‘I preach body positivity and talk about embracing flaws, but the second I look at myself, all that goes out the window.’: Mom shares journey accepting and loving her body

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“Body positivity is arguably one of the most important movements right now. As women, we’re used to having our bodies picked apart. Whether it be the models we see in magazines or the criticism we face from our own friends or family. It’s pretty much guaranteed you’ve had someone comment on your body at least once in your life.

When the body positive movement started becoming more popular, I couldn’t have been more excited.

I love it.

As soon as someone says something negative to me about their body, I am the first one to come out and preach body positivity. It’s because I believe we should all love our bodies! Our bodies do amazing things on a daily basis. Whether it’s birthing kids, getting through school, pushing through mental health crises, or carrying us through an especially difficult day.

There’s no doubt your body is absolutely amazing. It doesn’t matter if you have stretch marks, a few extra wrinkles, a couple of pounds you’d like to lose, or other insecurities, your body is amazing.

But, I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret… I preach body positivity to every person but myself. I’m the one saying all bodies are beautiful, talking about embracing all of your flaws, but the second I look at myself, all that goes out the window.

I’ll see the fat roll above my swimsuit in a photo and immediately delete it. I’ll look at the wrinkles on my face and casually browse Botox prices. I’ll say I need to lose five pounds or pick apart how my clothes make me look frumpy. I could name a dozen things I’d like to change about myself. But, I would never say that to someone else.

It’s a bummer. I can sit here and tell you how important it is to love yourself, but it doesn’t translate to my own body. I’m really, really careful about what I say around my kids because I don’t want them to ever think I don’t love my body. I know how important it is to be an example for our kids, so they aren’t going to hear me say things like, ‘I’m fat,’ or ‘I’m ugly.’ But, even if I’m not saying it around my kids, I’m still saying it to myself.

mom and dad hold their son and daughter in their arms while at the beach in swimsuits
Courtesy of Jess Carpenter

This summer, I took a photo with my family. It’s that super cute photo above, but when we took it, I almost deleted it off of my phone. I hated the fat roll above my swimsuit, and I didn’t want to show it to anyone. But, then I looked at it from a different perspective. I wondered what my friends or family would say, what my husband would say. They would laugh. They would think it’s crazy I was about to delete that cute family photo.

So, I did something. Even though I was embarrassed of how I looked, I decided to upload the photo. I uploaded it to my Instagram and talked about how I felt insecure. Then, I forced myself to print the photo. And, I made it my profile photo on my personal social media accounts. The photo I initially despised became one of my all-time favorite portraits of my family.

Now, when I look at it, I still see the fat roll. But, it doesn’t bother me. Does that suddenly mean I’m cured and will never say anything bad about my body? Ha, I wish. It absolutely does not. But, I do think that might be the key to learning to love ourselves. We might be uncomfortable at first. We might think the photos look bad. We might keep saying rude things to our reflections in the mirror. But, I think the important thing is to correct the behavior.

mom takes a selfie in the car with her daughter while the young girl makes a silly face
Courtesy of Jess Carpenter

I guess what I’m trying to say is, maybe the key to being body positive toward yourself is to practice what you preach, and then keep practicing and practicing. Start with preaching body positivity to others, and then, say those same nice things to yourself! When a negative thought comes up, say something positive about your body. When uncomfortable photos come up, embrace them. Take the baby steps. Because everyone deserves to love their bodies, including you.

If you say something rude to yourself, think about what you would say to your child if they were to look in the mirror and say the same thing about their bodies. Or, think about your dearest friends or family members. Do you want them saying rude things about themselves? Of course not!

Here’s the thing, it’s a lot harder to be body positive for yourself. Generally, we’re a lot harder on ourselves than others. Unfortunately, I don’t have a miracle cure. I wish I could tell you that you can do some small thing and suddenly, you love yourself! It’d be great if we had fairy godmothers granting us love for our insecurities, but life doesn’t work that way.

mom of two takes a selfie smiling softly
Courtesy of Jess Carpenter

When I look at major body positive icons, it truly seems like they love themselves constantly. And while that’s an awesome image to portray, I’d like to think even they have their moments when they say something negative about their bodies.

I think people forget it’s not an automatic thing. You don’t look at yourself once and say, ‘Yeah, I’m amazing and love myself.’ It doesn’t work like that. But I do think over time, it gets better.

I’m nowhere near perfect. I still pick myself apart, but I’m committing to being better. Our bodies are amazing. They are full of life and love and laughter, and it’s time we start looking at ourselves as a vessel of incredible emotions, ideas, and thoughts rather than just a pretty or not-pretty face. If you’re like me, preaching body positivity to everyone but yourself, you’re not alone. But, I’m confident that with a little work and time, we can learn to love ourselves too. Because we are so worth that love.”

mom of two sits on the end of a boat in a swimsuit while smiling
Courtesy of Jess Carpenter

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jess Carpenter. You can follow her journey on Instagram, TikTok, and on her website. You can visit Jess’ author page here and buy her new book hereSubmit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more from Jess here:

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‘After 5 months of taking care of a baby, stacking credit hours, and barely seeing each other, we insisted on not walking for graduation.’: Wife talks sacrificing for marriage and family

‘You don’t have to look at your life through someone else’s hardship-lens. Your feelings are valid.’: Mom shares importance of accepting emotions, ‘It’s OK to be sad’

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