is a powerhouse, it grows and nourishes humans, what's not to love about that?  
  5. I feel truly blessed:  When I was younger and I would complain about my looks my mom would always say, "You should be happy that you have legs that can walk, eyes that can see, etc." and go into lengthy descriptions of people she's seen at the hospital that aren't so lucky.  It used to annoy me so much, but as I've grown older I've realized that every time I got advice like that from my mom, she was right.  I can no longer dislike a body that has given me so much, one that goes to work for 8 hours a day, commutes 80 min. every day, and comes home to play with an imaginative and very hyper toddler all while pregnant.  None of this has just fallen into my lap, it's a true blessing from above and I don't want to take it for granted anymore.  
  6. I'm insane: Last but not least, I may just be crazy.  Instead of pointing out every flaw I choose to see the good things I have to offer, and probably even enhance them a little in my mind. After all the self-doubt and scrutiny I've put myself through over the years, a little bit of crazy is OK with me.
Does all this mean that I walk around in a state of euphoria, always content with my looks? Of course not, I'm human for goodness sake.  My changing hormones can turn me into a psychotic monster at times, but I've found a happy medium where I'm able to love and enjoy the person I've become, while occasionally battling the monsters that still try to knock me down.

Has anyone else experienced a change in their personal outlook after a major life event? I'd love to hear your stories!
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