Thought Catalog

17 Expectations You Need To Let Go Of In Your 20s

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MagdalenaRikanovic
MagdalenaRikanovic

1. You’re meant to be extraordinary.

Extraordinary people are just that – rare. Recognizing this doesn’t mean you’re giving up on your potential, it means you’re dissolving the illusions you have about what it means to be your whole self and live your best life. We tout the “one in a billion” success story as though it’s the natural end goal of working hard and actualizing yourself. It’s not. The real question is what work are you willing to do even if nobody claps? What will be worthwhile if it goes unacknowledged? How will you feel loved by a few people if you aren’t recognized by many? Finding the exceptional in the ordinary is the real extraordinary. 

2. You’re at the beginning of your life. 

Some of you reading this will not make it through your 20s. Others won’t make it past midlife, or even past this year. Keep a skull on your desk if you must – nobody assumes they’ll die young, but that doesn’t mean they don’t.

3. Your faults are more forgivable, and your attributes are more exceptional.

Believing that you’re less responsible for your misgivings and that you’re more exceptionally skilled at your strengths is the mindset to which many people default, but it ultimately just keeps you small. If you don’t acknowledge the magnitude of the poor choices you’ve made, you’re bound to justify doing them again; if you live and act as though you can slide by because you’re ever so slightly better than everyone else, you’ll never actually try.

4. You can literally be whatever you want.

If you don’t have the IQ of a rocket scientist, you cannot be a rocket scientist. If you don’t have the coordination to be a professional dancer, you won’t be a professional dancer. Wanting something badly enough doesn’t qualify you to have it.

You cannot be whatever you want, but if you work hard and don’t give up and happen to be born to circumstances that facilitate it, you can maybe do something that crosses your abilities with your interests. And if you’re really smart, you’ll figure out how to be grateful for it, even on the difficult days.

5. You can outsmart pain.

You cannot think your way out of pain. You cannot predict it, or avoid it, or pretend you don’t feel it. Doing so is living a fraction of the life you were meant to, and it will make you a fraction of the person you’re supposed to be.

6. Love is something other people give you.

People cannot transmute emotions, which is interesting to consider when you realize how utterly consumed the human race is with the concept of getting other people to love us. This is because when we think other people love us, we give ourselves permission to feel love. It’s a mind game, one in which we rely on everyone but ourselves to allow us to feel what’s already inside us. (If you think love is something that exists anywhere but within your own mind and heart, you will never have it.)

7. Feeling something deeply means it’s “meant to be.” 

The intensity with which you experience something (or someone) does not equate to how “destined” it is. Many people deeply feel they’re called to be famous in their field, but they do not have the skills or the grit to make it; most people who get married feel deeply they’re in the right relationship, but that doesn’t mean it won’t end it divorce someday.

Breakups are meant to be. Job losses and hurt feelings and disappointments are, too. How do we know this? Because they happen, and often, they are the most pivotal redirects. Forget the final picture you want your life to amount to. It will never exist the way you think it should, and in the meantime, it will only ensure that you waste what you do have in the moment. There’s only one final destination here – the only thing you’re rushing toward is the end of your life.

8. If you work on yourself enough, you won’t struggle anymore.

If you work on yourself enough, you’ll understand what the struggle is for.

9. You can control what other people think of you.

You can control how you treat people, but you cannot actually control what they think. The idea that behaving a certain way will illicit a certain response is a delusion that will keep you puppeteering through your life. It will distance you from the person you want to be and the life you want to live. And for what? People are going to judge, criticize, condemn, love, admire, envy and lust based on their own subjective perceptions regardless.

10. Hard work guarantees success.

If you’re looking for any one particular outcome as the end-goal of your hard work, you’re most likely going to end up disappointed. The point of hard work is to recognize the person it makes you, not what it *gets* you (the former you can control; the latter, you can’t).

11. Your thoughts will change themselves when your circumstances change.

Most people assume that when their lives change, their thoughts will change. When they have someone who loves them, they’ll think they’re worthy of love. When they have money, they’ll have a different attitude about it. Unfortunately, the opposite is true – when you adopt a new mindset about money, you’ll start behaving differently, and then you’ll be in a different fiscal position, for example. Your mind creates, it is not created.

12. Other people are responsible for your feelings. 

The only place you have complete control over what’s said to and around you is in your home. Otherwise, you exist in a diverse world of many people and opinions of which are likely to “offend” you at some point or another. If you want to assume you are the focal point of everyone’s life and ascribe meaning to every passing comment and idea that doesn’t soundly resonate with your own belief system, you’re going to live a very difficult life. Changing how other people think and treat you is not a matter of how outraged you get, but how willing you are to explain, teach and share. Defensiveness never precedes growth, it stunts it.

13. Emotional intelligence is infallible composure; self-esteem is believing you are supremely, completely “good;” happiness is a product of not having problems. 

Emotional intelligence is the ability to feel, express and interpret your feelings productively; self-esteem is believing you’re worthy of loving and being loved despite not being supremely, completely “good” all of the time, happiness is a product of how you cope with your problems, and whether or not you see them as the opportunities they are.

14. The right person will come at the right time.

You will not be ready when the love of your life comes along. You also probably won’t be ready when you see the listing for your dream job, or to buy a house or maybe have a kid or maybe quit that job and try to write the book you keep thinking about or get sick or lose a relative or die yourself. If you wait on the feeling of “readiness,” you’ll be waiting forever, and worse, you’ll miss the best of what’s in front of you.

15. You can postpone your happiness, or save it up like money in a bank. 

People postpone their happiness to keep themselves safe. They dig for another problem to have to solve, another obstacle to overcome, another passageway until they can feel the happiness they know is in their lives. You cannot save up your happiness, you can either feel it in the moment, or you miss it. It’s that simple. It’s temporary regardless. The only variable is whether or not you ever felt it in the first place.

16. Anxiety and negative thinking are pesky irritants you just have to learn to thwart.

Anxiety is one of the main driving forces that has kept you – as well as our entire species – alive. Struggling with a crippling overabundance of it usually means you’re not listening to it, or there’s some major issue in your life you refuse to address or take action on. The power of negative thinking is that it shows us what matters, and how we need to respond to our lives.

17. Focusing solely on your own needs will make you happiest. 

Despite what many corners of the Internet would have you believe, self-sufficiency is just a precursor to happiness. It is the foundation. It is crucial, but it is not the connectedness on which human beings thrive. Committing, sacrificing, trying and trying again for the people you love and the things you believe in are what make a life feel worthwhile. Meeting your own needs is the first step, not the ultimate goal. TC mark

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