Early 30s, washboard abs, a glowing career, and a beautiful support system of love, I was in the best shape in all aspects of my life. I’ve since learned that hindsight sure is 20/20. If you had pointed these characteristics out to me just a few years ago, I would have instantly responded with a self-deprecating remark, it was my “thing”. Was this behavior out of an inability to take a compliment? Or did I truly believe my negative body image? Would I ever say these things about a friend or someone I loved? Then WHY was I doing it to myself?
Sure, I can blame some of it on being in a competitive industry since I was a child. I was a professional ballet dancer for 15 years and studied dance intensely since single digits. Early on in the dance world, it is engrained in you that “you can always be better, look better, do better”. This is not out of intentional negativity; the nature of an elite field is an intensity at doing well. You never quite master the technique, the artistry… there is no such thing as a perfect show, or “winning”. You will always find a flaw in your body. At a time in my life, when I spent 8 hours a day refining my body and technique in front of a mirror, with few outside priorities or responsibilities, I still was not good enough in my own eyes. If I wasn’t going to achieve it when I had the time and tools at my disposal, when would I?
Ballet is also a young world. At 33 I was considered a “mature” dancer, and my personal life requested some attention as well. It was time for my final bow. I had a beautiful ending, a generous celebration and just one month later we were blessed to become pregnant. I felt ready and supported to take on this huge life transition. My heart was full.
As my pregnancy progressed, the oddest comments starting coming. “You aren’t very big”, “is everything on track?”, “Is she a really small baby”. I couldn’t believe after all these years of trying to be smaller, I now was being judged for not being bigger! I couldn’t wait for my belly to pop so that I didn’t have to answer invasive inquiries, stress about my size, and question the health of my unborn child. My rational mind vs my self-deprecating way went to war. I felt that I could trust that my body knew just what to do to carry and support a healthy baby, but the judgment was exhausting and created a fear that questioned my confidence. Not what an already nauseous pregnant mama needs. Actually, no one needs it. For my sanity, I needed to move again. I wasn’t looking for the same rigor than I craved in the past, yet something effective and above all safe for this time in my life. This is when I reached out to Brooke Cates and The Bloom Method. After my first class I felt an immediate connection to the method, and ecstatic to find a safe source of exercise where I left feeling empowered. I loved that women were working out throughout their entire pregnancy, feeling strong, and not judged. I felt inspired to be around other mamas who felt grateful for the love that our minds and bodies were receiving, I was supported. Even with all of this at my fingertips, an internal struggle would still try to surface.
20 weeks, 30 weeks…my refined instrument was changing before my eyes. In my not so distant past, my body and my looks were a large part of my value and self-worth. In many ways, it was diminishing. Lucky for me, a beautiful and powerful force suddenly kicked in, the “mother” instinct. My body wasn’t mine right now. It was on loan as a vessel for my daughter, and if I could offer her life and vitality just through being the healthiest version of me, well that is the most beautiful thing that this world can offer. Big, small, it was so irrelevant. There is something larger than me now. I was on the path to knowing who I was, and it felt good.
I was blessed with an uneventful pregnancy and a textbook natural birth. My husband supported me through the intensity of all phases of labor, and I like to think we had an un-medicated birth together. Childbirth is an indescribable true miracle. Until you witness, it is hard to completely understand its raw beauty and power. When I made eye contact with my daughter for the first time, the world felt like it froze, I was in awe. In awe of her and the wonderment of her first moments of life. I didn’t cry… and at first, she didn’t either. Our eyes met and I felt an instant mutual understanding of our connection, and my life was forever changed. A new level of being come over me. A level of womanhood that minimized the trivial things I used to spend days beating myself up about. I felt strong, empowered, and proud. A new human arrived, my daughter, and that is all that mattered.
Just as the high from a great performance wears off… so do the post-birth hormones. The sleepless nights and long days started to blend together, the fears surrounding self-worth crept in. Am I doing this right? Am I doing enough? When will I work again? When will a resemblance of abs appear? I learned to hear them, acknowledge them, and accept them as a fleeting thought instead of an obsession. What helped me do this was to gaze at my daughter. Only on this earth for 5 months, and she has already taught me so much. I am an example to this little lady now and I want her to learn from the best version of me. I am stronger, and my value is surely not measured by the flaws in my body. I try not to measure it at all.
Sure, I still care about my health and fitness. I believe that pride in appearance is ok when it is a healthy dose. But the self-judgment is not. If when my entire world was basically focused on myself while a dancer, I let negative thoughts rule my confidence- then when would I ever feel that I attained this imaginary goal? Maybe I needed Motherhood to finally learn that the best goal to achieve is to place a value on being kind to myself.
As I sit here holding my little gal while she is fast asleep. I daydream about her future and the openness of her heart, for herself and others. The world is hers to explore ferociously, humbly and fully. In order to teach her that standard of living, I hold her with a new, stronger backbone of my own beauty. I joined The Bloom Method’s “Empowered Motherhood Project” to do just that. I never want my little girl to feel the need to minimize herself or feel the irrational judgment of her talents or her body. If I am not the one to set an example for her, then who can.
I challenge you to stop the self-deprecation. It is worthless energy spent, and frankly, it isn’t a good look. Not only if you are a mother, but a wife, sister, or friend. Let’s leave the judgment to ourselves and each other behind. No, you are not perfect. I am not perfect. But just like ballet, a flawless show is an unachievable goal, being a perfect pregnant lady is an unachievable goal, and being a perfect mom is definitely an unachievable goal. I now know that your best is enough, our best is enough.
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