23 Things I Wish I Knew At 23 (That I’m Definitely Still Learning Today)

just doing my best

1. You are never going to feel like an ‘adult.’

Even when you’re completely financially independent, have a 401k, are saving for a down payment, and have friends getting married and pregnant on purpose. You will still feel like a poser when you make doctor’s appointments for yourself and like you need to call your mom to apologize when you’ve stayed out until 4 AM unexpectedly. No one ever really feels like they have it totally together. There is no age when you’ll suddenly wake up on your birthday and be all, “Aha! Today’s the day. I am now a ~grown up.~” You’ll have adult moments, like the first time you take care of an emergency by yourself or when you buy your first piece of “real” furniture, and they’ll be really satisfying and worth being proud of. But it’s completely okay to still have to Google “How to write a check” from that adult bed of yours.

2. No one notices your insecurities.

No one is staring at the breakout on your chin, no one honestly notices the 5 pounds you think change your entire body. No one is fixated on the roots you haven’t had time to touch up or the way your voice jumps up a few octaves when you laugh. The things you’re insecure about aren’t even on anyone else’s radar. Everyone is too busy thinking about the things that they don’t like about their own existence to pay attention to what you don’t like about yourself. So relax. Nothing you fixate on is that noticeable to anyone else.

3. Even you are not bigger than your emotions.

You can’t control things like dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin. No matter how much you might try to squash things or bottle things up or pretend like they don’t exist, you can’t stop yourself from feeling. What you choose to do with your emotions is up to you and is something you can control, but actually feeling? You’re just going to have to figure out how to deal with that.

4. It’s not necessarily going to get better, but it will get easier.

Things don’t always get better. Truthfully, sometimes they’ll get worse. But what does change is your ability to deal. It doesn’t always get better, but you do.

5. Not taking care of yourself isn’t being carefree—it’s downright embarrassing.

There’s no glory in being a mess for the sake of being a mess. Letting yourself fall apart for the sake of feeling spontaneous and interesting or even funny will only end up ultimately hurting you after enough time has gone by. The only person you can rely on to take care of you IS you, so don’t take that lightly. You’re responsible for yourself, so make yourself and your wellbeing a priority.

6. Everyone falls in love with one of their best friends at least once.

You’re not weak, you’re not pathetic. You’re not some stereotype and it’s not embarrassing. You’re close with this person for a reason and it’s only normal to fall for people who you’re already fond of and who you already care about in any capacity. It just makes you a human being with, you know, a heart. It’s totally okay.

7. You cannot and should not rely on other people to tell you how to live your life.

You have to learn to make decisions. You have to learn how to make the tough calls. You’re going to have to figure out how to make a choice and deal with it—no matter the outcome. And ultimately, whether you get advice or not, the only person who gets to make the call is you. You can’t hit pause until someone tells you what to do. You just have to make a decision.

8. You are smarter than thinking you can control other people.

Influence? Maybe. Control? Nope. You cannot make anyone do anything. You can’t make them feel anything. You can’t make them love you. You can’t make them respect you. You can’t make anyone do or be or feel anything. The only person who you can control, is yourself.

9. You’re also just, in general, way smarter than you give yourself credit for.

You’re not stupid, you’re not weak, you’re not nothing. Yes, you’re messy and flawed and have regrets and things you want a do-over about. But you’re smart and you’re capable. And you’re going to be okay.

10. It’s not your responsibility to be anything for anyone else.

It’s great to be there for other people, but not at the expense of yourself. You can’t allow people to demand more than you can give. You can’t be everything for other people, you cannot do everything. You’re not responsible for anyone other than yourself. Don’t forget that.

11. It’s also not your responsibility to fix other people’s mistakes.

They need to learn to be accountable for themselves. And if you’re constantly cleaning up after them, they’ll never learn accountability and how to handle themselves or their lives or their mistakes or their whatever. You can’t take care of everything and everyone. It’s logistically not possible. Again: it’s great to be there for other people, but not at the expense of yourself.

