No, I am Not Pregnant. Self-Confidence in a Self-Conscious World

I’ve been asked if I’m pregnant a number of times by a number of people in a number of cities. I’ve been asked at 130 lbs, 140 lbs, and 150 lbs. I’ve been asked while wearing “empire-wasted” dresses, loose-fitting tops and sweaters, work aprons from my Whole Foods Market days, and most recently in a long skirt with a wide black-banded waste. I’ve been asked in Baltimore, Oakland, Hayward, San Leandro, and now Murphys, CA.

When I post to this health and wellness blog, I’m hoping to establish myself as an expert in the field by offering excellent, evidence-based advice and a creative perspective on how to live a sweet, rich life — and I believe that experts should look the part.

At the risk of completely undermining my credibility, but to prove a very salient point at the expense of my own ego (or perhaps to serve it, I haven’t yet decided), I’m telling you now that your “wellness guru” is asked if she’s pregnant on a regular basis.

By regular basis, I mean that since 2007, I’ve been asked about 8 times, counting one time when a stranger commented on my “belly” to her friend as I passed her on the sidewalk a few years ago (at about 148 lbs). I’ve been asked “when are you due?”, “may I ask when the baby’s due?”, “are you pregnant?” and my favorite, “can I ask you a question? don’t get mad, are you pregnant? No? oh, it’s just the dress.” All but 2 were women asking, and of those 6, 3 were of child-bearing age and one was my mother telling me that I looked pregnant to prove a point about how certain clothes make me look. Out of those 8, I’d say that about half were asking in earnest and the other half were being mean. Here are two examples of actual clothes I’ve been wearing when asked:

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I do not believe that I’ve looked pregnant in any of the outfits or uniforms I’ve worn when asked. I do not believe I looked pregnant at 130 lbs, and I do not believe I looked pregnant at 150 lbs. I do not believe I look pregnant today. In fact, I wore the dress on the right this past weekend and two complete strangers went out of their way to tell me that they loved my feminine figure and how nice I looked in my dress.

Lucky for me, the same mother who “wasn’t telling me to hurt my feelings” that I looked pregnant “in a very cute dress” also did a great job instilling self-confidence in me as a child, and I still have that self-confidence today.

Lucky for me, the fact that I’ve been asked if I’m pregnant almost 10 times hasn’t sent me down an anorexic spiral of self-loathing or abuse.

I’ve told my friends and my husband that it’s happened so often at this point that I can just laugh it off, but in truth, I cry every time. Laughing is a defense mechanism to shield a temporary feeling of total deflation. Every time it happens, it ruins my day and keeps me up at night.

But I always bounce back.

My parents happened to be in town visiting the most recent time a stranger asked me when my baby was due, which spurred the comments I just mentioned from my mom. My dad said that he once asked a woman if she was pregnant, and he’ll never do it again or forget that day. He remembers exactly where he was, what she was wearing, and the look on her face. It was over 35 years ago.

If that’s how an accidental offender feels, how do you think the victim must feel? 

I’ll tell you. I remember where I was and what I was wearing every single time it’s happened to me since 2007, and I don’t think I’m soon to forget. I think about those times when I’m feeling down to confirm whatever negative thing I’m already thinking about myself or my body.

I’m sharing this very personal Achilles heal with you, because I’m tired of female on female inconsideration/competition/aggression/whatever it is, and I’m tired of people in general asking offensive, ignorant questions. If someone as confident as I am can be as bothered by this as I am, imagine how devastating it is to others who weren’t constantly told how awesome they were as young kids. I want people to stop and think before they ruin someone else’s day with a question like “are you pregnant?”

Spread the Love: A Positive Feedback Loop

I believe that part of taking care of ourselves is creating an environment around us that is loving, affirming, and supportive. I believe that part of lifting ourselves up is in lifting up others, supporting others, encouraging others, and assuring them that they are not alone in the world in whatever struggle they might be facing.

I believe that a healthy self-image is necessary for proper self-care, not the other way around. 

And I’m very grateful that I have a healthy self-image, despite these ridiculous questions and comments. If you’ve been asked if you’re pregnant when you are clearly not pregnant, you are not alone. It’s not what you’re wearing; it’s the jerk asking the question. You are beautiful.

If you are plagued with body image issues that are confirmed by ignorant commentary from those around you, you are not alone.

If you fall victim to the entrapping images of airbrushed women in magazines and feel that your body isn’t good enough, you are simply mistaken.

You are beautiful.

You are loved.

You are sexy.

I’m selfishly writing this post to vent my feelings of frustration that I’m awake at 11:50pm on a work night thinking about this, but my hope is that I’m also affirming you on your own journey to self-acceptance. I’m confident in my own resilience; I want you to be confident in yours. I will not be knocked down by this, and nor should you be.

I read a post recently by a 19 year-old woman “liking this picture of [her] cellulite,” and I think we need more messages like the one she’s sharing. I am not defined by my imperfections, and neither are you. We need not only to accept our own imperfections as part of what makes us us, but we also need to lift up those around us.

And if I haven’t made it clear yet, NEVER ask a woman if she’s pregnant. If she wants to tell you that she’s expecting, she will. Mind your own business and let her enjoy the rest of her day.

