I have spent a lot of time crying this pregnancy. Some of it has been tears of joy as I finally got pregnant after nearly a year of trying, or finding out that I was finally having a little girl after preparing myself to have a fourth boy. I wish I could say my tears were all joyful, but too many of them have not been.
During my second trimester, I was overly sensitive and everything bothered me. I found myself bursting into tears, thinking certain people in my life hated me, or didn’t love me. I still sometimes have episodes like that.
Lately, though, most of my tears, sadness, and even low self-esteem have come from being the biggest I have ever been when pregnant. I weigh so much more than I ever have, I have gained more weight than I ever have, I have been so much more swollen than I ever have, and because of that, I often feel ugly and gross. What’s ironic is that this pregnancy I have been the most physically active, and most mentally prepared to be better in my eating and exercise habits. Alas, though, regardless of how active I tried to be or how well I ate, my weight has kept piling on…and I am only 33.5 weeks.
Yep, I feel pretty sorry for myself quite often. Last week, my family did a series of day trips, and nearly every picture of me had me groaning in disbelief at how awful I looked. Ah, look at my fat neck, or fat thighs, or never-ending belly rolls. My husband didn’t like me deleting or cropping myself out of pictures, so I kept some, even if I felt I still looked bad.
Why am I saying all this? I promise it isn’t for pity. Maybe I want you to know I am self-aware that I don’t look healthy. But, mostly, (believe it or not), it is to help me focus on what matters most. I know in my head that outward beauty is insignificant. I don’t usually judge myself on my looks, and I am sure most of us don’t completely. But, something happens to us when we don’t look like we know we can or should. We are our own worst critics, and our self-criticism eats at us until we sob in despair at a moment’s notice and call ourselves names, forgetting who we really are and all we offer.
The other day, I posted a picture of myself from when I was 18 on Facebook and Instagram.
I didn’t think anything of it really. It wasn’t a “woe is me” post, or a “look how good I used to look post”, but just a nonchalant wish of looking like that again. I was surprised at some of the comments I got:
I have those same thoughts about me! Then I look at my amazing kids, and I’m happy to trade the better body for them…
Beautiful then and now. The thing I noticed first about you when I moved into our ward is how you always have a smile on your face. You definitely glow.
Lovely, but it is good to remember there are so many more important things than our size. You are a truly beautiful person! Always!
I hadn’t posted that picture looking for comments like that, but you know what? I needed them. I needed to be reminded that beauty is not in our outward appearances alone, but most importantly, in our deeds, our words, our characters, and our hearts.
These comments reminded me of a post a friend of mine did earlier in the month. She asked:
Why is it the most beautiful women are the most insecure? If they only knew…
Maybe they realize outer beauty isn’t lasting or most important. Maybe they don’t know what else they can offer. I wish everyone knew it was heart, character and actions that make you attractive and confident.
She agreed and sweetly said:
Exactly!! That’s one reason I find you beautiful… You’re so kind and caring!
I was so grateful for her comment. Sometimes I don’t realize that people see good attributes in me. Don’t we all feel that way sometimes – that nobody can see who we really are – that perhaps they are judging us on our outwards looks and clothing and talents alone? I wanted to make sure this friend knew she was beautiful too, and that I appreciated her:
Aw, you are sweet! As are you! You have an infectious, cheerful smile. People need to see it!
So, yes! I am a huge believer that beauty shines in our countenances. It comes from the inside out. I have always cherished this scripture:
But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
You know what I just realized? When I spend all this effort and energy feeling sorry for myself and how awful I look, my countenance doesn’t shine. On the contrary, it exhibits nothing but clouds, rain, and darkness. SATAN wants me to feel this way. He wants me to focus on what is “wrong” with me physically so I don’t take the time to build myself spiritually. He wants me to feel sorry for myself so that I feel like I have nothing to contribute, that people don’t want to be around me, and that I can’t be trusted in taking care of others since I clearly don’t take care of myself.
If you are reading this and feeling like I have been feeling, let’s give each other a virtual hug. Let’s think about what we love about each other. Let’s truly look on the heart – our own hearts and the hearts of those around us. Let’s encourage each other to remember our worth. Let’s help each other remember that the Lord will test us throughout our lives, and that those tests ultimately lead to cherished lessons.
The lessons I believe the Lord is trying to teach me during this trial are that:
- I need to focus on the joy this pregnancy is bringing me, not the pain (physical and emotional).
- I must keep a spiritual perspective on beauty and worth (mine and others) because that is what He does.
- I have to hold close to those who love me most, and know they love me no matter what.
No matter what our reasons are for feeling less than beautiful, may we strive to remember that God defines beauty differently. What does your heart look like? Keep it clean and pure and strong. This is what matters to Him.