1. You start to do things you actually want to do, not things you just think you should do. And when you are doing things because you want to do them, they’re so much more thrilling and invigorating. Your overall curiosity and excitement about life changes and increases when you start living for liking yourself and stop obsessing over what is expected of you.
2. You feel less of a need to explain yourself. You realize that there’s actually no one to answer to, and there’s no right way to live your life. Sure, you have to be practical and remember that you have responsibilities. You have to find a way to pay for things you need and want. You probably have to get up and go to work every day. You have to take care of yourself. But there’s not just one specific path you can take to get there. When you stop worrying about what others think, you take the job you want and not the job people expect you to take. You date the person who makes you the happiest, not the one who will provide the best lifestyle. Things are a lot easier and a lot happier when the only person you owe an explanation to is yourself.
3. You end up spending less time on social networks. Still a decent amount of time, but less than before. Nobody’s perfect, and in our digital age, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever be “above” caring about social media and your own profile and what other people are doing. But when you start caring more about being genuine and less about what other people are thinking and doing, your obsessive interest in the virtual world natural subsides a little bit.
4. You want to focus on getting better. It doesn’t matter what you want to get better at, but you just feel a desire to get better as a person. You want to watch the news or read more or volunteer or cook healthier meals or call your parents more often. You feel a strong urge to get better just for your own benefit. And then you’re the person who gets to enjoy it the most.
5. Your level of stress decreases, even if it’s just slightly. Life is always going to be scary and confusing and overwhelming, especially as a young adult. Stress is going to happen, but it’s about having the right kind of stress. When you’re stressed about being honest and true with yourself as opposed to being stressed about how much money you make compared to your friends, you’ll find that it’s a level you can deal with, and a level you want to deal with.
6. You find yourself smiling much more often. Life isn’t perfect all the time. It never will be. But sometimes your outlook can make the world a lot prettier, even on the ugliest, rainiest day.
7. You don’t ask permission to be happy. You just let yourself feel happy whenever you’re so inclined. It’s an eye-opening feeling, the first time you realize that you don’t need other people to tell you when it’s okay or acceptable to feel good about yourself.
8. Your style changes. You stop buying clothes that you pay a stupid amount of money for. You don’t care as much about labels anymore. You find that somehow you look better, even if you haven’t physically changed at all. But when you’re kind to yourself, your back’s a little straighter, and your eyes are a little brighter, and your smile is contagious to everyone around you.
9. You listen to whatever music you want to. Bad, embarrassing music. Music that isn’t cool or deep or undiscovered or hip. You don’t worry about listening to a certain style and having your preferences ready to share at a moment’s notice. You don’t care if you play a Rolling Stones song and then follow it up with Demi Lovato and enjoy both equally. It is in this moment that you realize nobody cares anyway. What were you so stressed out about in the first place?
10. You go out if you want to go out. And you stay in if you want to stay in. Because hangovers are bearable when your night was worth it. And mornings where you wake up after a solid 10 hours of sleep and no drinking are possibly the greatest thing that post-grad twenty-something’s ever discover.
11. You make decisions based on what you want, as opposed to how you will appear to others. It makes your entire world so much more pleasant to care about what you think and not what everyone else thinks.
12. You still feel insecure sometimes, but you remember that this is human nature and that it’s okay to feel vulnerable. Your insecurity will probably never go away. But the obsessive desire to doubt yourself and belittle yourself and pick on yourself will greatly fade. It will still linger, but you’re more capable of telling yourself to shut up now.
13. You find yourself becoming less cynical. When you’re at peace with yourself, you have less of a need to judge others. You don’t need to feel superior to anyone, because you’re more focused on trying to be happy with who you are. You don’t have time to worry about what everyone else is doing.
14. It seems like people are criticizing you less than before. Or, maybe, you’ve just learned to tune out the negative people in your life.
15. Your confidence increases. You haven’t changed. You’re just looking at yourself and at everyone else and at the world differently. You can never underestimate how much of an effect that a positive mindset has on your self-esteem. When you’re more concerned with liking yourself and being truthful and genuine about who you are and what you want, you worry just a tiny bit less about how you look and what others think. And that’s where the confidence comes from.
16. You’re more likely to try something new or intimidating. When you’re free from worrying about other people’s opinions, you’ll notice that going after a new challenge is a lot less frightening. Sure, you might fail, but you’re not thinking about what others will say about your failure. You’re thinking about how good you’ll feel for trying something. The failure, if it even happens, will sting. But you put yourself out there and that’s a pretty exhilarating experience.
17. There’s less wondering about “what could have been.” Nothing is more torturous that wondering what would have happened if you had done things differently. And when you start living a life according to your own standards and expectations, you find you have less what-if’s and more I’m-so-glad-I-did-that’s.