5 Ways Rock Climbing Empowers You

When I first embarked on this blogging journey, my plan was to create a sounding board for my broad approach to health, fulfillment, and balance. I’d share stories about my adventures in the kitchen, in the garden, at local establishments, and in nature. I fully planned to write about my experience in nature from the perspective of a rock climber, but after a recent trip to Yosemite, I realized that I haven’t shared anything with you about climbing at all.
Part of the reason for this is that I’m not an elite climber. I’m not even a great climber – I’d put myself at slightly more advanced than a beginner with only a few years of the sport under my belt, so I surround myself with folks who have far more skill, knowledge and strength than I do. I’m always striving to learn and keep up – a position I grew used to as the younger, shorter, less-athletic sister always getting stuffed at the hoop in our driveway. Being in that position as a kid made me a stronger player, both physically and mentally. I wasn’t afraid to try as hard as I could, and I wasn’t afraid to fail. I just went for it, and I try my very best to apply that mentality to climbing.

There’s only one way to succeed in anything, and that is to give it everything. Football Coach, Vince Lombardi

People ask me why I climb, why I couldn’t pick something that keeps both feet on the ground as my adult activity of choice. My mom worries about me on the weekends, my coworkers think I’m crazy – why risk an injury? (Truthfully, when done properly and safely climbing isn’t much more dangerous than other sports, but that’s commentary for another time.)

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Owens River Gorge – Bishop, CA

The answer, in short, is to conquer fear. Fear holds us back from pursuing our dreams. Fear of failure, fear of not being the best (or even all that good). Fear of learning something new. Climbing forces you to face your fears – in fact, before I started climbing I had a relatively intense fear of heights. The perpetual quest to conquer fear through climbing has tremendous benefits for your life as a whole. Here are the ways it empowers you.

5 Ways Rock Climbing Empowers You

1. Climbing pushes you out of your comfort zone, repeatedly.

You’re reaching for something you never thought you could reach, you’re shifting all your weight onto a tiny feature in the rock and trusting yourself, your shoe, your body, your strength, to hold you there. Your resolve is constantly tested, and the limit of what you can manage physically and mentally gets higher and higher with each summit. You’re stretched, you’re challenged, and as a result you grow.

2. You are only competing with yourself.

Nobody’s keeping score. Your teammate is there to keep you safe, and the two of you are working together to do something amazing. But the only opponent is the rock (although I will admit that sometimes you feel like the rock is fighting back!) Climbing is all about personal best and working toward your own goals. Worrying about how you compare to others is only a detractor, and the exercise of controlling that tendency to compare is an advantageous mental task to master in itself. The gratification of sticking a hard move and finishing the route is all the motivation you need. This inner drive will carry over into many aspects of life where the only one keeping track of whether you accomplish your goal is you.

3. The Unknown awaits on every climb.

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Happy Boulders in Bishop, CA

Every route has a ‘crux’ – the hardest part of the climb that determines the difficulty rating. The crux can be anywhere in theclimb. It can be the first move when you’re not quite warmed up or it could be toward the top when you’re totally burnt out. You can guess based on the rating if you’ll be able to do it, but you never know until you try, and often it’s that part of the climb that truly tests your grit. Even though we usually have a guide book to tell us roughly where the route goes, I often find myself in spots where the exact path is unclear or the best sequence of moves is elusive. Sometimes you have to just commit and have faith in your intuition that you’re going the right way and you’ll make it through. Sometimes I see my partner climb first and I know that whatever he’s doing is definitely NOT what I’m going to do – whether it’s because of a difference in height, skill, strength, or a combination – and that I’m going to have to figure out my own way when it’s my turn. One of the best parts of climbing is pushing through and accomplishing something you didn’t know you were capable of. Often that’s the real unknown that awaited you.

It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great. – Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own

4. Persistence, determination, and problem-solving are crucial to climbing.

These three characteristics are among the most valuable in ensuring that you are achieving your personal potential. And I’m not just talking about climbing anymore. Building and practicing these skills is a huge factor in professional success and personal growth. It’s impossible to grow as a person without pushing forward through (at least some) adversity and difficulty. When you’re on a wall working to find the next move, you might have to rearrange your feet, switch your hands, or shift your center of gravity. You might have to try, fail, and rework it another way. All of this while dangling high in the sky. The harder you work to get it right and solve the puzzle, the deeper your commitment to yourself and the climb.

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Grotto – Sonora, CA

5. Climbing fosters an alliance between humans and nature.

No one appreciates the reality of gravity like a climber. That might have been a bad joke, but seriously, climbing was meant to be an outdoor sport – even a wilderness sport. Most climbers train in the gym in preparation to climb outside on real rock under an open sky (or sometimes in a cave!). Groups like Access Fund that work to ensure climbing access across the country are focused on conservation, respect for the sanctity of nature, and reverence for the pristine outdoors. Climbers carry that mentality with them at the crag. Not only is there an etiquette that accompanies this sport in terms of keeping crags clean and safe, there’s also a spiritual relationship built between humans and nature when you spend that much time outside. Having that connection to nature and recognizing the role and responsibility of humans in preserving its beauty is empowering and motivating.

Climbing is a sport with transformative grit that demands a respect for how nature and humans interact. You don’t have to be an elite climber to know that climbing builds strength, character, community, and alliance with nature – maybe that’s another way of saying that it strengthens “mind, body, and spirit.” I may not have the skill and experience of an elite climber, but I think that’s something worth sharing.

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Yosemite National Park, CA

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Lake Tahoe, CA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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