Maternity Style & Maintaining a Positive Body Image
by Chigozie Ohanele
The topic of Body Image & Style is something that most women understand all too well. A lot of women are self-conscious about their body & if given the opportunity, will change something related to how they look even if everyone around them think they look beautiful and perfect. Therefore, a person’s sense of self, worth, beauty, style, body image, confidence & feeling comfortable in one’s own skin is not external, but an internal process. Although external factors may play a role, such as society standards, people’s opinions, media representations and personal experiences, the foundation of how we see and believe of ourselves comes from within.
We live in a society where we as women are often judged by how we look instead of our personality, character, intelligence and talents. We are constantly being compared to each other, which puts a lot of pressure on us to change & conform to what society regards as beautiful, attractive, healthy, sexy or normal. Based on that, some women think they are too fat, too thin, don’t like their birth marks, freckles, skin color, hair texture, body shape, size etc. It can even get so bad that in the quest to meet an imaginary standard of beauty, lots of women become very self-conscious, anxious and in extreme cases, people start to hate and harm themselves due to mental illness from serious body image issues and eating disorders which I’ve seen in the clinical setting as a Nurse Practitioner.
Today, I also want to focus on body positivity for pregnant women. Although the period of pregnancy can be such a beautiful time for a woman, it can also be a very challenging time as she undergoes lots of changes mentally & physically. From the body changes with the bigger and tender breast, growing baby bump and weight changes to the skin changes with the stretch marks, skin discoloration, dryness, itching and sometimes acne, it can be difficult on a woman. Also, there’s the natural anxiety of transitioning into another phase of life and having to be responsible for another life, to the heightened emotions from the surge and fluctuations in hormones which makes a woman even more vulnerable and sensitive. So, as a woman’s body changes during pregnancy, so does her size, shape, feelings and most times image of herself. The sudden changes can make them struggle with different emotions from feeling big to heavy, less than beautiful, unsexy, uncomfortable and make them have low self-esteem & confidence during and even after the pregnancy.
Honestly, it’s a lot and you need to give yourself more grace and love your yourself even more to get through it all. I’m passionate about changing the narrative that your worth as a woman is directly related to your looks. I myself have experienced moments where I was hard on myself about my weight and how I looked. I’ve gone through the roller coaster of disliking certain aspects of my body shape/size, never being satisfied with how I look, comparing myself to others and not feeling like I fit into the standard of beauty. I myself have had moments during my pregnancy when I look in the mirror and I’m in shock because I don’t recognize myself and I don’t feel like myself. It can take a while to get used to your growing baby bump and the possible limitations it might cause in your physical abilities.
Also, as a woman who went through IVF treatments, one of the biggest side effects for me was the severe & sudden bloating that occurred from the medications and retrieval process. As soon as I was done, I instantly looked like I was already in my 2nd trimester (4-6 months pregnant) which was very strange and made me self-conscious because I was much bigger than other pregnant women and I didn’t have the time to mentally adjust to the growing bump. I can say that not only do I have a new-found respect and appreciation for a woman’s body and its ability to adjust to changes and still maintain its normal functions, I’m also blown away at the process of creation and the master piece that is called “Woman”. Through it all, I’ve grown and learned a lot and I’m going to share some great tips below on how to maintain a positive and healthy image of your body, to grow your confidence and love yourself even more at every stage in your life.
“Learn to compliment, appreciate and accept other women’s journey, unique qualities and features. Learn to support and celebrate other women’s beauty.”
How to Maintain a Healthier & Positive Body Image
Face your insecurities head on by finding out the root of the problem, the past lies/stories and experiences that made you think less of yourself. Then replace them with new narratives and beliefs of yourself to change your mindset, feelings, perspective and attitude about your body and looks.
Stop focusing on negative things, your weaknesses and what you don’t have. Instead, focus on the positives, your strengths, your great qualities, features and the great things you have.
Stop comparing yourself to others and just appreciate the big and small things in life like your opportunities and blessings.
Look into the mirror daily to see your body, get used to the changes, compliment it, accept it and speak words of affirmations to yourself. For me, the more I look at my body during my pregnancy, the more I got used to the changes which made me feel more confident and comfortable in my body.
Think rationally about the changes to your body. Once you understand the facts and reasons for the changes, it helps you accept and appreciate your body even more. If you’re pregnant, the changes to your body is to create and sustain a human life but if you aren’t pregnant maybe the fact you need to understand is that your body changes may be from getting older, your eating habits, activity style/level or it may be a sign that you may be ill and need to take better care of yourself.
Focus on the benefits & importance of your baby’s health instead of your weight. Understand what you’re supposed to do to nurture a healthy baby.
Focus on how you feel and on being healthy, strong and fit instead of obsessing about your weight and size.
Make your pregnancy as fun and fabulous as you want. Do things that make you feel good, continue your beauty regimen that’s safe for the baby, wear outfits, makeup and accessories you love that make you feel great, sexy, beautiful and stylish during the pregnancy.
Remind yourself daily that there’s no standard of beauty & that you are unique qualities which includes your physical appearance is for a reason and that you are beautiful just the way you are.
Focus on self-love and self-care. Pamper yourself so you feel refreshed and beautiful.
Focus on being your best self. Be more compassionate, kind, gentle to enhance your beauty and let it radiate out.
Intelligence is beautiful so focus on self-development and broadening your mind instead of picking at your looks.
Focus on being clean, well-groomed and nicely dressed. Then carry yourself with grace and class.
Use the tools you have (makeup, fashion, accessories, attitude, habits, smile, personality) to highlight your great features, enhance your beauty, present your best self, Improve your self-esteem and confidence.
Use your style to make a statement. Wear the right fit and style of clothes that flatter your body, proudly show off your curves but also be comfortable in whatever you choose to wear. For me I’ve been wearing a lot of Mini Shift Dresses to show off my legs and Midi Bodycon Dresses to show off my baby bump. I’ve also been wearing a lot of leggings with loose fitting tops and sweaters which is more functional and comfortable for me.
Dress how you want to be addressed. Imagine the woman you want to be and dress how you want to feel to channel the confidence of that woman because confidence is beautiful and sexy.
Eat a balanced diet & exercise to feel great about your body but also to improve your mental health.
Ignore negative feedback or media that compares women or focuses on specific details of a woman’s body.
Find a great support system and a safe space to be yourself and get positive feedback on yourself.
Learn to compliment, appreciate and accept other women’s journey, unique qualities and features. Learn to support and celebrate other women’s beauty.