‘When I was 16 years old, I weighed 130 pounds. I felt like a cow. My friends were much smaller, and much slimmer. I always felt so unworthy. Sloppy. Lazy. Gross.’

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“I am 5’11. When I was 16 years old, I weighed 130 pounds. I realize now this is a perfectly healthy weight, but at the time I felt like a cow. My friends were much smaller, and much slimmer. No matter how hard I tried, my size 8 body never fit into their size 2 clothes.

I always felt so fat. So unworthy.

Sloppy. Lazy. Gross.

Like the size of my body meant that I was less than them. Less pretty. Less important. Less loved.

Now, my body has carried 3 babies. I have a stretched-out stomach and cellulite on my thighs. I would give my left boob to go back and be how ‘fat’ I thought I was as a teenager.

My size 14 jeans make me long for the days when I thought 130 pounds was ‘huge.’

As an adult, I have gained weight. I have birthed children, but I skipped the whole ‘body bouncing back’ part. I have red and white stretch marks, saggy skin, and a weird fat fold around my c-section scar.

My butt is huge, but not in a fun Kardashian way. I have more of a ‘deep and wide’ situation going on with my rear. My metabolism has slowed way down. My thighs jiggle and wiggle. And I refuse to wear underwear that doesn’t almost touch my belly button.

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Oh, if teenage me could see the future, she would have gladly embraced a life of celibacy, salads, and all-day cardio.

My body has changed a lot. But my thoughts on my body have not. I’m still just as harsh. Just as judgmental of myself. Sometimes downright hateful.

I still stand in the mirror when I get out of the shower, and take a mental inventory of my flaws.

If I don’t stand-up straight, I appear three months pregnant. Which, unless God has a big joke in the works, I am most certainly not.

I make plans to change, to work out and give up carbs, to fit into my old jeans. I feel guilt every time I inevitably fail.

Most days, I still don’t love my body, and by extension- sometimes I don’t really love myself.

This has to stop. I can’t pass this on to my daughters. I can’t have them looking at their bodies in search of flaws. I don’t want them to put all of their worth in what they see in the mirror.

I hope with all my heart they don’t compare themselves to their friends, or the women in magazines. I need them to know that if they have a period in life where they gain weight, that it does not define them.

I want them to know, what I still am trying to convince myself.

I may have some cellulite, but I am not cellulite.

You may have stretch marks, but you are not stretch marks.

We might have fat, but we are not fat.

This is not WHO we are.

We are women.

We are life-givers.

We are encouragers and creatives.

We are helpers.

We are bosses and leaders.

We are all the things, almost none of which depend on how we look.

We have to let it go. I have to let it go. I don’t have the space in my life to let my imperfections keep consuming me.

My stretch marks are a reminder that my children grew inside me.

My flabby skin is proof my body housed life.

My saggy belly button is a badge of honor.

It is an absolute miracle that I get to hold the same sweet hands that were knit together in my womb. My child grew from a microscopic dot, to a baby – right within me! I would feel my son’s kicks, hiccups, and stretches from inside. Now, he clings to my body when he is cold or scared. My back is used for playing horses, and my chest is the perfect napping place.

My body is a temple of security and safety for my children. My son will crawl into my arms when he’s are hurt or confused. He doesn’t care about my fat rolls or the saggy skin under my arms. I am enough for him. I am enough for all of my children. What more proof do I need that my body is meant be loved and respected, instead of hated and picked apart?

I will probably lose weight, and gain weight, and lose weight again at different points in my life. I will keep being active, and trying my best to be healthy. Some days I will eat all my veggies and work out, and some days I will eat junk food and enjoy a movie marathon from my couch. But through it all, I will be more than a number on a scale or a size on my jeans.

I am a woman, who is too busy with life and love to be consumed by loose skin, a little extra fat, or the fact that I will never have a gap between my thighs. I have friends and family who love me. I have new people to meet and places to see. I have more important things to worry about than the flaws in the mirror.

Let’s celebrate all our bodies can do, instead of obsessing over how our bodies look. We women really are amazing!”

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This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stephanie Hollifield of Momstrosity. It originally appeared on their blogSubmit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

Read more from Stephanie:

‘I vividly remember the crazy looks I got with my huge pregnant belly and a newborn baby draped across my chest. I would stare too. It’s an odd sight, and honestly something I never imagined for myself.’

‘A stranger helped me with my black daughter’s hair. I desperately want to do the right thing. Our world needs more people like this.’

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