As I move headlong into middle age, there are so many ways I have matured. I was a mess in my 20s, admittedly. I was insecure, scattered, and unsure of myself. And when I coach younger clients, I tend to tell them the things I wish someone would have sat down and told me at their age. Things like: I did not deserve to be treated badly. Or that I could not make people like me. Or that there was no rush to have my life planned out. So here are the some of the things I have learned that would have been useful for me to know about 25 years ago.
1) Worrying about what other people think of you is a waste of your time. Focus on how you feel about yourself. You are not a mind reader, so you have no clue what others are thinking. And you are not master of the universe, so you cannot control how other people respond to you. The point is to stay true to yourself and what you believe and to act with honesty and integrity.
2) Don't let other people treat you unkindly or disrespect you. You NEVER deserve to be physically or verbally abused, manipulated, disparaged, shamed, used, etc. You are ALWAYS too good for that. Have respect for yourself. You deserve better and there are no excuses or rationalizations that make these things OK.
3) Learn to like yourself and forgive yourself for all the really stupid things you are going to do. There is no way to really learn and grow if you don't make mistakes. We all do. So instead of beating yourself up about those, figure out how to maybe not do it again. And also how to like yourself, flaws and all. You should be able to look in the mirror at your outward self and think about your inward self and in general get to a place where you are OK with you. That means you have to forgive yourself, be good to yourself and hell just cut yourself some slack.
4) People and situations will come and go. The important question is, "What did I learn here?" You will cycle through friends, relationships, jobs, etc. When they end you are not a failure, you are just moving on to better things. In that process of people leaving and things changing the key is to think about what you learned and how you grew in that relationship or job. And also what do you need to work on to improve yourself.
5) Be patient, you have time. There is no rush to figure out what you are going to do in your career, when you will get married, or when you will have kids, etc. Rushing through life means that you are poised to make some decisions based on a timeline and not on what is best for you. And rushing means you are not being in the moment and appreciating what you have right now. The goal is to let life unfold.
6) Let the small things roll off your back and choose your words and battles carefully. If you focus on everything that could potentially piss you off, you will remain so most of the time. You have to develop patience and the ability to just say nothing. You cannot take back words, especially if they are hurtful. So don't say things in anger or in spite. And you can't fight every battle; you don't really have the time or energy. So choose carefully and fight for only what is the most important to you. Try and be calm and centered and let things roll off your back. Don't waste time being angry about the little things. You can be assertive when you need to be. But don't get into yelling matches with, let's just say, a clerk at a fast food restaurant who gave you the wrong change.
7) Stop giving all the time so that people will like you. First, it does not work and second, you will burn out. There are people who are givers and those that are takers. You have to balance the giving of yourself with the taking or receiving for yourself. Don't give and give thinking you will get things back or that people will think you are awesome. Give from your heart just to give, and don't waste energy on giving all the time to those who just take. There are things you must do and people with whom you have to deal that are tedious, but you can limit those. Be selective about where you put your time and energy and don't try to do everything well or be all things to all people.
8) It's OK if you don't have the perfect family. A perfect, happy, everyone is so well adjusted family is a rare thing. So embrace your family for who they are. You can't make them act the way you want them to or be something they are not. You don't necessarily have to like the people in your family. But you do have to love them. And remember that in the end those are the people that love you unconditionally.
9) Playing it safe is not the best strategy. There is a saying that with great risk comes great reward. It is the taking of risks that leads you to push outside your comfort zone into a realm of new possibilities. It opens you up to more things. Not feeling comfortable is a good thing because it means you are changing and growing.
10) Discover what makes you feel joy and find humor in everything. It is important to do things or be with people that make you happy. You will find it is almost necessary to be able to enjoy your time alone. Cherish having time for quiet and relaxation and just doing couch potato sessions. Part of finding your happy is seeing the humor in all around you-people, places, situations. So many things are just plain funny. If you stay out of your head and are present in things you become more of an observer. When you are an observer there are many things to find the humor in.
11) You CAN age gracefully. Just because you are getting older does not mean you can't be in the best shape of your life, both physically and mentally. If you maintain a healthy life of clean eating, exercise and stress reduction you can remain strong, fit and sexy. I am in better shape now than I was in my 20's and I feel more beautiful than I ever have. Things don't have to bag, sag or expand if you work on yourself. Yes, your body and face will change. But those changes can just make you more attractive. And really it is confidence, happiness and positive energy that attracts people to us.
12) Let go of the past and learn to forgive others. It is important to let go of the past and to focus on what is ahead of you. You can't drive a car only looking in the rear view mirror. Don't replay things in your head or obsess about what you should have done or said. The past is the past and your job is to learn from past experiences, not dwell on them. Know that you have the power to create the future you want and at the same time recognize that you never really have control over what happens in your life. Letting go also means letting go of anger and resentment. Holding this just kills your soul.
13) You can't do it all on your own. Individualism and competitiveness is draining and not a good long term strategy. In life you need a support system and a sense of belonging. Place less importance on being independent and realize the need for being part of a group and being connected to others. Know that you can't do it all on your own and that relying on others is not a weakness, but a strength.
14) Life is not fair and the world does not owe you anything. We have all heard this and will all experience it. But in my 20s I did not fully realize that even though I considered myself a good person, bad things would happen to me. And even if I worked hard, things would not be handed to me. It is wiser to not have expectations. Try to move through life with a sense of awe and "I wonder what will happen next" attitude. Be prepared for a thrill ride of the unexpected, unanticipated but always kind of interesting ride that will be your life.