Owning my Humanness: How My Postpartum Body Image Journey Challenged Me to Open Up Even Further
by Kate Daigle, LPC
Therapists Are Humans Too!
I remember being 18 years old and sitting in my therapist’s office, looking at her sitting across the room from me and thinking to myself “she must be perfect. She must not have any of the problems that I have to be in her position.”
This was the first therapist I was truly connected to, the one who supported me during the most crucial times of my eating disorder recovery. I put her on a pedestal and idolized her. This, of course, was something we processed and worked through and I grew to understand what was going on inside of me that projected these concepts on to her.
She was not, of course, perfect. She shared just enough with me for me to finally get that. Though I will admit that when I learned she also had faults, I was both relieved (“I can be imperfect too”), and devastated.
I was trying to heal a broken part of myself and I had the idea that if I found someone who had it “all together”, then I could be that too someday. So when I found out this was not possible, I experienced devastating loss which blossomed into a beautiful state of freedom and acceptance.
I have learned through my own recovery and also through my work as a therapist now that there is no such thing as “having it all together”. And if there was, it would be boring and unrealistic.
Often, the conversation comes up with my own clients that I am not perfect, I struggle with things, and that it is okay if they do too.
Breaking Down the Barriers to Connection
It feels to me sometimes that those of us in the helping profession — whether it be doctors, nurses, dentists, social workers, therapists, etc – are held to a standard that we need to uphold. That we must be the models of valor and the experts in our field. That we must not have faults. That has at times to me felt a little bit suffocating, like we can’t be human too.
Granted, I fully believe in and respect that we do have an ethical responsibility to help others in the best way we can. We are put in a position of power in our relationships with our clients of which we must always be attuned.
But we must have shadows too. We must show some degree of humanness. This is how we connect most authentically with those who turn to us for help.
It would be like expecting your dentist to never get a cavity (I know I have wondered about this myself), or for your hairstylist to always have the most hip and perfect looking hair. What if your doctor gets sick or breaks an arm? What does that mean for our concept of what a doctor “should” be?
A recent post from Jenni Schaefer, author of the bestselling book Life Without Ed, inspired me to delve more into this topic. She wrote:
“We are real people just like everyone else. How we feel about our bodies, what we eat and why, and how we react to family and friends varies from time to time. Yes, we have learned, as other professionals, to strive for balance. But, sometimes, the expectation is for us to have a so-called perfect balance of “mental and physical being.” Really?! Who decided that?!”
My Postpartum Body Image Journey
This has been on my mind more regularly as of late because I have been going through some of my own body image struggles. At times I have looked at parts of my body with judgment instead of love. This is when I know I need to check in with myself to see what else is going on.
I have had the thought: “I help others heal from body image issues and learn to love and accept themselves on a daily basis; how could I struggle with this too? Am I an imposter?”
I know this is not true. I know that by being aware of and owning my own humanness and imperfection, I am more available to support others in their own healing. But a little voice in my head sometimes likes to jump in and place doubt.
I had a baby 18 months ago and my body is different than it was prior to pregnancy. This is true for every woman who has a baby, and yet it feels like we need to “get our body back” (whatever that means) as soon as possible.
People, my body GREW A HUMAN. And then fed it for over a year after giving birth to it. Isn’t that the most beautiful thing you can possibly imagine? So, why is there so much shaming of women’s bodies?? Ugh, I’m so sick if it.
My experience loving my postpartum body has been one of the most raw, real, and healing processes that I have ever had.
Part of loving my body now is also about redefining who I am as a woman in my various roles. I am now a mother; I am also a wife, a business owner, a daughter, a sister, and many other things. I am not the same person as I was before becoming a mother. I’m stronger…deeper. I’m still learning (not sure that ever stops).
And just as my body is different, it’s stronger too because of its journey.
I’m choosing to embrace that. Even if that annoying little critic voice shows up from time to time.
That is okay. I choose kindness over judgment.
I hope that anyone who can relate to my story can also choose this for themselves. We are all a work in progress. Please SHARE this post or comment if this speaks to you too!