Turning 30 and looking better than ever

Turning 30 is a little bit like crossing a threshold. No longer are you flying by the seat of your pants, trying to figure what’s right for you in the moment, falling flat on your face, dusting yourself off and continuing on–you just don’t do that anymore. You are learning from your mistakes and settling into yourself.

For Samantha, a single musician living in Los Angeles, leaving her 20s brings on nothing but positive emotions, “I feel so hopeful for what’s in front of me versus what was behind me.”

Samantha looks younger and happier at 30 then when she was in her 20s. As she becomes more grounded and secure in herself, the more it blooms and lights up her face. “Being a woman, like a fine wine, gets better with age, but you need to take care of yourself,” says Samantha. “You want to preserve that for as long as possible, so I have some tricks that I do with beauty stuff and lotions are very important… treat your body like a temple, treat your body as you would anything else that you love and cherish, because this is what your going to live with the rest of your life.”

“I used to not even think twice about what I look like on stage and I had this long crazy hair and I didn’t care what I was wearing and I just did it,” says Samantha. “But I realized that if I feel like I look really good and I’m put together–it’s kind of a good meditation to put my makeup on, put my lotion on and my clothes–that helps me kind of get in synch with my performance.”

Here are a few pieces of advice to help you age with grace:

  • Take care of your body and accept your limits

“Your body is your temple and you need to take care of it regardless of how invincible you think you are–I think I’m the most invincible person in the world, I can go on three hours of sleep and get on the airplane and get off and play a concert and go to bed in a hotel and wake up the next morning and be fine. But the reality of it is that my voice is going to get tired. I’m going be a little bit fatigued and that kind of shows, especially as a performer. I’m kinda glad that I have to put myself to bed every night by 11 o clock every night and drink tons and tons of water because it makes me feel better in the morning. I can get up and go on a run easier and that type of stuff.”

  • Take every opportunity

“It’s so easy to put limitations and boundaries on what you’re trying to create, but now that I am 30, life explodes into a million different opportunities and I never looked at life like that before. I thought life had to be this one straight shot, north and south, but I didn’t realize I can also be an artist, I can paint, I can direct movies, I can start a non-profit business, we can do anything we want, really, if you can just let yourself. That’s a beautiful thing.”

  • Have a positive attitude

“Being very enthusiastic and being optimistic and positive have always worked, they never fail. And that has carried me through some tough times, if things aren’t really going your way or something happens with your career or your relationship or you want to make a move in your life, you maybe want to try living in a different city or just make a change, enthusiasm will always get you through the day. It’s infectious, other people around you feel it and that helps you out.”

  • Take ownership of yourself

“I feel like I can accomplish so many more things in my day and I’m so much more fulfilled because I know, I’m trusting that even if there’s a couple mistakes thrown in there, I’m still correcting and adjusting them. I’m never going to be perfect, but I am going to lead a much more well-rounded life and my decisions in general are going to be a lot better.”

  • Celebrate your body

“I never allowed myself to feel like I was super hot and sexy before and I know I can do it. I never, ever allowed to be who I am and now I really take ownership of that sexuality and sensuality as a woman. Knowing that I am beautiful on the inside and the outside and allowing myself to feel that way and celebrate that. I think a lot of women don’t do that, especially in this culture and I think they should because it just makes everybody else so happy.”

“With the knowledge that I’ve gained in my 20s with living life and pursuing my dreams and just being a woman, really being a woman in an American society–experiencing the things that everyone experiences, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and a lot of wisdom,” says Samantha. “I can gracefully enter my 30s with a sense of vitality and inspiration and hopefulness.”

What’s the big fat deal?

We’ve all been there. You and your girlfriends are out together and the self deprecation Olympics commence.

“Oh my god, I hate my thighs!”

“Your thighs? Oh my god, you don’t even know! I hate my, arms.”

When a friend of yours expresses insecurity, you want to reassure them they are not alone. And in the words of the great Kurt Vonnegut, “So it goes.” The out self-loathing each other becomes a form of female bonding.