12. You owe it to yourself to learn to say no.

For some reason those two little letters are some of the hardest to say. But you have to learn to say them. You can’t do everything. You can’t be everywhere. You can’t be everything. There is a lot of strength in knowing your limits. There’s a lot power in having the ability to confidently say no. Being able to say no, and stick to it, is something that can help you in the long run if you let it.

13. People who have hurt you will not matter forever.

It will take time. And there’s no guarantee how much or how little. It might be weeks, it might be months, years might go by and you’ll still be bothered by them or what happened or whatever. But eventually, that tangible, horrible ache that feels way too palpable will start to fade. But eventually, it won’t. Eventually, it’ll just seem like something you’ve forgotten to do. And eventually, it will just be like a memory. And then eventually, just like everything else, it won’t matter anymore. They won’t matter anymore.

14. No one hates hearing someone say, “Thank you.”

There’s something to be said for telling people you appreciate them, for making them realize you’re grateful. And it’s something we could all stand to show a little more. When in doubt, go to gratitude. It’s a pretty good place to be.

15. Excuses aren’t worth anything to anyone other than the person making an excuse.

When you screw up it’s a very human response to point out all of the reasons why you’re not in the wrong, why you were misunderstood, why it’s not actually your fault. But excuses lead to nowhere. They don’t actually offer any sort of resolution to the problem. And the reality is, excuses aren’t for anyone other than the person making the excuse. So instead of offering up excuses, you need to just ask how to make it better. Is that harder? Absolutely. But is it also way better? Also absolutely.

16. People are allowed to leave. And you don’t have to, nor should you, wait for them to come back.

As hard as it can be to accept, not wanting to stay is a perfectly valid reason to leave. It won’t make it not hurt when you accept that, but it is something you need to remember. People are allowed to leave, and you are allowed to let them go without a fight. People can leave, but you don’t have to wait for them just because you know it’s okay that they’re gone.

17. Not every lost friendship is actually a loss.

Even the people you lose can be a lesson. But it shouldn’t break your heart to lose people who weren’t worth holding onto, and who didn’t try to hold onto you in the first place.

18. Sometimes the unexpected can be the absolute best thing to ever happen to you

It’s really jarring and unnerving when things don’t go according to plan. But you have to learn to roll with the punches and figure out how to make the best out of whatever situation you’re thrown into. You owe it to yourself to learn to not be completely thrown by the unexpected. And who knows? Maybe by doing that you’ll figure out that you’re actually where you always should’ve been.

19. You don’t have to be everything, but you do need to be self-aware.

Being self-aware is the best thing you can possibly be. Know who you are, know your flaws, know the ins and outs of yourself so deeply that no one can touch you. Be able to recognize behaviors and your reactions and understand why you’re acting the way you’re acting. Be self-aware. When you’re able to put everything out onto the table, no one can take anything away from you.

20. You’re going to make mistakes, and you will be okay.

You can try your best to be as put together as possible, and you will still fall apart for seemingly no reason. It’s completely impossible for you to be on, to be together, to be completely perfect all the time. It’s completely impossible for you to avoid every single mistake and never make one. You’re going to fuck up—a lot probably. And you’ll get back up, and you’ll figure out how to do better. That’s called life.

21. You’re not above needing people.

You don’t have to be on a metaphorical island. You don’t have to hold everything up by yourself. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to lean on others. It’s okay to need people. It doesn’t make you any less of a badass or weak or somehow less strong or less anythign for wanting someone else by your side every now and then.

22. You do not owe anyone anything, including your time.

And if that pisses them off that’s fine. They have some learning to do if that’s the case. You don’t owe anyone anything, and vice versa. Life gets way less frustrating when you realize that it’s not realistic to expect anything from anyone.

23. You can always do better.

And you should always try to do just that. Thought Catalog Logo Mark


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