I have had 35 years on this Earth. I've been a wife for 13 years, a mother for 11 years to now five children, and a blogger for four years. Last year, I started speaking. In public. In front of people.
Stepping out from behind the computer and being face to face with people was a little scary. With cell phone pics and social media, I knew that people were going to see me in pictures. A lot. I also knew I'd have no control over angles or filters.
I needed to learn to love myself, and quickly, otherwise this was going to be miserable. I was hating myself while loving others.
I started sharing my journey to self love on the Birth Without Fear Instagram feed -- an extension of my Birth Without Fear blog and Facebook page. With each selfie I shared, something powerful happened: I also gave a voice to my inner thoughts. For example, the realization that I didn't need to spend that day hating myself. What a waste! This honesty opened up dialogue for thousands of other women as well. They became more frank about how they felt about themselves, even sharing their own pictures to process their feelings using #bwfselflove.
The biggest lesson I learned was that I'd been seeing the world through a fat girl's eyes. I thought thinner women had no problems. If they were thin, what did they have to complain about? I started hearing these beautiful women talk about their own struggles with self-image. Some women were even struggling to keep weight on to be healthy for themselves and their children.
A woman recently told me my journey of loving who I am has helped her immensely to love herself as a recovering anorexic. That is powerful.
It has been life-changing for me. I realized that we all have things to overcome and that our physical and mental health cannot be seen from the outside.
We need to drop our judgments and listen.
Last year I met Ashlee Jackson and Laura Wilson from the amazing 4th Trimester Bodies Project, which shows the beauty in mothers' bodies of all ages, shapes, and sizes through gorgeous black and white photography. I instantly fell in love with what they were doing. They mentioned to me that I should participate. I had come a long way, but I wasn't picking up what they were throwing down. Get in a pair of black underwear, take pictures, and post them on the Internet? No way!
Over this year of transformation, though, I slowly shed my negative self talk and hate. I started loving myself for who I am. In the beginning it was a daily choice. Literally telling myself, "January, you are only guaranteed today, so why spend it hating yourself? Your body created FIVE human lives, time to appreciate it." It got easier to love myself each day after that.
So this past April, when Ashlee and Laura made their way to my city, I said, "Why not?" I asked my husband and children what they thought. My husband said he completely supported me, and my kids thought it was hilarious mom was going to take pictures in her underwear. They think I'm absolutely beautiful as I am.
It was an empowering day during which I felt pampered, loved, and accepted as the beautiful goddess that I am. I had a blast. In my underwear. At my heaviest weight.
Then, I shared them on social media. I've never regretted it. I received 99.9 percent positive feedback and love. If you've been on the Internet lately, that's pretty amazing.
To the 0.1 percent who judged my health based on my size, the only response I had was, "I am fat. I am healthy. I am healthy and fat." Unless someone is my immediate family or doctor, their opinion really doesn't matter anyway.
We need to start stripping away the negative self talk, dialogue, thinking, and comments we make to ourselves and each other. I have definitely enjoyed my life more by filling it with love rather than with hate.
Oh, and for the record, I feel braver being a mother to five children than sharing my body in sexy black underwear online.