Do you ever stop to think that maybe that is not the right conversation to be having? Sure you do. But do you ever seek a way out? And if you do, do you turn to a been-there, done-that body image blogger revered the web over named Mo Pie?

Monique “Mo Pie” van den Berg founded one of the first size acceptance blogs, Big Fat Deal, and has become an internet celebrity and spokeswoman for the health-not-size movement. But back in 2002 when she started BFD, she never saw it coming.

“I’ve met and spoken with people from all over the world who read my various online projects,” she said. “I guess I was used to the idea that if I wrote something, people might be interested in reading it—sort of ‘if you blog it, they will come.’ I naively didn’t think my message was all that controversial or arguable. But of course, it turns out, it is—which makes it all the more important.”

Mo Pie has been shifting women’s thoughts of “There’s something wrong with me” to “There’s something wrong with me feeling that way” by sharing her own experiences with body image.

“I didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘today I’ll go to the gym, go out shopping, have dinner with friends, reclaim the word fat, and then take a bubble bath,’” Monique said. “I used to be hurt by the word fat—it could make me cry, and did, on multiple occasions—but somehow, over time, it became much less painful and much more of a direct descriptor, even a friendly word. A friend and I started referring to ourselves and each other as ‘fat chicks,’ and it felt empowering and defiant. Then I started seeing it online more and more and thinking—well, I am fat, inasmuch as I’m not thin. And if I keep using this word and diffusing its power to wound me, maybe I’ll never have to cry about it again. And I never have.”

Setting out to reclaim toxic words and daring the public to reevaluate its current value system is a risky and courageous move—especially when you live in a culture replete and overwrought with prejudice against the very thing you are fighting for.

Monique’s willingness to channel her 14-year-old self and publicly embrace it has inspired others to reach out and do the same. One of the most talked about topics on BFD came after she received an email from a teenage girl who was asking for advice on how she could stop hating herself.

“The fact that she was even self-aware enough to write the email and find the blog is awesome and pretty inspiring,” Monique said. “Then people just came out of the woodwork with letters to this 14-year-old girl and what they wished they would have known when they were 14. It was amazing, and it made me think it was worth it to have kept the blog all of these years, just for that one 14 year old girl. To come and to have people tell her that she was beautiful and that she didn’t need to look at herself that way and give her great advice… hopefully just the fact that she is self aware enough to come and ask the question in the first place means good things for her.”

That self-loathing starts at such a young age is something we as adult women need to evaluate – both for our 14-year-old selves and for the girls in our lives. Who is benefiting from this vicious circle of self-criticism and self-doubt? And who or what is perpetuating it? And why?

“The more each of us can break free from the spiral of self-doubt, the more powerful we, as women, become,” Monique said.

Since it’s easier said than done, Monique has some tips for building self esteem in women, those just being introduced to self doubt and those who’ve lived with it for way too long.

1. Don’t tie your ideas of self worth to your body size.

2. Understand that you are not the only person who is insecure. Everybody’s insecure.

3. Learn to think critically about the messages that you’re getting from the society around you.

4. Go out, use your body, and make it a friend. You can do anything no matter what your size is.

5. Don’t let yourself be self conscious to the point that it stops you from being brave and having fun.

“People always want to be the best at something and feel like, ‘oh I’m fat’ or ‘I’m too slow’ or ‘I can’t run around the bases as fast as everyone else,’” Monique said. “So what if you’re the slowest person on your lacrosse team? Go, have fun, play lacrosse!”

Monique’s blog Big Fat Deal has been featured on The Mike and Juliet Show and CBS News Healthwatch, as well as in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, ABC.com, BUST Magazine, Women’s Health magazine, and Munich’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The blog was also an editor’s pick on BUST’s “Girl Wide Web” and listed as one of Oxygen Network’s “Sites We Love.”

MORE TIPS & TOOLS


How do I love myself?

Read the first and second letter from the 14-year-old

10 Ways to be a body positivity advocate
Never apologize for being yourself.

The F Word
An eating disorders awareness and education site that also discusses related issues of weight-based discrimination and body size acceptance.

