Like many introspective Millennials do during a big milestone in their life, I used my quarter-century birthday as a hallmark for self-reflection. And with self-reflection comes a myriad of lessons learned that thankfully changed my life for the better. So with that, please enjoy the 10 most surprising of those lessons that I’ve learned in my first 25 years.
1. External things will never actually fix the problem you are having.
The job, the body, the relationship or friendship, the house, the city, the new purse, haircut, iPhone, etc. will not fix the stuck and unsettled feelings that keep coming up inside of you. If you want to fix these, you need to work on yourself internally. Grab a journal, sit alone, and spend some time figuring yourself out before you go climbing a mountain that isn’t meant for you.
2. If something feels wrong, it probably is.
Our intuition is our greatest superpower. If you learn to truly tap into it, not only will it prevent you from going astray, but it will give you the confidence and clarity you need to feel fulfilled even when things aren’t going as planned. So, if you detest your job, if you wake up feeling unmotivated and unenthusiastic every day and nothing seems exciting to you anymore, stop. Try to spend some time figuring out what’s going on, clear it out, and reconnect with yourself rather than with everyone else.
3. If you want to improve your mental health and everything else, take care of your physical health first.
When you treat your body well, you feel good. When you feel good, you take better care of yourself. You also make more empowering decisions, become clearer in what you want and what you are worth, and start feeling overall more confident in your life. The best thing you can possibly do if you are really feeling off is to commit to your physical health first and everything else will cascade from there.
4. Never underestimate the power of a friendship with someone who has totally different views than you.
My closest friends look at life in completely different ways than I do but are 100% respectful and understanding of the fact that we have different views. By surrounding yourself with open-minded people who can respectfully discuss heavy topics with the purpose of understanding rather than proving, and have those conversations foster trust rather than judgment, you all receive the opportunity to deepen your relationship and grow into a better version of yourself every day.
5. And when it comes to views, understand that yours aren’t ‘right.’ No one’s are.
Views are opinions, simple as that. Don’t use them to put yourself on a pedestal, raise your status, or compensate for your self-worth. And don’t let the people who go around touting their views influence how you feel or what you believe you are worth. Other people’s opinions should not be used to validate or dictate who you are or your value as a human.
6. Relationships are best if you wait for them.
Everyone has a different opinion on this. Some prefer to wait in hopes of finding ‘the one’, and others want to date for experience so that they can understand who they are and what they want in a relationship. I personally sit in the first camp. While dating many people isn’t a bad thing, dating before you are solid on your self-worth, what you deserve, and what your purpose and passion in life are is a recipe for disaster. Be clear and align with yourself before you commit to letting a relationship enter your life. The relationships that are built on the solid, independent foundations of two individuals who are so secure in who they are and what they want are not only more sustainable, but they don’t give you the emotional highs and lows or mess with your head in nearly the same way.
7. Your emotions are signs. Don’t fight them off, listen.
No one ever wants to feel sad, frustrated, overwhelmed, or confused. The thing is, we need those emotions. They are the signs that indicate what is going well and what we still need to change in our lives. If you don’t like a feeling and it keeps coming up, then stop and ask yourself where it came from, figure out what it means, and intentionally take a new action forward. This will save you so much pain in the long run.
8. We have so much more control of our reality than we give ourselves credit for.
We are the cause for everything that we have in our life. So if you don’t like it, then figure out a way to change it. There is always a way, the only thing that matters is how consistent you act and how determined you are to figure it out. If you’d rather make an excuse, don’t expect things to magically change any time soon.
9. We all have a numbing mechanism, sometimes more than one.
The earlier you learn yours, the better off you will be. Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, food, or simply ‘staying busy’, everyone has a way of trying to escape when everything feels off. This is what you use to avoid uncomfortable feelings and create momentary ‘okay-ness’ for yourself. The moment you realize this is the moment you earn the ticket to understanding yourself. Figure out when you aren’t okay and learn how to sit in it so that you can start to change it now.
10. Everything in life comes down to how much you believe you are worth.
Potentially the most powerful piece of advice I was given in my first 25 years was to start to focus more on my own self-worth issues. Everything we believe we are capable of, we believe we deserve, and we believe we can do comes down to how much we believe we are worth. This is the foundation of our life, and if we don’t start here and work on building it sustainably, everything we try to put on top of it is bound to topple at one point.