I turned 31 last week. Someone asked me if I wanted to be in my 20s again. Do I want to go back to being an insecure mess, hating my body, caring what other people think? Nope, thanks, I love my 30s. Here are some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in 31 years.
Not everyone will like you. And that’s OK.
Admit it: you do not like everyone! So why do you expect to be like by everyone? Why do you spend your days trying to fit in with the cool crowd, when you know deep down, you don’t have anything in common with them? Fitting in, doesn’t make you truly belong anyway. True belonging is different. You are not for everyone. Define who you are and find confidence in that. Be bold and courageous. You’ll see how the right people for you, your tribe will find its way to you.
You don’t have to look like models in magazines
The standard beauty imposed by magazines is unattainable for most people. It’s the sad reality of the media nowadays. Many of the photos you see are photoshopped. And when they are not photoshopped, the photo session is so long, photos are taken by professionals to make sure every single flaw of those women is hidden. Reality is different. You are an amazing person, with qualities far beyond your look. You have your unique beauty, your unique traits. Don’t try to become a copy of some model in a magazine.
Your opinion matters
Growing up in an educational system that encouraged you to sit quitely and not ask question, to reproduce what you are told in class, I ended up believing my opinions did not matter.
You can’t understand everyone
Some people are weird. Some in a good way, some in a not so good way. And you can’t understand them all. Stop trying. If you feel being around someone is an excruciating effort, just walk away. If that’s not possible right away (boss, co-worker etc), do your best to not take it personally. The things you don’t understand about them, their weirdness, it’s not directed at you. They are just very different from you. Let them be. You’d like them to do the same for you.
Fear is liar. And it is also your biggest enemy
This is a big one. We allow ourselves to be held back by the silliest of fears. Even when we succeed at something, we still allow fear to crawl in so, so often.
You get a promotion at work. You’ve been wanting to be a team leader for so long. First reaction? Happiness. Second reaction? Am I really good enough for this, can I do this? What if I can’t do it? What will they think of me as a team leader? You get the point. What about traveling for vacation? How many times did you allow the fear of flying, the worry that your flight will be delayed, that you’ll get sick or other weird things hinder your excitement for the trip itself? And these are the good examples. But what about those times when you allow fear to stop you before you even try? Fear is a liar. Always remember that. The worst thing that can happen is not nearly as bad as you picture it.
Work gives your life purpose. But don’t make work the purpose of your life.
Work is good. Humans have worked for as long as they inhabited this Planet. It gives us purpose. Do you doubt that, do you hate it? Look at someone who can’t work, maybe because of a disability or they just aren’t finding work. They become depressed, sometimes turn to drugs, they might even become suicidal. Work gives us a purpose in life. But often times we make the mistake to make it the other way around. To turn our work into the purpose of your life. And when we do this we leave behind ourselves, our families, our friends, even our health. These always come second, because work is more important. News flash: it’s not. You need a balanced life as much as you need a balanced diet (more, actually).
If you want to find true love, you have to love yourself first.
You can’t expect others to love you when you hate yourself. If all you think about yourself is that you’re ugly, stupid and generally not good enough, the others will eventually think the same. Because even when you don’t realize it, even if you don’t say these things out loud, they have a way to speak through you. Through your body language, facial expression and more. You’ll just keep attracting the wrong people, who’ll be there for the wrong reasons and who won’t see the real you. If you want to attract love, you have to love yourself first.
Share your opinions. Someone out there needs to hear what you have to say.
The school I went to as a child did not encourage us to speak our minds. You could speak your mind as long as you agreed with the teacher’s views on things. If you disagreed, you were basically told you were wrong and that you were not paying attention to class or studying hard enough. I’ve had this teacher for 4 years. By the time I got to high school and met a very different literature teacher, I was so scared about speaking about my ideas that I never dared to do it. It didn’t help that this teacher was different and she was encouraging different opinions.
It took me a long time and quite a few books read to understand sharing my ideas is not wrong. Some might not agree, but someone will. Maybe there’s someone out there who will find encouragement in something as simple as my lessons learned in 31 years of life. Maybe a girl who suffers from binge eating disorder will find comfort in reading my story. So share your story.
Your weirdness can be your advantage
I was always the weird one. The kid in high school getting ready to go to a Technical University but who loved literature and psychology classes. The computer engineer who loves to spend her free time reading tons of books. The Christian girl who practices yoga and wears a mala. For the longest time I felt this was so bad. I would hide my weirdness, trying to fit in. Without ever really belonging, of course.
Until I realized this weirdness could be my advantage. I can have a blog, I can go to a book club and meet new people, I have all kinds of friends – engineers, writers, yoga practitioners, Christians. Some criticize me. Some don’t believe can do it all, it’s one or the other. I usually don’t have time for them. I’m too busy speaking to the real friends who get me. Embrace your weirdness! Make it your advantage.
Listen to your heart, not your critics.
The life you dream of it’s not impossible to create. You have to step up and do it. Just live. Travel. Start that blog. Stop daydreaming and start doing. If you are unhappy in your current situation, why not leave? We live in an amazing time. There are so many jobs we can do freelance, we can ditch the office life if we don’t like it. Listen to your heart. Figure out what it is you really want to do. Then start doing it. There will always be critics. You’re a woman who wants to travel the world, have your own business & not have kids? Trust me, you’ll have a lot of critics. Are you the contrary to that, the girl who dreams only of having a big family, maybe be a stay-at-home mum? The critics won’t take long to come your way either. But it’s really not their life.
If you make them happy, what will you gain? Will you be happy? No, you won’t be. Whatever you do, do it for you.
Lessons learned – final thoughts
In terms of lessons learned I could probably write a hundred more. Maybe I’ll make a second part some day. These are the lessons that speak loudest to me right now. What are some of the lessons learned by you? Do any of these resonate with you? Do you have another one you’d like to share? Leave me a comment below.