10 Ways You Are (Unknowingly) Sabotaging Your 20s

1. You don’t take your 20s seriously in an effort to ‘make the most’ of them.

Despite the overwhelmingly popular notion that your 20s should be a throwaway period, statistically and biologically, they are the single most defining decade of your life. People are more commonly postponing marriage and major career moves until their 30s and beyond not to take a period of developmental downtime in their 20s, but to prepare, to lay the foundation on which everything else can build.

According to psychologist Meg Jay, 80% of life’s most defining moments happen by age 35. The first 10 years of your career have an exponential impact on the money you’re going to earn; more than half of Americans are married, living with or dating the person they will marry by 30; the brain caps off its second and last growth spurt in your 20s as it rewires for adulthood (so whatever you want to change about yourself, now is the time to change it.)

2. You believe that accepting who you are means you’re giving up on being better.

You fuel your self-growth with self-hatred – so your goals remain unachieved (as there will always be more fault to find) and in the meantime, you condition yourself to believe that however you currently are is not good enough.

We don’t know who we are (because we always want to be open to being more) so we end up feeling lost and unsure, directionless and moldable (traits that negatively define the decade for many people.)

3. You’re waiting to be happy, and worse, you justify this with shoddy logic.

You don’t make enough money. You don’t have the love of your life. You don’t have what you want, so you shouldn’t be happy. It makes sense to be unhappy, right?

The reality is that you either enjoy your day-to-day, moment-to-moment life for what it is – whatever it is – or you never really will.

If you just see what’s missing in your life, nothing is going to stop you from continuing to seek (and find) what’s missing, and therefore give you another excuse to not let yourself feel joy in the moment.

The end goal is, and only ever has been, being okay with whatever we have right now (and to realize that acceptance and cultivation of contentment brings us more and more of it.)

4. You avoid love because you’re ‘afraid’ of it, when really, you’re just afraid of all junk that gets in the way.

You believe that by shielding yourself from the pain, you’ll be purifying the experience. You’ll be making the joy greater by inhibiting the risk.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way. You cannot selectively numb your life, nor your feelings. If you are closed to one aspect of love… you are closed to it all.

(So it comes down to whether or not you value having it and potentially suffering from it over never having it at all.)

5. Your inner narrative is heavily (if not entirely) filtered through ‘what other people will think,’ and because you’ve placed yourself under this imaginary spotlight, you’re afraid to really be yourself, despite the fact that the people who you think will judge you… are really your own voices externalized.

The next time you want to really understand what you think and feel about yourself, listen to what you assume other people think – the good and the bad.

As quick as ‘people’ are to judge you is how you are judging yourself. What you believe you must do to make people love and accept you is how you are trying to carve a path to be loving and accepting of yourself, etc.

6. You carry on with the aforementioned negative self-talk because you think it shields you and prepares you for other people being negative to and about you.

You justify this behavior by telling yourself it’s reality – that you will soften the blow if you’ve already told yourself the worst. That nobody can be meaner if you’re your own worst critic.

That you’re being grounded and humble by hating yourself… when you are simply standing in your own way. It is your own insecurity and doubt that creates the reality you perceive, so yeah, it may be reality – but it’s one you can change.

7. You assume you cannot choose what you think about.

While it’s true that thoughts and feelings can crop up unprompted, and it may be hard to ‘fight them off,’ (because they are not meant to be fought, rather acknowledged) our concept of what it means to be in charge of our own mindsets is totally off-kilter, and revolves more around us not being in control than not.

You create your mindset, and your mindset gauges value and meaning, and your gauge of value and meaning leads to what you think, see, feel and believe. You are only as out of control as you are lost in the narrative that someone else has fed to you.

8. You never learned that focusing on what you love about yourself gets you who and what is most essentially ‘right’ for you, as opposed to what you were taught to be generally appealing, sexy and successful.

You’re trying to find love by making yourself what you were taught ‘men or women like,’ as opposed to figuring out what you love about yourself and then attracting someone who feels the same.

So you attract someone who is attracted to the shell of you… and wonder why it doesn’t work out.

You spend your life working toward career/monetary goals that someone else told you would give you success (so, happiness) and you arrive only to find that they’re empty and meaningless.

You spend all of your time creating a life that is not your own… and wonder why it doesn’t feel right, and you don’t feel fulfilled.

9. You put yourself in competition with those close to you, mostly because the more you can convince yourself you’ve “won” over someone, the more you can convince yourself you’re ‘okay’ by comparison.

“Well, I have it more together than so-and-so; it’s really not that bad” is usually what follows up a statement about why it is that bad, and why you need to change something.

This does nothing but placate your own bad habits. It puts other people down and it puts you down at the same time. No one person, path or experience is more valuable than another, and if it is, who are you to say so?

But you will feel you have to compete and go through hoops to ‘win’ next to others when your life/experience isn’t self-validating. You aren’t really in flow, or joy, or alignment with your highest self. Every time you want to make something ‘okay’ by comparison… ask yourself why it’s not okay in the first place.

10. You are glorifying suffering, and inducing it, because you think it gives you purpose and meaning.

This one is huge.

There’s a saying, that you cannot choose whether or not you feel pain, but you can choose whether or not you suffer – and this is absolutely true.

So many of our issues are instantly solvable (or not really problems at all) and we are totally conscious of this! And yet we carry on with the incessant complaining, negativity, etc.

Because it makes us feel important. We have a challenge to overcome – even if just in our own minds. We’re so influenced to acknowledge that suffering usually paves the way for peacefulness, that we forget suffering is the hard way there. It’s necessary when people aren’t open to choosing their own peace, but it is not the only or best way.

Your success story does not have to be backgrounded by intense, existential struggle. Your life does not become more meaningful just because you’re consistently feeding yourself reasons you could and should have failed. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

This post brought to you by HBO Girls. Don’t miss Season 4 – premieres Sunday, January 11 at 9PM EST, only on HBO!