Appreciating and accepting your body can take a whole lifetime—there may be some moments when you have so much self-confidence and other times when you just feel so low. The ups and downs are normal, but I think we can all agree that experience and time can help you gain more wisdom and perspective.
And speaking of time, I've heard that one of the best things about getting older is that you start to care less about what people think. As someone who overthinks everything (especially what other people think of me), I am looking forward to that day. But I will say that I turned 30 this year, and I have never felt more confident about myself and my body, or empowered to make my own decisions, so maybe I'm closer than I think.
To see if my theory that growing older and wiser gives you a better perspective about your body rings true with others, I asked fitness and wellness experts what they wish they could tell their younger selves about body image and acceptance. Whether they're getting their own selves in shape, or helping their clients gain confidence, their life's work revolves around the human body—how it works, what it's capable of, and how it can change over time—so I knew they'd have interesting and thought-provoking takes on this topic.
Take a look at what they had to say below, and use their advice and words of wisdom in your life. As for me, I'd tell teenage me (and present-day me, to be honest) that as much as I stress about my looks sometimes, it shouldn't matter as much, because I really should be grateful that my body is strong and able. I'm able to do so much because of it—have a rewarding career, spend time with loved ones, and just experience all that life has to offer.
Before my journalism, media, and publishing career, I paid my way through college and culinary school by modeling all over the world—tiny bikinis and skin-tight jeans—and I never felt sexy. Every inch of my body was measured on a regular basis, in the name of fashion. Modeling and my bod paid my bills and education; it was all a delicate balance.
I didn't appreciate my gorgeous figure until the curves came into my 30s, it was an adjustment. It took me years to fully accept and love myself, flawed and all. My curves turned all the heads and got me all the dates, but to be quite frank, my brain and ability to write (and pen six books), shoot a camera, cook well, and launch a podcast—all of those skills, hard work, and grit are what got me to where I am now. My body is just a vehicle I cherish and take care of now, to nourish, to love, and to grow.
My very best advice to that skinny, insecure, totally broke, breakout-prone skin and struggling Candice (which I still see glimpses of today) is don't forget to love yourself as much as you love everyone else. Choose you, choose to love your body on your worst bloated and fatigued days, and on the days you don't want to get out of bed or work out. Make more moves to love yourself. How? By eating better, fresh foods; cooking for yourself; telling other women how amazing they are; clocking more real sleep; working out; meditating; reading more books; spending more time in nature and with others who make you feel good. Be good to your body, love her, and remember "wabi-sabi," which means all is perfectly imperfect.
The way you look isn't nearly as important as you think it is. Nobody is paying attention to your image as closely as you are, so trust, the sooner you feel comfortable in your skin and confident in your appearance, the better life can be. Strive to be healthy and strong while loving your body for all it is capable of.
Lauren Kleban is a celebrity trainer and founder of LEKFIT, a musically driven, dance-based, full-body workout, with studio classes in Los Angeles and online.
"If I could talk to my younger self about body image/body acceptance, I would tell her to STOP THINKING ABOUT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK. Just stop. Pump the brakes. And I would tell her that I know what I'm saying probably sounds like terrible advice, mostly because it's really hard to stop thinking about what other people think, but I would remind her that the right road is frequently the hard road. Just because something is hard doesn't mean it's not worth trying. And that this particular road is really all about simply trying—because sometimes it will be impossible to stop thinking about what other people think. And that's okay, too. But it's worth it to try anyway. Because the key to body liberation is to stop believing that anyone other than you holds ownership of your body."
Jessamyn Stanley is a yoga teacher, body positive advocate, and author of Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear, Get On the Mat, Love Your Body.
We should be really thankful that we have bodies that work and we should use them! Some people would kill to walk or do even the simplest of things that we do without even thinking. So a workout isn't a chore. It's a privilege. Never forget that and never take it for granted.
Erin Oprea is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, celebrity trainer, and author of The 4 x 4 Diet: 4 Key Foods, 4-Minute Workouts, Four Weeks to the Body You Want.
Your body is listening to you and what you repeat, you strengthen. So if that inner dialogue is unkind, that will be what you hear the loudest.
Taryn Toomey is CEO and founder of The Class By Taryn Toomey, a workout that is for both the mind and body and focuses on simple, repetitive calisthenics and plyometrics, with classes in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, the Hamptons, and Vancouver.
Dear younger self,
You are bigger than a smaller pair of pants. In life there will be many milestones, but these milestones are not marked by a number on a scale, and your success and worth in the world are not predicated on the size of your thighs.
Make your milestones be marked by the moments when you speak your truth, when you write your book, when you take that risk and do that thing that you didn't think you could do. Your body was built for something. Your particular and individual length of limb and density of muscle are designed to do something. Don't fight your body. Embrace your build and thrive into its potential.
Make these things your milestones, and your pants will fall into place. Focus on the weight of your words and the impact of your actions. Here you will find the true mass of your matter, your true weight in the world.
With all my love, dear girl,
Your older self at 48"
I would tell my younger self to love and appreciate the body that you have at each moment. As a woman, it continually changes, and it's important to love it unconditionally throughout.
This article originally appeared on The Thirty
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