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Today is my 32nd birthday. Every year, for my b-day, I’ve been republishing a version of the below post. It’s become sort of a tradition around here.

In it, I share what I’ve learned about body image, well-being and life in my years on this earth thus far. Why 35? Extra lessons for good measure and good luck!

1. Be you.

In all your amazing and unique glory. Trying to be like others or pretending you like something you actually don’t doesn’t work. Trust me, I’ve tried. It feels awkward and itchy. And then there’s the matter of life being too short.

Find out who you are. Explore your likes and dislikes. Explore what makes you happy. Explore what feeds you, what gets you up in the early hours of the day. Spend time by yourself. Take yourself out on dates.

2. Eat what your heart, mind and body desire.

As Anna says, use “the feel good rule.” Figure out what nourishes and energizes you.

3. Do what makes you feel comfortable.

Check in with yourself first, instead of focusing on what others say — unless, of course, you’re entrenched in self-destructive behavior. Then please seek and ask for support.

4. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Avoid comparing yourself on anything and everything — whether it’s looks, academics, accomplishments, how clean and pristine their house is, how happy their marriage is and what an amazing blogger they are.

I struggle with this. Regularly. Exploring your comparison-making can help. Mara has written a great piece on this topic.

5. Learn to become more decisive.

Tune in to yourself. Even if it concerns something seemingly small, like what you want to eat for dinner. For instance, I can take 10 minutes to read a menu and then another 5 to ask the server about how they like the food and whether I can make a few substitutions.

Deep down, you do know what you want. You just might be used to a) letting others take the reins b) silencing yourself or c) feeling afraid to voice your opinion. Take the time to figure out what you want.

6. Being in nature is truly soothing.

It reminds you of the magic of life. Especially if you’re having a bad day, get outside and marvel at the trees, flowers, sun, moon and the rainbow colors of the sky. Seek out natural surroundings more often. Breathe in the beauty that’s there every single day.

7. It’s fine to eat chocolate every day.

Doing so doesn’t make you a bad person, a diet failure, a glutton or a person doomed to an unhealthy and horrible life.

8. Build a relationship with yourself.

A kind and compassionate relationship. It’s your foundation for everything. Everything. Ask yourself regularly: Would I say, suggest or do that to my best friend?

9. Journaling is a powerful way to get to know yourself.

It’s powerful, even if you only jot down some thoughts every day or once a week. A year ago, I took Susannah’s journaling class, and loved it.

10. Self-care is not selfish or time-consuming or a luxury or even optional.

Self-care is vital. It’s key to our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. You can help others sooo much more effectively and compassionately once you’ve helped yourself.

11. Don’t wait to do anything you want to do until you lose weight.

Do. It. Now. Why wait?

12. Celebrate yourself and your loved ones – often!

Acknowledge your accomplishments. Acknowledge yourself for simply being you, for simply being here. Tell your loved ones you love them regularly.

13. Discover, or re-discover movement. 

I used to hate exercise. Hate it. I also had all these stories about how I wasn’t an athlete, and how much I sucked at anything physical. I associated movement and exercise with weight loss, thinking that people work out to “stay in shape.” No wonder I didn’t want to do it.

Revise how you see moving your body. Relinquish the shoulds and shaming suggestions. Do it on your terms. Find the joy in movement. Discover what makes you and your body happy. Maybe that’s hiking or hula-hooping. Maybe it’s swimming, strength training or yoga.

14. Write for yourself, and tell the truth.

Every day. Some days, this means getting in touch with unpleasant feelings. Other days, it means simply writing the truest sentence you know. This is a beautiful and important way to build a relationship with yourself.

15. Sleep is not over-rated.

16. But perfection is.

Learn to be OK in the mess. Learn to make art with that mess.

17. A diet is not a magical elixir that leads to everything you want.

Usually, it just blurs your wants and needs and makes you hungry and miserable.

18. Success can look easy from the outside.

But it takes a lot of work, sweat, tears, late nights and early mornings. And the road is sometimes paved with nails.

19. Speaking of success, don’t let anyone define what success is for you.

Our society creates all kinds of definitions: what beauty looks like, what success looks like. And usually they’re very narrow. Which means that chasing these definitions leaves you feeling miserable and unfulfilled. Remember you’re the only who has to live your life, day in and day out. Define what success means for you.

