1. Learn how to be friends with yourself. Self-hate and insecurity are terrible for you, and you’ll look back, inevitably, and say, “I had no reason not to be confident then! Why did I waste so much time not believing in myself?”
2. Develop really great friendships with other women. You don’t have to have a million friends, but you have to have a few good ones that you can lean on when you need support, celebrate with when life is good, and go to for advice.
3. Acquire the confidence to say “thanks but no thanks” to every guy who offers up a dating option that benefits him more than it benefits you.
4. Learn the difference between healthy cooking you can benefit from for the rest of your life and Pinterest cooking that will win you appreciative “yummmms” but are filled with cheese and fat and are generally terrible for your loved ones to ingest.
5. Learn how to feel confident in situations you feel very unconfident in. For me this was being able to take my car to the shop without feeling like I was going to be taken advantage of. For another woman, this may be the same thing at the Clinique counter. Learn how to be in control in tough, unfamiliar situations.
6. Find one boss or mentor who really believes in you and what you can accomplish. Work with them to help strengthen the things your good at — and identify the things you’re not great at. Know what you’re going to do with both.
7. Have an answer to the question, “what do you like to do in your spare time?” An answer that is not: “hang out with friends.” Find a hobby or an activity you love: running, reading, travel, writing, serving on a non-profit’s board, whatever interests you.
8. Perfect the ability to say “no” gracefully.
9. Learn how to dress for your body, and do it.
10. Understand that a lot of people in your life will give you opinions. Learn how to listen to them, take what is helpful and leave the rest (without feeling guilty). Advice is just someone telling you their opinion, you still have your own agency, you can (and should) read all the articles you want that tell you how to spend your 20s, how to be a great friends and employee, and how to do anything else you do. This gives you a bunch of options for what you want your values and actions to be. It’s just more knowledge, it’s not a mandate.
11. Keep a home that may not be glamorous and fancy, but is one you would not be embarrassed to show to your mother on say, a Thursday afternoon when you haven’t cleaned since Sunday.
12. Find a habit that manages stress: writing, running, spin — something that helps you release bottled up tension at least once a week.
13. Discover a favorite drink you genuinely enjoy the taste of and aren’t embarrassed to order in front of your boss.
14. Develop a deep understanding of how to fix your own problems — not cry on the phone until someone else says they will take care of it.
15. Become the proud owner of a savings account (with money in it!) and an understanding of how to manage your finances, even if they aren’t perfect (yet).
16. Figure out how to show up places on time. Not only do you look like a frazzled schlub when you’re constantly running late, but it’s disrespectful — and that’s the kind of way people remember being treated.
17. Learn how to let other people in your life be crazy and dramatic, that’s unavoidable, the key is learning to let them do their thing and not taking it on yourself.
18. Crack the code: what does it take for you to be happy? How are you going to achieve this in life?
19. If you can’t find a job you love 80% of the time, at least find a job that’s going to turn into that job in the next few years.
20. Develop the ability to say “I am in control of my life.” Be able to repeat this back to yourself whenever you feel stuck in a crappy situation or are tempted to blame things you don’t like about your life on others and think that you can’t make a change for the better. One of the best things you learn in your 20s is that things don’t work out the way you plan them, but it’s never too late to try something new.
21. Make a really scary life decision. Maybe it’s moving across the country for a job or for love, turning down a secure job for one you’re passionate about, buying a house, having a baby. Don’t let your 20’s end without learning how to do something that scares the crap out of you.
22. Let go of resentments for people who have wronged you in the past, and learn how to do this more quickly in the future. Resentments only harm the person doing the resenting — you.
23. Learn how to have a fight with a friend, employer, and boyfriend in a healthy and productive way. Be confident enough that you no longer resort to name calling or saying hurtful things in the heat of the moment. Make the goal of each argument to work through the issue, not to “win” the fight.