‘One person told me, ‘Your stomach is so nasty. How can you be confident and sexy when you look like that? Take care of that mess of a body.’ Those harsh words stick. Ugly. Fat. Worthless.’

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“I grew up in the early 90’s when watching MTV music videos before school was still a thing. At a young age, my view of women and body image was influenced by these music videos, magazine covers, and whatever I watched on television. Even before the days of Myspace, Facebook, and cyber bullying, it was very clear that I didn’t look like other women on television. I felt out of place and uncomfortable in my own skin.

Throughout middle school and high school, I constantly compared myself to my friends. I was among beautiful girls and felt like I had to be someone I wasn’t. I would often cry and brainstorm ways to get thinner, dress better, and make myself more attractive. I battled with low self-esteem and wasn’t very happy for numerous years. I resorted to being the class clown or the ‘funny friend’ so I could fit in.

Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman

It wasn’t until I met my husband in high school that things started to change. He would tell me on a daily basis that I was undeniably gorgeous. I would hear his words and compliments, but I still denied each and every one of them.

‘Wow, you look beautiful,’ he would comment. ‘Shut up… No, I don’t,’ I’d reply. Conversations like this happened a million times. But he never gave up on trying to make me feel beautiful and sexy.

Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman

I remember always thinking, ‘How is it possible that someone could find me beautiful? Why can’t I take a compliment? Why do I feel this way?’

After some soul searching, I started to realize it wasn’t an issue with me all these years. It was an issue with the world we live in. I had been told my entire life that I needed to look and act a certain way to be attractive. If I wasn’t a size ‘0’, I wasn’t beautiful.

After going to college, getting married, and starting our careers, my husband and I found out I was pregnant with our son in the spring of 2017.

Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman

I remember crying of happiness with my husband in the OB office the day we learned we would be parents. I cherished all of Benjamin’s little kicks, and even driving to countless doctors’ appointments.

Then, one normal Saturday that began with a trip to Costco and a number of routine errands, turned into the day. I remember feeling tired from not being able to sleep the night before. My belly was huge and it caused lots of discomfort. After putting away our groceries and making something to eat, I laid down and fell asleep on my husband. An hour later, I sat up, afraid I had slept the day away. It was then that I shot up from my husband’s lap and noticed my pants were soaking wet.

Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman

My water broke.

So, we grabbed our bags, drove to the hospital, and four hours later, our son was born. You can imagine how frantic we were as we ran through the hospital. It all happened so quickly and it is still one of my favorite memories, chaos and all.

Pregnancy was such an incredible experience and I truly feel fortunate for it. It was humbling, especially knowing how many women aren’t able to conceive. It took my belly growing and drastic changes in my body during pregnancy to realize just how truly beautiful I was. Stretch marks, scars, and other marks are difficult for every mother, but for every mother who has them and wishes they’d go away, there are 10 who would kill to have them. Pregnancy is a miracle in so many ways.

Seeing my son for the first time was a feeling of pure joy. Knowing this little human relied on his father and I to take care of him was such an awakening moment. He was finally here in my arms and I was his Mom. I needed to learn how to become a mother just as he was learning what everything was around him. Yet, I was more myself than I had ever been before. I found my calling and took on this new role with pride. It made me realize what’s important in life.

Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman

I would never wish parts of my body away. Every scar, pimple, freckle, bruise and detail of my body makes me unique and beautiful. My body was a home for my son for 9 months. I was able to provide him with a safe haven and give him life, and there is NOTHING that can take away that beauty. With something that traumatic, I knew I was bound to see those experiences stretch across my belly. My goal toward self-love really kicked off from here.

I started looking for other women who were feeling the hardships of postpartum and wanted to see what I could do to lighten the load. I began seeing numerous posts and articles about bouncing back ‘post-baby’. Out of nowhere, I was getting messages from so many health and fitness companies who wanted to help me lose weight. I was being told time and time again that I should ‘lose the baby weight’ so I could get back to the way things were before.

WHAT?

How I was before? Before what? I am not the same person I was before. Yes, I am still me and I still love to eat pizza, but I’m not who I was before.

Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman
Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman

After the constant nagging to snap my body back into place, I decided to start sharing my story with other moms who were being told to lose the baby weight. I was fed up with the negative stigma and views on the female body. So I did the only two things I could: ignore the hate and get loud with love. I began posting REAL photos of what my postpartum body looked like. The more I shared glimpses of my true self, the more I learned to appreciate it.

Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman
Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman
Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman
Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman

Today, I am loving life and the skin I am in. I have taken control of my happiness and work every day to shift my mindset. I’ve surrounded myself with positivity in every sense of the word by using social media as a tool to find motivation and reinforcement. I continue to push myself in a positive direction while empowering not only me, but others as well.

The small amount of backlash I have received has been hateful messages and comments from internet trolls who are doing everything in their power to try and push me down. Sometimes those harsh words stick. Ugly. Fat. Worthless. One person even told me, ‘Your stomach is so nasty. Why don’t you take care of your body? How can you be confident and sexy when you look like that? Just work out and take care of that mess of a body.’ At times, I believe and listen to them. It’s hard to come out of a hole when others can’t put down the shovels. But regardless of how strong they think their words are, mine are stronger. I fight their negativity with positivity.

All bodies are good bodies and my mine will ALWAYS be enough.”

Courtesy of Kristyn Dingman

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kristyn Dingman of Peoria, Arizona. You can follow her journey on Instagram here. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter.

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