They say youth is wasted on the young. In retrospect, most of my 20s were spent trying to figure out who I was.
I was still working through leftover insecurities from adolescence. I was trying to find what I was passionate about—deciding what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing. (No pressure, right?)
It wasn’t until my 30s that I really started to feel comfortable in my own skin and confident in my decisions.
If I ever get around to inventing a time machine, I’d like to go back and let myself in on a few things:
1. Give yourself permission to let go of toxic relationships. People grow. Priorities shift. Things change. Life happens. If you find yourself in any relationship that isn’t based on mutual love and respect, it’s OK to walk away. Run if you have to. Life is too short to spend it with people who make it harder.
2. Stop worrying so much about what you look like. The ideal female standard of beauty isn’t attainable for 99.9 percent of the population. Don’t worry so much about your weight, makeup, hair, shoes, clothes and jewelry. Real beauty is about confidence and kindness. So embrace your curves, be good to yourself, and shine on you crazy diamond.
3. Stop worrying so much about what other people think in general. Some people will like you and some people won’t, no matter what you do. Don’t waste your time trying to win anyone over. Instead, focus on the people who appreciate you, flaws and all. Those are the relationships that will stand the test of time.
4. You hold the power to your own happiness. Drama in your life? See No. 1. Too busy? Cut things out of your schedule. Still unhappy? Change your attitude, lower your expectations, and do your best to live with a grateful heart. (Side note: Ironically, you don’t have the power to make anyone else happy. Sorry about that. Bummer, I know.)
5. Travel early and travel often. Get out of your comfort zone; it’s good for you. Be curious about life. Take risks. Broaden your horizons. You will evolve as you learn more about the world. Do it while you’re young and childless—not to say if you have kids that you won’t travel, but it won’t be as fun and will be much more expensive.
6. Don’t act like you know everything. You might feel like you’re surrounded by stupid people. I’m not sure that ever goes away. But there will also be people who are more knowledgeable or experienced. Seek those people out. If you’re the smartest person in the room, find a different room. Oh, and stop calling yourself “old.” I know you don’t believe it anyway, and it just makes you sound like a jerk.
7. Forgiveness is your friend. Never be afraid to admit you’re wrong. Asking for forgiveness doesn’t make you weak; it makes you brave. Likewise, forgive others freely. It won’t make transgressions right, but it will help you let go of stress, anger and resentment. Forgiveness is the first step toward healing yourself.
8. Don’t say nasty things about people you love, even if you’re just trying to be funny or if you think it’s harmless venting. Mean words spread faster than wildfire, and they have the potential to be incredibly hurtful. Rise above it. Better yet, say kind things about everyone. You’d be surprised what crappy gossip that makes.
9. Don’t get married for the sake of getting married. You don’t need to marry someone just because you want to start a family before you hit the dreaded 3-0. Don’t feel pressured because you’ve been with someone for five years and that feels like the logical next step. You should only get married if you’re sure you’ve found your soul mate and you’re 100 percent positive you want to spend the rest of your life with them—and even then you don’t need to get married. Just sayin’.
10. Take care of yourself. Say no to people as much as you need to without feeling guilty about it. If you don’t put your needs first, who will? Also, be good to your body. Drink lots of water. Take naps. Maybe a multivitamin. Make time to relax: Meditation is good for you, even if it’s in pedicure form. Remember that time enjoyed is never wasted.
It’s funny to me how much I always dreaded being in my 30s. But now that I’m here, I’m happier than I’ve ever been.
So, 20-year-old self, rest assured you won’t expire at the end of the decade. Just be good to yourself and take it easy on our liver while you’re at it. Please and thanks.
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