I joined a new gym last week, and it was daunting. Let’s face it, working out in front of people is awkward. It really is. There is sweat in places you didn’t even realize could sweat, there for all the world to see — and ladies, let’s be honest — workout leggings hide basically nothing. Plus, this introvert has a hard time with all of the loud that happens at gyms. Weights clinking, men grunting, club music playing, and that one guy who lifts weights by the power of his voice instead of his muscles. Why is there always that one guy? His verbal-ness catches me off guard every time and I jump a bit, then I giggle because I jumped and so then I become the sweaty, awkward legging wearing, makeup-less, 40-year-old laughing at herself in the middle of the gym. It’s great. I digress.


Nothing makes you feel more vulnerable than having your physical prowess, or lack thereof, on display. I am not a social butterfly at the gym. I will smile, but I am keeping the earbuds in because I just can’t make new friends when I am profusely sweating and running for three miles on a conveyor belt at a 2.5 incline. Because the minute I start talking to you, I will be shot off said conveyor belt and end up on a YouTube blooper video. No, thank you.


So there I was, jogging along, and suddenly I got a visual picture of myself on the treadmill. I was a sweaty mess, I smelled like the opposite of flowers, no makeup, frizzy hair going in all directions, and wearing gray faded leggings that were bought at least 15 years ago. I was suddenly aware that my body bulged in places that made it apparent that I had given birth to two kiddos, and that age was tugging at it in ways it didn’t before. I felt old. I was about eight doubtful thoughts into my run, when my treasured friend (who had come to the gym with me for moral support) jumped on the treadmill next to me. This. Is. Friendship. Her presence brought me back to reality and grace. So, for the rest of my run, I blocked out the world, listened to Beyoncé and thought about how women view their bodies.


Why do we define ourselves by what we aren’t? Why is it such a chore to feel good about our bodies, appreciate our thighs, love our upper arms? Why do take pictures at certain angles to hide the upper arms and thighs? Why can’t we just appreciate our lower abs that slightly protrude from once housing a baby for 40,000,000 (feels like) weeks? Let me clarify — I believe in working out, in being fit and strong. But my question is:


Why do we doubt ourselves before we learn to love ourselves?


Can we skip the doubt? Has social media and history brainwashed the majority of us into believing that female bodies must be neat and trim? Why are dad bods allowed, but mom bods are a thing worthy of disdain? Are there females out there that do skip the doubt? I don’t know any, but I would like to be one of those women if they are out there. Wondering about the root of this natural discomfort trips me up (figuratively, not literally! No falling off the treadmill this time!) as I search for answers. There are so many women and girls who are deeply ashamed of their bodies. What is the common link?


I wasn’t able to answer my question in the 30 minutes that I had left at the gym. However, I think I got some clarity as I found solace in my friend being there with me, and this knowledge was solidified as I walked into a smaller room in the gym to work on that baby bump of mine. I went looking for an exercise ball in this small room and found five women working out together. They were laughing and talking, the atmosphere was relaxed and inviting. As I watched these women interact, I realized though we may have doubts, we aren’t alone. There will always be a tribe of women waiting to embrace you and your baby bump, they will always back you up and catch you if you get shot of a treadmill. It was such a beautiful and comforting thought — women supporting women. It instantly made me feel better. Find your women — they will always make you feel beautiful, even no matter how many babies you’ve had, how old your leggings are, or even if you fall off the treadmill.