Body Shaming and Social Media

Pregnant woman holding bump, close-up (toned B&W)
Pregnant woman holding bump, close-up (toned B&W)

I am six months pregnant with my 3rd child. I struggled to determine if the main distinction of this pregnancy is my age, partner, stage in life, or multiple responsibilities. Then I realized that it is a combination of it all. The blessing of conception does not escape me, but its complexities have often left me feeling insecure. At 27, I'm still a young woman, but my body is much different than it was during my earlier pregnancies. There are many more aches and pain than I remember there being before.

My husband is as involved with this pregnancy as humanly possible (cravings and all!). Armed with books, apps, and the internet, my darling Touré has earned the nickname "Pregnancy Police." He's committed to me not lifting anything over 2-3lbs. and is sure to turn me over when I turn onto my back while sleeping. I've been in at least 20 cities this year alone speaking to thousands of women across the country. Once I land, I jump right into the trenches of marriage, motherhood, ministry, and whatever else life manages to throw my way, all while watching my ever-expanding midsection struggle to squeeze into clothes that were once too big and attempting to control the hormonal changes of pregnancy. Incidentally, this has made me think six words I never thought would come to mind:

I feel sorry for Kim Kardashian.

I bet that's a curveball you didn't see coming! I've been shy to share my pregnancy with the nearly 200K followers I have on Instagram, 100K on Twitter, or 360K on Facebook. Everything from my nose spreading to my waistline disappearing has increased my need to protect the insecurities and vulnerabilities that can come with pregnancy. For the first time in months, I posted a full body image with my husband. While most of the comments were celebratory in nature, there was one that I admittedly let get under my skin: "More weight, nice but...You were much better before this...," the user wrote. In her defense, my loose blouse made it virtually impossible to detect that I was pregnant but did that justify her right to critique my body?

In a culture that promotes full expression of opinions, it is unrealistic to believe everyone will agree or communicate disagreements respectfully, but that doesn't take the sting away. Many of the people who've followed my story quickly came to my defense, yet I found myself pondering the advantages and drawbacks of sharing my personal life on public platforms. I've come to love genuinely and connect with thousands of women on a journey to wholeness, joy, and purpose throughout the years. As that exposure grows so do the opportunities to have my story dissected and critiqued. I'm learning that, as with most things in life, you must take the good with the bad.

I read that Kim Kardashian stopped smiling in photos because of body shaming. Even Chrissy Teigen recently vowed off social media after receiving negativity from the reveal of her first "bump" picture. I won't be so presumptuous as to speak to their state of mind. One can only imagine how intense the heat from their spotlight has become. However, I do understand feeling the need to place the division between what you freely give to the world and what you reserve for the intimate moments of life.

As much as I would like to think one post could create civility on the Internet forever, I've learned not to think so highly of my writing. Instead, I want to challenge the notion I'm guilty of believing. Social media is not a place for validation and self-esteem boosts. Building your confidence on likes and esteem from comments is a recipe for a dangerous cocktail. Avoid the intoxication that comes with being universally accepted and challenge your heart to seek wholeness from above, validation from good deeds, and guidance from trusted sources. Don't feel compelled to make your life an open book if you're not prepared for the discussion that comes along with it. Some things are better left treasured in your heart until you can handle the scrutiny that comes with them being exposed.