I’ve never been very kind or gentle with myself. For as long as I can remember I’ve been overly critical of what I see when I look in the mirror. Is it just a girl thing? Maybe. I know just by talking to my girlfriends how we tend to scrutinize every little part of our bodies or harp on about a big nose, bad skin or limp hair. Are we ever going to see ourselves the way others see us? The way our creator made us? How are we going to teach our children to love themselves when they hear the way we talk about our bums, tummies and thighs?

But, Oh sweet Mother Nature! Since my second pregnancy, my body is being used to teach me a lesson. LOVE me! I hear it say to me, but my reflection in the mirror screams back at me You are disgusting! You are FAT!!!!

When my 3 year old is having a wobbly and I see insecurity setting in on the way to school I chant with him from the time we get into the car to the time we walk into his class room. All the way from the car to his class we chant, I’m strong and I’m brave. I’m strong and I’m brave:. I’m strong and I’m brave. And with each step he owns these words and shakes off the nerves. Slowly with each word spoken he gains the confidence he needs. We need to spend more time speaking to ourselves (kindly) rather than listening to ourselves. Of course it’s not always quite as simple when you are looking down at a post birth body decorated in stretch marks, rolls of loose skin and a whole lot more cellulite than before. But surely we need to be a little bit kinder to ourselves? Why does not fitting into a size 30 mean we are not beautiful or worthy or lovable? Why do we say things, such dreadful things, to ourselves? Things we would never dream of saying to someone we love and care about.

I’m finding it so much harder to get back into shape after my second pregnancy. After Noah’s birth I bounced back rather quickly and with very little effort. But this time the weight just doesn’t want to budge! And that isn’t for lack of trying. I’ve become a devoted gym goer and I eat well most of the time. Well, when I’m not with the girls sipping wine and munching chips at our weekly play dates. But I generally don’t eat too much sugar and will choose a salad over a pizza any day. I drink loads of water and not too much coffee. I just lied. I drink a bit of coffee. Ok I drink a lot of wine too. But these are two things I refuse to give up for anything. Wine and coffee! Two 9 month stints were long enough thank you. And lets face it; we need to live a little!! That wine at the end of a tough day with kids is sometimes all that gets me through. The long walk to freedom (the 5pm- bedtime period I’ve heard many moms refer to) would be a whole lot longer without it. Wine to relax us and put us to sleep at night and yes, coffee to wake us up in the mornings. Sounds fair enough to me and I really do blame the kids. But besides these two things I’ve been pretty disciplined. Which only adds to my frustration when I see all my efforts with very little result.

Besides the fact that I feel a little more energetic and a great deal fitter (I can actually run 5 kilometers without dying) my body still looks the same. Apart from the endorphin high and toxin release I feel after a good workout, I don’t really see much change. And so it gets more and more frustrating. And slowly I let the negativity creep in. The harsh words spoken under my breath become louder, You are fat and you will never be good enough. You are gross and unattractive. How can your husband even love you? That’s when I will hit rock bottom and no amount of positive thinking will lift me from the self-pity induced depression I find myself. Not being able to EASILY zip up my skinny jeans for the fourth week in a row, I break down and cry. And I look down at my stubborn tummy and all its imperfection.

And then it happens. I suddenly have a flash back of when I was 9 months pregnant. My full round tummy so pregnant with life. And I start to marvel at the wonder of what my body has done. I look at my mummy tummy spilling over my jeans as I sit on my bed and remember what this tummy has been through.

Because you see, I think we all forget something. We have carried children! (Some of us a small soccer team!) We have grown babies in these bodies. We have nurtured a life, sustained a little person for 9 months inside these lumpy bellies. (And lets not forget the many months after!) Our bodies stopped being our own the second their little lives were conceived. And they adapted to allow our babies to grow. What our bodies have done and endured is nothing short of amazing and I’m not even talking about birth. Why are we not reminded of that sooner, before we spend an entire hour criticizing ourselves and beating ourselves up for not being skinny enough, toned enough, fit enough. Enough of anything really. Why cant we see the beauty in our post birth bellies and be reminded of what they were used to do. To bring a child into the world. A precious little life.

I’ve realized too the danger of comparison. Its not a healthy approach when you are so focused on everyone else. That skinny girl at the gym who has birthed four kids is probably wishing she had more curves. The curvy girl with toned legs and a great smile is wishing her bum were smaller. The girl with the flat bum is wishing she had a rounder more defined tush and, well, the girl with a big bust wants to be like the skinny girl who has birthed four kids. Truth is, we will never be happy. While we can strive to be the best versions of ourselves and target our mum tums to get our bodies strong again we can only do so much. We can exercise and eat well and drink lots of water but that is all. We need to adjust our mindsets and our attitudes towards our bodies. We need to stop being so harsh with ourselves and use a better more loving approach. I love feeling good in a new pair of jeans, but what I love even more than that is loving who I am. Not what I look like. Why are we investing so much time and energy into our outer appearances when our inner worlds could do with some attention too or some TLC at the very least? I’ve also come to realize that laughing with my children and living my life happy is not determined by the size of my waist or the smoothness of my skin. What determines my happiness lies within my ability to see clearly and love myself regardless of my weight and size.

Its time we move on now! Its time we stop wasting precious time wishing we looked a different way. Lets embrace our imperfect bodies and be thankful for health. Lets teach our children to be secure in their own bodies by leading by example. Because my friends, there is a whole lot of freedom in that.

Watch this and remember you are beautiful!

Hi I’m Leigh! Did you enjoy reading this post? I really hope so and would love you to stick around a little longer! Please feel free to browse my blog for other articles or to keep up with all the latest news and to be the first to hear about some great competitions, come and find me me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also email me directly at leeloobaggins@hotmail.com or simply subscribe below and never worry about missing out!