10 Lessons I Learned in my 20s
We’re halfway through 2018, and I’m halfway to my birthday in December. I’m checking in with myself to make sure I’m on track with my goals physically, mentally, and financially. As I’ve reflected on my twenties, there have been some major themes and lessons that I’ve had to learn the hard way. Life is your biggest teacher. I’m blessed to have an amazing support system and we check on each other daily. My friend has told me time and time again, “take it one step at a time.”
Here are 10 things I’ve learned in my twenties.
1. You're allowed to change and evolve. Don't let anyone hold you hostage to your past.
This was a challenging lesson for me to learn. I had to allow for patience and gentleness with my past self. When you know better, you do better. I can now be who I needed in the past.
Now that I’m a mother to an amazing, intelligent, and beautiful daughter, I need to lead by example and show her that it’s okay to embrace all the versions of who you are and who you will be.
Following the theme of not holding yourself hostage to your past, I’ve learned to take my growing pains as a lesson and learn from them. I have grown to learn to not count myself out because of one inconvenient or hurtful past situation. Sometimes I think back and cringe. I used to ask myself, “Why did I do that?” “What was I thinking?” It’s okay. Give yourself a break and move on. It’s important to learn from the experience and move on to the next chapter.
While some scenarios weren’t ideal, I can’t change them. The only thing I can do is prepare myself for the future and control how I react to future pains. So, challenge yourself daily and show yourself some compassion.
2. Your womanhood isn’t reliant on men.
I was listening to a podcast called “My Strength and My Shield” - Episode 39: Apologizing to Myself. The podcaster discussed apologizing to ourselves and the lessons we learn along the way. In my twenties, I had to learn to love myself unconditionally. People treat you the way you let them, especially men. I’ve learned that I define myself and my womanhood. I don’t exist to or for the pleasure of a man. I exist to fulfill my God-given purpose. Everyone should take the time to learn themselves before giving yourself to anyone.
On the podcast, she said something that I truly agree with: “one of the worst things that we have to deal with when it comes to being a woman is that we attach the idea of being a woman to the value that a man places on us. We allow men to be gods in our lives. We worship them. We sacrifice ourselves for them. We expect them to transform us. That by their love, by their touch, that they can change who we are. Being a woman to me is about being accountable for my life and my actions. I’m a woman when I’m authentically myself and I nurture myself and others from a loving and healthy place...and the problem is that in my past I had fallen into this habit of defining my ability to be a woman based off who’s flirting with me? Who’s giving me attention? Who’s sliding in my DM’s? Who’s texting me? Is my phone dry? And when it comes to being a woman and holding myself accountable, it doesn’t require a man to love me or want me or lust for me. A man doesn’t factor into the calculation of my womanhood. It’s not about what men are attracted to me or want me or pursue me. It’s about me, my God, and my spirit. And I apologize to myself for not having that mindset before.” –starts at 56:40 - My Strength and My Shield Podcast
2. You can't control the actions of others. Everyone has their own journey and path to take. Mind your own.
Like I said in the previous lesson, I can prepare myself for how I react to future pains, but I can’t control the actions of others. All I can do is focus inward to be the best possible version of myself. I would often get anxious and blame myself for how someone has treated me in the past because I didn’t love myself fully. Now, I’ve learned that rejection or someone else's decisions have nothing to do with me. I’ve also learned that I can want the best for someone, however, if they happen to make a decision that I personally would not have made, that’s simply their business, not mine.
3. It's okay to not have all the answers. Life is a journey, not a destination.
My younger self often thought that I had to have everything figured out. I realized quickly that no one knows what they’re doing. My friends, parents, grandparents, and mentors are all still questioning themselves daily about their paths and future destinations. Life is hard work.
But don’t be complacent.
When you have the mindset that life is a destination, you stop growing once you reach that destination. That’s complacency. Complacency is a dangerous place to find yourself. Always ask questions and seek growth. The day you stop questioning is the day you stop growing.
4. Stick up for yourself and your beliefs. Healthy confrontation is okay.
I sometimes find myself avoiding confrontation. I’ve learned that it’s okay if you don’t agree with me. I’m not for everyone and I don’t want to be for everyone. I’m an open-minded person, but I always stick to my moral code. Be the authentic version of yourself, no matter what company you’re around. If someone doesn't agree with you, that’s okay. Speak your peace and keep it moving.
5. Find what makes you happy. If you're fulfilled, everything else will fall into place.
Find a way to be happy in your career, personal life, and hobbies. Life is too short to play it safe and rationalize your unhappiness. One may say they stayed in a job they hated for years because it paid the bills, but in doing that they find themselves regretting not taking risks in their personal or professional life. Follow that inner voice. Family and friends might suggest playing it safe, but that is often them projecting their fears onto you. Your happiness is number one. Never forget that.
6. Be assertive and self-assured.
I’ve learned quickly that being the “nice girl” doesn’t get you far. Personally, people tried to take my kindness for weakness, offered unsolicited advice because they thought I was clueless and naive. I learned that I need to speak like the confident black woman that I know I am. I need to say what I mean and mean what I say. Hold your head high. If you need something or don’t like something, say it!
7. Everyone doesn't need to know everything about you. Stop feeling the need to tell everyone everything.
This lesson came from a place of insecurity and wanting to be accepted. I had to learn to stop seeking validation for certain insecurities I have or choices that I’ve made. Over-explaining doesn’t make a situation any better. It is what it is. Be secure in the decisions you make. Unsolicited advice often, but not always, comes from a place when people assume you’re insecure about yourself or your decisions. You don’t need to seek approval for everything. Live your best life in peace.
8. Manage your finances responsibly.
Your twenties are a time to learn to manage your finances and start saving for the future, children, paying off debt, etc. I’m still learning to manage my money so I can invest and grow my funds. I’ve learned that wealth is built by having multiple streams of income. I also have to take care of a little one, therefore, I need to be more conscientious about my spending habits. I use the financial app, Mint, to help with budgeting. I also listen to podcasts, such as Millennial Money. It’s also helpful to get a financial adviser if you can.
9. The time is now.
Quit procrastinating and implement that idea now. What are the benefits of waiting? There is no such thing as the perfect timing. However, there is such thing as preparedness or readiness. Don’t go making rash decisions. But if you’ve been planning to launch that blog or implement that idea for five years, just do it! You can also refine as you go.
10. Take your health seriously.
As we get older, it’s more crucial to maintain your health, workout, and stay consistent with your doctor appointments. Get your annual physicals and OBGYN appointments (there’s no minimum age for these!). Go to the gym a couple times a week. Stay up on your dentist appointments and therapy appointments. All aspects of your health matter and you only get one body and mind.
Bonus: Create your own normal
Your life is your own. You don’t need anyone telling you what’s “normal.” In fact, there’s no such thing as normal, there’s only your authentic self. Living a cookie-cutter life for the approval of social media, friends, and family is no life at all. Remember, you’re not for everyone and you shouldn’t aim to be. Do you boo!
Some resources to help you live your best life:
21Ninety Courses: Master your mind, body, and business - https://courses.21ninety.com
Gettin’ Grown - #Goals 2.0 (Midyear Checkin)
What are some lessons you’ve learned?
Here are some daily affirmations to listen to for some daily motivation!