I am in my mid-30s now and I have to say, becoming comfortable in my own skin is more important to me now than ever. I spent my 20s worrying about career and having children and making money and buying the right handbags. I spent the past few years focused on parenting and making more money and creating a "happy" life in a nice home.
And now, at 35, the focus has organically shifted back to me. (For the most part, the parenting thing, as you know, does not go on-hold... but the handbag obsession has. Somewhat.)
I am looking to fall in love with myself. I am looking to appreciate myself and applaud myself and embrace myself. I want to feel confident and proud of all of my choices, my likes, my dislikes, my opinions.
I am obsessed with becoming a woman who is comfortable in her skin.
And I have found a few things that have helped me along this journey, so wanted to share them with you here:
1. Embrace your physical appearance. I (for the most part) came to terms with my looks a little while ago and it was, and continues to be, incredibly freeing. Yes, I still have five pounds I would like to lose and yes, the little gray hairs are annoying and yes, I wish I was more comfortable in high heels. But I love my eyebrows and my skin behaves itself for the most part and red lipstick looks really good on me. So I wear it often. I found the perfect jeans for my curvy hips. I accept that I am much more graceful in flats. I have finally learned to embrace the looks I have been given... and actually like them.
2. Take control of your health. It is so easy for us to let our physical well-being fall to the bottom of the priority list and if you don't feel good in your own body, how can you feel good in your mind? Get enough sleep. I need eight hours. It's just a fact. So I opt out of late-night TV and go to sleep much earlier than I may want to. I fit in exercise. Not fanatically, but I fit it in regularly. I am trying to be better about scheduling doctor's appointments when I need to. I try to eat well. I am not talking about counting calories or carbs or cookies -- I am talking about eating well. Figuring out what your body needs to feel good, factoring in the odd treat to satisfy your cravings, eliminating the things that simply don't work for you. Drinking more water. Meditating. Stretching. All these little steps have a very big impact on how you feel about your body and your mind.
3. Find a personal mantra. I used to be an "everything happens for a reason" kind of girl. Now "the things you take for granted, someone else is praying for" has become my personal favorite. It doesn't really matter what it is or where it comes from, it matters that it resonates with you and that you know you can find comfort in it when you need to.
4. Get a hobby. If you don't have one already, find a hobby. Something that really engages you -- physically, mentally, creatively, whatever. For me, it is cooking. I have no idea where it came from, but I am so happy it found me because it's something I do with genuine pleasure and joy. It's an activity I can lose myself in, without having to depend on anyone or anything else. And I lose myself in it often.
5. Seek inspiration. In this day and age, it's so easy to find inspiration that moves you. Stuff that really speaks to you aesthetically, spiritually, creatively. Go out and find it. Trust your eye and your personal point of view. Pin it. Bookmark it. Photograph it. Keep it in your mental (and literal) files for a creative boost when you need it. Better yet, create your own work and put it out there for others to seek inspiration from as well.
6. Figure out how to de-stress. This is a big one I have been working on lately. Actually turning my mind off of negative thoughts and stressful worries. It works wonders... when it works. Some things that seem to help me: warm baths, a good book to distract my mind, candlelight. For you it may be a workout. Or a call to your sister. Or writing in your journal. Whatever it is, finding a way to control your own mind and the random roads it travels down, is a really important factor in taking care of yourself mentally and feeling your best.
7. Stop comparing. This is a tough one, friends. Especially when you are in the online world the way that I am and everyone has more followers, more comments, better photography, stronger writing. But the only way you will feel comfortable in your own skin is to truly live in it... not someone else's. I know where my strengths and weaknesses are. I know that everyone has a different approach and a different background and a different means to the end... whatever the end is. And I can always go back to my mantra to remind me of it, when I need to.
8. Help others. It's not quite as simple as doing a Goodwill drop twice per year. Volunteering your time, your insight or your talents can be rewarding in so many ways. It can be as simple as being a room mom or mentoring an intern in your office or going to your best friend's house to help her de-clutter. It lets you take the focus off yourself for a little while, reminds you that your life is abundant and rich and simply warms your heart. Letting yourself be completely selfless in order to restore your spirit. You will come out of it feeling brand new.
9. Know how to say no. Or I can't. Or I don't want to. It's so important in this busy life to be able to set your own limits and stick to them, even if it means letting someone else down. If I know a new client opportunity isn't a good fit, I decline. Even if the money would have been nice. If I am invited to a social outing but would rather be home with my kids, I skip it. I know what my limits are and I stick to them -- politely, of course -- and it allows me to say yes to so many more important things in life. Learning to make choices and stand by them -- even the tough ones -- without hesitation is a sure sign of inner strength.
10. Buy the handbag after all. Or whatever it is that makes you happy. In moderation, of course. But buy it. Indulge yourself. Treat yourself. Reward yourself with the little things that bring a little sunshine into your day. For me, it's cookbooks, fresh flowers, a proper mani/pedi and weekend getaways whenever possible. If there is something I am really coveting, I usually get it. It's me telling myself that I am worth it, I deserve it, I work hard for it and I have every right in the world to enjoy it.
And I hope you will enjoy it, too.
Because life is short. And I want to spend the rest of it loving myself and taking pride in the woman I have become and the choices I make. In the things I believe in and my likes and dislikes. In my personal point of view. Taking pride in the mother that I am. The wife that I am. The friend that I am.
The woman who is, slowly and surely, truly comfortable in her own skin.