For the younger women, here's exactly why (and how) I'm more confident as I grow older.
I've read so many interviews in magazines from 30-something-year-old celebrities offering that closing in on forty and beyond is glorious, if only because they are finally happy inside of their skin.
For me, the girl who was picked on for being chubby when I was younger, and who became eating disordered, and who emotionally, mentally and physically has worked hard to care for and love this body that I inhabit, it seemed like a unicorn myth that once I hit a magical age, everything would become easier, naturally.
I was running errands the other day. I was in little yoga shorts and a tank top. I was with my two small children. As we piled in the car, and I buckled them into their car seats, I realized that I didn't care what my butt and thighs looked like in these tiny shorts. Like -- I genuinely didn't care.
I climbed into the driver's seat and just sat there for a second, and really took in this moment when it hit me that I had bought these little yoga shorts, and I wear these little yoga shorts and I am so happy in my body that it feels normal doing it.
A few years ago I gave away nearly a dozen bags of clothes. Considering I'm not a big shopper, this meant I had hardly any clothing left. I felt free. Tucked inside one of these Hefty bags were at least two pairs of tiny yoga shorts my husband got me; shorts I never wore because I felt too insecure, even inside of my own house on my yoga mat.
Yet here I am, the woman who loves to wear makeup, but who doesn't feel naked anymore if I'm not wearing any when we decide to go to the grocery store. The woman who wears short shorts in public and isn't concerned with cellulite.
It hit me, as I sat in my hot driver's seat on a sunny afternoon of errands with my children that, at 36, I'm experiencing this mythical, organic shift into feeling comfortable in my body. While a joyful personal revelation, it still saddens me that this comfort isn't as readily available for women of all ages, especially women who are even a tiny bit younger than I.
I decided that the following are key pieces of why, as we age, women become happier with themselves.
1. The importance of everything else.
Having two children, feeling confident in myself as a writer, having a wonderful marriage and also having ups and downs -- in short, experiencing these sensations of life, of loss, of work, of family -- the importance of these other aspects of life become highlighted as we live through them. Conversely, the importance we place on thigh gaps, and bathing suit bodies, and under-eye circles, and other sad societal standards set through living in a patriarchal culture, and through magazines -- they all drop away, at least a little, at least little by little as we go through life.
Taking the time to stop, regardless of our age and our life's experiences, and consciously witness the value of who we are and what we offer to the world, and to feel the joys and sorrows, and the brevity of life in general, this helps remind us that while caring about our bodies isn't necessarily shallow, there are significantly more important things in life than if yoga shorts give us muffin top.
2. My kids don't care.
My kids have no idea if I have a few places of cellulite that show outside my yoga shorts.
They have never noticed that I still have a faint Linea Nigra from giving birth over a year and a half ago.
They don't care at all if my stomach has rolls when I sit at our dining table writing.
They see me. They see Mom.
They see the woman who runs through the sprinkler with them. They see the person who spontaneously stopped working out when the sun suddenly appeared, and we left in my tiny yoga shorts to go for ice cream.
3. Self-care evolves.
Taking care of my body, as it ages, becomes much more than drinking Diet Coke, and calories, and workouts I don't like.
My body now requires regular sleep. I can't get away anymore with staying up past midnight, since I have two kids who will still be up by 6 a.m. I don't even drink soda anymore. I haven't counted calories in a decade.
Because now I focus on eating foods that make me feel fueled, and energized for my day. I exercise nearly every day, but I like it. I stopped moving for the sake of burning off last night's wine, and I started doing things I enjoy. Yoga, lifting weights, taking my kids on walks--these are all things I look forward to doing.
I think a big part of this is that life becomes hard enough. Life is beautiful, don't get me wrong, but adulting isn't always easy, so the unnecessary battles have fallen away. The funny thing I've noticed, too, is that when I stop fighting myself, I make space to be my own friend.
4. My opinion matters.
Women, especially, aren't always taught that our opinions matter. We are too easily told that we are too loud, or too this or too that. It wasn't until I accepted that, yes, I might be loud, but there is no "too" -- there's just me -- that I stopped judging myself when I don't need to.
I value self-growth, and I value considering that others' opinions of us might offer glimmers of wisdom that could be beneficial if we can drop being defensive, but there comes a point when our opinion of ourselves has to be the only truth.
5. I know myself.
I know myself, after living with myself for so long. Life experience offers self-awareness, and this awareness is the key, ultimately, to this comfort I longed for, for so many years.
All of the self-exploration I've done was beneficial, but so was learning to see worth in where I am right now; in who I am right now. It's okay to have goals and expectations, but as I grow older, I see how so many of the things I wanted when I was younger are already here in my life.
Life goes quickly. And as I buckled my kids into my car, and turned on the radio and asked them if they wanted to go get ice cream, I looked down at my yoga shorts and saw a little spider vein on my thigh.
I understood it's not that I'm 36 and think my body is perfect, it's that I know how imperfect I am, and I love myself for it.