woman in black off-shoulder top holding gold balloon

25 Things I Learned By The Time I Turned 25

Honest lessons learned by quarter-life (often learned the hard way).

1. Saying no to things that harm you is not selfish, it is self-respect.

You can be a good person and still say no to things. Boundaries allow us to care for ourselves and others at the same time.

2. People are usually paying way more attention to themselves than they are to you.

That’s a good thing! The secret is out… most people are often hyper-focused on themselves, which means you can spend less time going through the exhausting process of monitoring how people may feel about you. I know it can feel scary and people can actually be mean sometimes, but don’t let it take away from you living your life.

3. Healing is not linear.

There’s no straight line to health. It’s not a quick and easy journey, but don’t let the twists and turns discourage you—healing was never meant to be easy, but it’s always worth it.

4. Being intentional about your life is not the same thing as taking yourself too seriously all the time.

We can be motivated to strive for greater in our lives and still allow ourselves to mess up, be silly, and relax along the way.

5. You can’t please everyone all the time. If you are, the person you’re probably not pleasing is yourself.

Please don’t abandon and deny yourself in exchange for others’ approval and happiness. You deserve some of that good stuff, too.

6. A joyful life doesn’t mean you will live without hardship.

If you feel like life is hard, that’s because sometimes hard things happen. It’s okay to struggle, to feel sad, to have bad days. No one can feel happy every second of every day.

Joy is sturdy—a way of life. It isn’t fleeting like happiness. Happiness says, “I am worthy when everything is perfect.” Joy says, “I am worthy always, even when I am challenged. This is really hard. What can I learn here?”

7. A handful of meaningful friends is so much better than 100 surface-level ones.

The number of friends you have does not equate to how friendly or lovable you are. Quality wins every time. Find a person or two who you can be fully yourself with, and you will likely have all you need.

8. Some people just won’t get you, and that’s okay.

Sometimes this is really disappointing, especially if it’s someone you wish could understand you. Be disappointed—being understood and seen is a universal need, you’re allowed to feel disappointed.

Then move towards finding and appreciating the people who do get you.

9. There will always be someone better, stronger, faster than you.

Ouch, this one is a harsh reality. Once you realize life isn’t about being the best at everything, you are free. Colleagues are no longer competitors, they are partners and companions. Maybe now your gauge for improvement can be who you were yesterday instead of everyone around you.

10. Numbing difficult emotions numbs the nice ones, too.

Brené Brown often talks about how “we cannot selectively numb emotions.” There is no specific filter allowing us to sift through the emotions we want to feel and discard the others.

Avoiding sadness and anger prevents us from feeling joy, too. We either get both or none. I know it sounds scary, but I promise you, feeling both is much better than feeling none.

All emotions serve a purpose. Emotions are information, letting us know when our bodies are reacting to something. Honor those emotions — all of them — and let them do their work in you.

11. No one else has a bigger say in your life than yourself.

Doesn’t it seem like everyone has a different piece of advice to give? People will always have something to say, but at the end of the day, you will be the one living out the results of the decisions. Listen to those whom you trust and who know you best, but don’t forget to honor your own internal knowing, too.

12. You don’t have to have all the answers right now. Just take the next best step.

Even though it may feel like it sometimes, it is not up to you to solve everything today. Things take time, and we may not ever have all the answers. Carrying the weight of the world can feel debilitating. Set that down, give your shoulders a rest. Take a breath and decide what you can do today to guide you.

13. No one has it all figured out.

No matter how hard the world, social media, and culture tries to portray that they do.

We are all learning along the way. Have some grace with yourself and invite others to do the same.

14. Learning how to discern what’s my stuff and what’s your stuff is crucial to self-development.

A majority of the time, someone’s judgment and criticism towards us has more to do with them than it has to do with us. People often project their own insecurities onto others, because it feels safer than looking inwards.

That doesn’t mean it’s right of them to do so, but recognizing this allows us to reject what isn’t ours. Do your own work, learn to acknowledge what is yours (have humility when you have made a mistake, where you do need to improve), and learn to put down what is not yours to hold.

15. Owning your mistakes and learning from them is not weak—it will be your greatest strength.

No one gets it right all the time. Let’s model authenticity in the way we do life by owning it, apologizing when necessary, and learning from it.

16. You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.

Time is so unbelievably valuable. In a world oversaturated with content, sometimes the best thing we can do is be still, think about our intentions, and pick a few things to be consistent about and dedicated to. (Let this sink in: We’re meant to do amazing things! But we’re not meant to be amazing at every single thing available to us.)

17. Simple is best.

Don’t overcomplicate it. More does not always mean better. If you learn to find contentment in simple habits, the world is yours.

18. You can be private and authentic at the same time.

Social media is a tool to connect, but is not the lone path to connection. Think about who gets access to your life, and how much access. Not posting every detail online does not mean you’re not being authentic to your followers, it just means you have tighter boundaries around some details. This is valid and should be honored.

19. Life is not black and white—lean into the grey areas.

Oftentimes divisiveness and extremity comes from wanting to protect ourselves in some way or another. Within ourselves and with those around us, seeing through the lens of “and” rather than “or” opens up our perspective. I can appreciate your perspective and disagree with some of your points. I can love myself and take responsibility for my actions.

20. The only things you can control are your own actions.

As disappointing or frustrating as this can be, people don’t have to change just because you want them to. People have as much free will to change as they do to stay the same. Knowing this, how can you move forward with your actions (work towards acceptance, set necessary boundaries to protect yourself)?

21. You don’t need to make yourself more palatable or make yourself small in order to belong.

If you feel forced to contort yourself to belong somewhere, that ain’t it. I’m so sorry you learned that the only way to exist is to fit others’ ideas of you. Please remember you deserve to take up space.

22. Being present is the only real place you can be.

Sometimes we spend so much time letting our thoughts obsess over the past or future, as if trying to control those moments. But those past and future moments either no longer exist or do not exist yet. Spending too much time reliving the past or worrying about the future only takes away time from today. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, “You’re afraid of surrender because you don’t want to lose control. But you never had control; all you had was anxiety.”

23. Keeping a morning routine feels safe and grounding, even if it’s not exciting or “grammable.”

Stretching, journaling, making your morning cup. Whatever it is, it doesn’t need to be pretty or exciting as long as it serves its purpose to get you prepared for your day. Routine can be good for the brain.

24. Treating situations with curiosity rather than assumption will open up greater opportunities for connection. We can learn from each other.

Having a conversation with someone who believes differently than you should not feel threatening to your own beliefs. Ask questions, be present. Converse to share, not to convince.

25. No one can complete you or fix you. People can only come into your life to partner with you and to join you for the ride.

Popular movies and fairytales may tell us otherwise, but it’s simply not true.

There’s a lovely quote that says, “I do not crave anyone who will fix me, just someone who will hold my hand while I fix myself.”

You’re a whole person right there on your own—how special and empowering. Get out there and enjoy the ride.

About the author
continuously learning I don't have to contort myself to belong Follow Nicole on Instagram or read more articles from Nicole on Thought Catalog.

Learn more about Thought Catalog and our writers on our about page.

Related