Don’t Forget You’re Fabulous

I was scrolling my way through a lazy Saturday afternoon when a picture of an unusually buxom woman popped up on my screen. My first thought was, those boobs can’t be real? They were of the coconut shell cut in half variety. She was striking a pose. A familiar selfie taken in front of a mirror with a smart phone. I have fashion blogger friends who average one of these shots a day so I noticed the usual strike a pose signs. Toe pointing down, heel lifted, elbow bent to the side, boobs out, tummy in. She was making an effort to get the best shot possible. Or perhaps it’s a pose that begins to happen naturally when you use it every day?

After choosing a filter for her I just happened to be standing in the kitchen in my knickers and lacey red bra photo on Instagram, Caroline Berg Eriksen added the caption “I feel so empty, and still not 4 days after birth”. I think in Norwegian that translates to have a look at how amazing I look!

My second thought was, maybe those boobs are real? She just gave birth? Four days ago? That’s a maternity bra?! Where were they when I was breastfeeding? Okay, so it was more than one thought. There were many thoughts.

I read the accompanying article, I know, stupid, nothing to gain, but I’ve had four babies and I know a shed load of women who have given birth, and not one of them looked like this woman four days afterwards. Caroline Eriksen was providing some sort of post birth freak show for people like me, I had to have a closer look. By the end of the piece I was no more enlightened than when I began. I’d learnt that Caroline Eriksen was a fitness blogger married to a footballer, hence her Instagram handle “FootballFrue”. There was no great secret to Caroline’s flat tummy, apart from being in great shape and genetically blessed. The opinion piece disguised as news was about why Caroline’s photo had sparked the reaction it had. Some loved it, others hated it. At last count it had over 20,000 “likes” and 2,000 comments.

Caroline’s post birth shot had predictably started a conversation, one of those conversations that you instantly know is going to be talked about on breakfast/morning television when you wake up the next day. I think we’re averaging about one of these stories a month now. The “what’s your excuse” fitness mother, has now become last month’s news.

I decided pretty quickly if not rather unfairly, that Caroline probably wasn’t my cup of tea. Not because she’s chosen to identify herself solely as a WAG, and not because she writes in a language I don’t understand, and not because I don’t have a lot of friends who post pictures of themselves in their underwear on Instagram. It’s because she’s a fitness blogger who obviously has one of those freakishly never going to happen in my world bodies, and looking at her is just dumb for women like me. I will never look anything like Caroline Eriksen.

I can’t remember exactly when it was that I started to compare myself to other women, but it didn’t come naturally. It evolved. The problem with making comparisons, is that they often lead to self loathing. I listened in on things that were said and thought too much about observations that were made. Thankfully I’ve never developed an eating disorder, but there have been times I wished I had. I’ve wasted far too much time thinking about my genetic faults.

I hated my knees, it made sense that the ballet teacher had called them nobly. I hated my thighs, I was sure that when that guy from the office talked about girls with “thunder thighs” he meant me. And when a guy I knew told a story about the test for perfect breasts on a woman by doing the pencil test, I made the mistake of asking how.

“If she can hold a pencil under her boobs, well, you know, she doesn’t pass the perky test.”

I asked if the same test could be applied for men’s balls, gave him a piece of my mind, and then found myself standing in front of the mirror that night contemplating grabbing a pencil. That’s what accute body consciousness is all about, it turns a perfectly well adjusted person into a nut.

For years I let the comparisons go on in my head.  Even when I was pregnant I compared myself to other pregnant women. I was sure that I was twice the size at the same stage of pregnancy as other women in my ante natal class. After the fourth little traveller was born, surrounded by Lululemon clad mummies I stood at the gym and asked myself why I looked like me when they looked like them.

When my friend Belinda found out she had cancer I stood in her lounge room and looked at a picture of her on the beach with her girlfriends. They were all turning 40 that year and looking fabulous. They stood in the surf, old school friends with their arms on each others shoulders, beaming smiles.

“You all look so happy!”

“I was sick then, I just didn’t know it. Look at me, I look fantastic!” she laughed at the irony.

A year later Belinda died.

Something happened in my head when I heard that Belinda had gone. Suddenly every day seemed like an extra day. A day that she wasn’t given. An extra day with G, an extra day with my children. A day I could have had on the beach. It makes no sense that she’s not here with her children when I still have mine.

When I look at pictures of me pregnant I wish I’d taken more. My photos post fourth traveller, show me that I was the fittest I’ve ever been. I was just so busy comparing myself to the skinny girls that I’d forgotten I was fabulous.

I currently have some weight to lose, but I think I might be the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I keep telling myself I’ll get started on getting fitter, tomorrow, or maybe next week. And I will get fitter, I owe it to my children, but I’m not ever going to compare myself to Caroline Eriksen who’s feeling empty.

I don’t want to waste my extra days.


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