1. You can relax. When people are super anxious about their lives, they almost never relax. It’s counter-intuitive but relaxing would mean they would have to be quiet enough to hear the inner voices that’s shouting about whatever insecurity they’re experiencing. Being able to lay on a beach or in a lawn chair for an entire day is a sign of good mental health. If you need to keep yourself constantly busy (or drunk, or whatever) it may be because you don’t want to hear what your inner voice has to say when you slow down enough to hear it.
2. You’ve learned that life isn’t hit or miss, it’s a process. You probably don’t have your dream job, but you’re discovering what you like and you don’t like and you are getting better at it every day. When things go wrong, you know you’ll get them right, eventually. A big reason why people stall out in life or become unhappy is because they don’t realize this. They get frustrated at themselves for not being able to do everything perfectly the first time. You know how they say it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill? There are a lot of skills that make up being an adult, no one knows how to do everything right away, it takes years to master things individually.
3. You have great friends. You’ll never regret putting time and energy into maintaining healthy friendships, that’s a big part of what brings people satisfaction in life. Building and sustaining a healthy social network is a great sign you’re doing a good job in life.
4. You’ve started to figure out how to take care of yourself. At first when you’re on your own you don’t really need to take care of your health. In their early 20’s most people can stay out all night, never sleep, eat whatever they want, drink whatever they want, etc. But that wears off after awhile (or you just stop being able to tolerate it). You find yourself making decisions based on your health like kicking a toxic friend out of your life and enjoying the things you like in moderation.
5. Along this line, your fitness goals aren’t ‘hot body’ so much as “feel good and be healthy.” (Okay, and a little bit “hot bod” still). Just like you don’t want to be mentally healthy and happy to show up an ex, you just want to be happy because it feels good.
6. Your vices are no longer things to give in to. This doesn’t mean you don’t have any or that you’ve conquered them all, it means that you are actively trying to do better. Your new plan to quit smoking may have failed, but you learned that was one thing that won’t work and you’re still committed to quitting.
7. You’ve stopped feeling like living your life is running a race. Your very early 20’s can feel this way — the first people to graduate, to get “real jobs, to buy houses, get married, have kids, etc, etc, etc. But getting all these things “first” isn’t what everyone really wants out of life. Maybe later, sure, but gaining the confidence to do things on your own terms is a step in the right direction.
8. This means that when other people have successes — promotions, engagements, babies — you feel genuinely happy for them, even if you also wonder how far off those things are for you.
9. You don’t play the “I’m so awkward!” or “I’m such a mess, isn’t it cute!” game. Sure, people who can’t figure out social skills or how to take care of themselves can be cute in an injured animal in the wild kind of way, but you want to get by on your skills, not on other people’s pity.
10. Thinking about the future makes you excited. Sure you feel old at times, like when you realize people born after 2000 are teenagers now, but you also feel happy and proud when you realize how much you’ve accomplished in the last 5-10 years. How much more will you do in the next 10 years? When I feel stuck I think about the problem that’s bugging me and what it was like 5 or 8 years ago. It was always much worse if only because I was young and I didn’t how to problem solve as well as I do now.
11. You don’t do adult things simply to fast-forward into being an adult. You do them because they make sense to you and you genuinely want to. This is acting out of desire and confidence, rather than insecurity and fear.
12. When you have a fight with someone, you can admit to your part of the conflict. You realize that no one else can ruin your life, or be in a dramatic relationship, or “give you anxiety” without your consent. You are a part of each of your relationships and it’s up to you to fix them or leave them when they become unhealthy, not simply put 100% of the blame on the other person.
13. Similarly, in other parts of your life you don’t act as if there is some conspiracy that is preventing you from getting what you want. When you talk about why you aren’t there yet it isn’t because “people won’t give me a chance” or “women don’t like guys like me” or “dudes are just shallow.” You realize the common denominator in all your life situations is you, so when there’s constant drama and disappointment, it might be time for a long, hard look in the mirror.