As my 25th birthday approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about my where and who I was in my younger years. It’s pretty wild to consider how much I’ve grown and changed since I was five, ten, sixteen, or twenty-one.
There are certainly a few life lessons I have learned over the last twenty-five years that I wish I had known or practiced sooner. Who wouldn’t want to prevent some of the hardship and embarrassment that comes with growing pains? The problem is that I probably wouldn’t have listened to my own advice then. I had to live and learn it.
I do my best not to get hung up on regrets when I reflect on the past. It’s a waste of time to ruminate on mistakes that happened long ago, to give the past more weight than it deserves. There is nothing wrong with learning from past experiences though – it’s healthy to reflect. The life wisdom I’ve gained can help me avoid making the same mistakes and guide my future decisions.
So in the spirit of reflection, I present a list of 25 things I wish I could tell my younger self:
- Perfection doesn’t exist. People who seem to be perfect on the surface have their own struggles. Strive for contentment instead of perfection.
- Don’t let societal and institutional standards limit your ideas or identity. There’s nothing wrong with participating within these social structures (especially ones that work for you,) but they are constructs. Don’t let them restrict your spirit.
- Listen to your gut feeling. Acknowledge it and learn from it. You don’t always have to do what it says but it’s healthy to be in touch with your intuition.
- Learn to love being alone. Follow your desire for independence and realize how self-sufficient and resourceful you are. You can and should depend on yourself. Travel alone and experience true freedom.
- It’s okay to fall down, just get back up. We all mess up, give up, and trip sometimes. Take action instead of beating yourself up.
- You are more than one thing. No one is just one thing, even if they did find a career that relates to their undergrad major. Accept that you will hold various titles, claim multiple adjectives, and be part of several social groups throughout your life.
- Practice radical self-love. Be selfish and have experiences that are solely for you and your well-being. Here’s a list of ideas to get you started.
- Consider multiple perspectives when making a decision. It’s better to approach something with well-rounded research than making snap calls or assumptions. Remember that there are multiple sides to every story. Have an open mind.
- Embrace your body instead of shaming it. You only have one body and it deserves to be treated with respect. Don’t say something about your body to yourself that you would never say to another person about their body. Find the beauty in your so-called “flaws.”
- Do something that scares you. Consider your fears and see what you can do to challenge them. Break your own limits and surprise yourself.
- Most of the best things in life are free. Indulge in the free stuff often and appreciate the little things that make this planet wonderful.
- Your words have power. Use that power wisely and know how impactful words can be. Adjust your vocabulary according to your values.
- Celebrate yourself and others. Don’t shy away from compliments. Praise yourself for little and big accomplishments alike and accept praise from others. Cheer for your peers instead of competing with them.
- Be vulnerable. Authenticity is preferable to secrets, and speaking honestly and candidly can help you accept and process your experiences while helping others deal with their issues too. You are often not alone in your struggles.
- Focus on you first. You cannot change other people so don’t even bother trying. You can only control yourself and your actions. Worry about you.
- Forgive. Don’t let trauma, mistakes, or grudges weigh you down. Feel your feelings and remember, but forgive yourself and others. Freedom comes from forgiveness.
- Stand up for yourself and what you believe in. Have the courage to fight for your dignity if it is being challenged by anyone or anything. You deserve to be respected and treated with kindness. Your voice matters.
- See a therapist. Talk to someone about your anxious thoughts, disordered eating, or sad feelings as soon as possible. Go to therapy whenever you need to, not just when you’ve hit rock bottom. Un-biased opinions are useful in all types of situations. Check out this guide to finding a therapist.
- People will come and go and come again. Accept that only a few people will be life-long friends. Not all relationships are linear and the majority of them won’t last long. Appreciate healthy connections and get out of unhealthy ones.
- Expect little. Holding high expectations sets you up for disappointment. Take news as it comes and acknowledge that you cannot predict the future. If anything, expect the unexpected.
- Stop worrying about what other people think of you. Realize that others are often too occupied with worrying about themselves to focus on you. Everyone is in their own head all the time.
- Use the resources available to you. Take advantage of what you have while you have it because nothing lasts forever. Read the book before the ink fades and move back in with your parents when the need arises.
- Take responsibility for your actions. Admit your mistakes and do what you can to fix them. Honesty goes a long way.
- Live in the present. There’s nothing wrong with being nostalgic or planning for the future, but keep your focus on the here and now. Time is fleeting.
- The only definite thing in life is change. Nothing lasts forever and that’s pretty wonderful. The best laid plans often go awry and they will. Your best moments won’t stay and your worst moments won’t either.
I’ll be publishing a few more twenty-five themed list articles leading up to my birthday. Stay tuned for the next one!