20. Take the time to express yourself creatively, whatever that might be.

Creativity opens up opportunities and new worlds. It’s another avenue for building a relationship with ourselves.

21. Attend to your hungers every day.

Like Rachel always says, what are you hungry for? (Another lesson is to read Rachel’s work, which is filled with powerful wisdom.)

22. It’s perfectly OK to spend hours on Pinterest. Hehe.

23. It’s also perfectly OK and good and great to feel pleasure.

24. Live life with your own voice.

25. Don’t waste time on bashing your body with your friends. 

Instead, host events that empower you. Talk about your struggles and your dreams. But avoid commiserating around your not good enough waist or thighs or the calorie count in those cupcakes.

26. Even when we’re not ready to accept ourselves entirely, we can own a small part.

What small part will you own today?

27. While it’s so hard, don’t let how you feel about your body, stop you from savoring life and doing things that bring you joy.

If you’re in this space, keep working. Keep working on accepting your body or fake it ’til you make it (which is totally OK). Again, we’re all keenly aware that life is way too short.

28. It’s OK to invest in your well-being, whether that’s an e-course, exercise class, a new notebook, new outfit, a novel.

I love Alex’s words from Julie’s e-book Build Your Biz and Blog with Love

“I ‘invest’ in myself and my business whenever I do, buy, learn or even think something that makes me feel stronger, more capable and more creatively potent…Whether I’m working or playing (or somewhere in between) I want to feel electric, sought-after, affluent, sensual and free. Any investment — of cash, time or energy — that helps me feel the way I want to feel is a good one.”

29. None of us, ever, needs to apologize for his or her body. Ever.

You have all the permission in the world to wear what you want to wear, to do what you want to do, to go where you want to go, and to love yourself at any and every shape, size and weight.

30. Figure out what your passion is and enjoy it. 

The older I get, the more I realize the importance of filling your days with things that you’re passionate about, whether that’s your day job or a hobby you work on for a few minutes a day. There are so many amazing things out there that can put a smile on your face. How fun and interesting to figure out what they are and then enjoy them.

31. Aging — the sagging skin, lines on your face — means you’re still here.

Aging is complicated. I know that many of us may look in the mirror and be surprised at the reflection staring back. I also know that I might seem too young to speak about aging. But as I wrote in this post, which was inspired by Jen’s beautiful piece, aging means we’re still here: We’re still here to hug our loved ones, to feel the warmth of the sun, to live out our passions, to laugh, to sing in the shower, to explore new adventures.

I wouldn’t trade all the lessons I’ve learned for fewer wrinkles (at least not yet). 🙂

32. Be patient with yourself.

Practice self-compassion. This can be hard, especially when you make a mistake. But take it one step at a time. One tiny kind gesture at a time. The more you practice, the more natural it’ll become.

33. Take breaks from taking life so seriously.

Make time to play. Laugh hysterically. Dance. Show off your silly moves. Embrace them.

34. Be open. Be curious.

I love this quote from French artist Henri Matisse:

“We ought to view ourselves with the same curiosity and openness with which we study a tree, the sky or a thought, because we too are linked to the entire universe.”

Curiosity is a great alternative to judgment and criticism. When we’re upset, we can get curious and explore why. When we make a mistake, we can get curious about what led to it and how we might prevent it in the future.

When we get curious, we don’t debate our loved ones or jump to erroneous conclusions, we listen and ask what’s really going on with them. We listen to ourselves and ask what’s really going on with us.

We also can get curious about the foods we like, focusing on their tastes and textures. We can get curious about different movements and hobbies to see what we ultimately actually like. We can experiment. We can play.

35. Almost everything is a skill.

At any time, at any age, we can learn to be kinder to ourselves. We can learn to say no to people, activities and commitments that don’t nourish us. We can learn to cope well when times get tough. We can learn to navigate negative thoughts. We can learn to ask for what we need.

And ultimately, we don’t have to stay stuck. By seeking out helpful resources — books, websites, therapy, support groups, e-courses — we can shift. We can build healthier relationships with ourselves, with others.

Often these important insights are within us. The resources simply act as a compass, a GPS to help us get to the goldmine.

What things do you know to be true about body image or life? What lessons have you learned? What did you think was true years ago but turned out to be anything but?