No Permission Needed: Dealing with Social Media and Body Image Compari – Handful

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No Permission Needed: Dealing with Social Media and Body Image Comparison *By guest blogger Susie Lemmer

on November 13, 2017

Painful admittion: I had a major moment of negative pregnancy body image last week.

Since announcing my more relaxed schedule (well, I started to do this a bit before the announcement, but I've made an earnest and concerted effort since), I've tried to purge out the riffraff from my social accounts. Getting rid of people that I followed because they followed me, or because I thought that I should. As a result, though I am still scrolling through and being like, yeah, don't care, those "don't care" moments are MUCH fewer and farther between.

But I still get caught by inoccuous comments/posts/reposts.

I saw something on Instagram that, for many, may be really empowering: a woman standing up to body-shamers becaus she is 25 weeks pregnant and basically looks like me after a date with my husband at our favoriet local Mexican place before I got pregnant. Basically, a little itty bitty bump.

As I looked down at my burgeoning 27/28 week bump, I immediately got self conscious about it. On the one hand, I was happy that this woman was standing up for the "little bumps" out there--we know you exist and we love you!--but the post also made me feel incredibly... not just self conscious, but body negative. Which wasn't the intention, but it was the effect.

I clicked on the woman's profile (because why not tenderize that wound with tons more salt, right? Hell, I'll salt cure it for the winter), and I was greeted with more of the same. And for the next 15-30 minutes, as well as about an hour later, I found myself looking at my Yoshi-bump and questioning the size, the weight, the appearance.

I started comparing myself to her as if she was the standard, and I started taking away my self-granted permission to love myself, my journey, my belly. I wasn't lying for a second when I said that I love my bump, I love my pregnancy, I love the fact that I'm popping and bumpin and that it is obvious. I am waaaaay past the "awkwardly pudgy" stage, and it makes me so happy.

But that doesn't mean that I don't fall into the painful comparison trap. Comparing myself to others who are the same number of weeks in, or just a few ahead or behind me. Others that are still running, or that bumping more or less. Or feeling more or fewer baby kicks.

I stand here, with a full belly that hangs over my pants. Love handles. Thighs that touch. Less abdominal strength than I’ve had in probably 10 years.

And I’ve never felt more beautiful. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel puffy, pudgy, and less than beautiful in the months from my “prebaby” to my “with baby” body. When I heard that I was pregnant, I was still slim, there was no bump to speak of.

Within weeks, I had put on weight, but I still didn’t have the tell-tale bump. I wasn’t big enough to justify new clothes, but I didn’t fit the clothes that I was wearing. Or, should I say, the clothes that I was wearing didn’t fit me.

I just wanted a bump, that universal sign and the giveaway that it is OK to buy new clothes. That it is OK to sloth around. Permission.


So much of the world of women revolves around permission.

  • Permission we grant others to love us, emotionally or physically.
  • Permission other infer we are granting them.
  • Permission we are granted to feel beautiful, sexy, or strong, dictated by standards set by the chosen few.
  • The permission to love where we are going–the beautiful, sexy, product of hard work/determination/early morning workouts.

But what about the permission we give ourselves to love who we are, what we look like, right now? Can we love a changing us, not just the finished version?

Can we love ourselves when we plateau? Or are we forever going to be focused on where we didn’t end up?

At the start of my pregnancy, I was so focused on where I was going, where I was coming from and where I was going to, that I saw the signs of change: the first time my thighs touched, the spilling over of my back, the inability to button jeans or put on shoes, as reminders of where I was going. I Forgot to revel in where I was RIGHT THEN. I hadn’t given myself permission to find some joy and beauty in the transition and struggle.

We spend so much of our lives waiting for the next step (we Americans are especially guilty of this). The next milestone. We forget to run the mile that we are in.

Social media takes our minds away from running our own race. We have too much external input and put too much value into what we are “not.”

That input takes away our self-granted permission to find beauty in ourselves as we are and instead makes it something we must earn via likes, comments, people telling us that we are beautiful, sexy, impressive.

I am just as guilty of this as the next person. But like the training for a marathon forever changed my relationship with food and my perspective of my body, being pregnant has forever changed my relationship with my body.

You, my dear daughter, remind me every day that the body is a wonderful, strong, resilient thing. My body is CREATING another life.

When I discovered I was having a daughter, I realized the responsibility that was falling on my shoulders; not to raise a boy who would respect women (equally as important), but to raise a daughter who wouldn’t seek permission to love herself.

I cannot tell you how to love yourself; all I can do is dare you to love yourself when you feel like a positive outlook on yourself or your body is most difficult. In my experience, that is the first true step: to love yourself regardless of what the world wants you to do at that moment. And if they validate you? Excellent. But start within yourself. Pick something to love without qualification.


Runners, fitness mavens, we come in all shapes and sizes. We run “fast,” we run “slow.” We run. We walk. We swim.

Own your pace, own your journey, and don’t belittle what is yours. A 6 hour marathon is still a marathon.

Today, when you are your messiest, smelliest, sweatiest, self, take a snapshot of yourself and pick what you “should” love least about that picture and give yourself permission to love it the most. We have scars that tell our stories. And what is more beYOUtiful that your own story?

Read the original Blog post from Susie here
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