Dearest Mabel
A very inspiring and witty group of lady bloggers (one of which is Monique).

Good Grief… the right way to let go of a loved one

Allison came home from school one day to find she was locked out of the house. Her father’s car was gone and nobody was there to let her in. When her mom came home, they walked into the house to find her father shot to death, lying on the living room floor.

Within hours Allison’s brother retaliated by murdering the two men who had killed her father and was arrested.

“At first I didn’t realize the magnitude of the situation,” she said. “I didn’t realize he was dead or who had committed the murder or anything like that. Then the more the pieces fell into place about the murder the more I fell out of place.”

The death of her father was just the beginning. In the next four years, her brother would die in prison and her boyfriend would die in a car accident. While she was with him.

Makes you feel like your problems are silly, doesn’t it?

To sit in a room with Allison, you’d never guess that she’d have so many legitimate excuses for being woefully depressed. You couldn’t begin to wrap your mind around the amount of death that has touched her heart in just 23 years on this planet. You would actually think, wow, what a nice, cheerful woman.

That’s because Allison radiates positivity.

“At some point, you can either choose to say, ‘Life sucks’ or ‘I’m cursed’ or you can say, ‘These are the cards I was dealt and I can decided to be happy or sad,'” Allison said with a smile. “I decided to be happy. I decided to put in positive energy instead of negative.”

Coping with death is never easy, but Allison’s been through it enough to find a formula that works for her. Call it a recipe for good grief, a process that gets you through the darkest moments life puts in your lap until you are able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Keep yourself busy.

When Allison’s dad died, she turned to art as her therapy. She learned to throw pottery and for hours after school she would be in the art room throwing and creating, “I tried to keep my mind off of his death and concentrate on something else.”

Try to maintain some normalcy.

“As hard as it was to get up and bathe every day, eat and talk to people, I continued to maintain a routine of going to work and hanging out with my friends in order to feel normal,” Allison said.

Let yourself grieve.

The magnitude of the grief Allison felt was different for each of the men she lost in her life. She wasn’t able to focus on school and could barely pull herself out of bed. Those first few days were crippling, but then she got busy and grew into her grief.

“By all means, you’ve got to sit with it and deal with it, but only when you’re ready,” she said. “Otherwise, you’ll fall apart, you’ll break apart.”

Focus on the positive.

“Find the best in it, and learn from it,” said Allison.

The passing of her dad made the relationship with her mom better. It also made her realize just how strong she was and that she had the capability to do anything she wanted to do.

At first glance it doesn’t seem like anything good can come out of having your father murdered, but Allison looked for the positive and was grateful for the relationships that came out of his death.

“My father was from Germany and after his death, I went to visit family that still lived there,” she said. “I was also able to get to know a brother I hadn’t met before, a son from my dad’s first marriage, and none of that would have happened if he hadn’t died.”

The way Allison sees it is, “I can take what has happened in the tragedy and I can either be pitiful and be pitied or I can have faith in myself and in the universe and in God, which is what I have tried to do.”

She tells herself that the universe will only deal her as much as she can handle.

“Every day you have to find the sunshine,” said Allison. “Negative feelings come much easier than the positive, but I don’t make them a habit. I work hard to look for the positive because the negative unfortunately creates itself. Every day you have to find the sunshine and the smile. You have to create it.”

If you’re struggling with grief, think about joining a support group, either online or in your community. GriefNet is a web-based network of support groups to help people with all sorts of loss.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Support System
GriefNet offers simple access to over 50 e-mail support groups to aid people dealing with many different types of loss.

A Shoulder to Lean On
Psychologist and grief expert Alexandra Kennedy helps people cope with the loss of a loved one with her books, tapes and seminars.

Trigger Happy
The Mayo Clinic’s resource/informational sheet about what triggers grief and the best way to face those triggers.

Young and Restless
As bewildering as death is for adults, it’s even worse for children and teens, whose life concepts aren’t as secure. Learn how to help the young grieve and cope with loss at DirectGov.