Here’s How To Build A Life You Can Be Proud Of

At a certain point, your life is what you — and only you — make of it. You only have yourself to congratulate when you succeed and only have yourself to blame when you mess up. Because that’s the case, you want to build a life you can be proud of 100 percent. Sure, you’ll have a bunch of bumps and roadblocks along the way, but how you handle them and how you leap over them is what’s really going to matter.

  1. Be wary of those who offer advice. While some advice is worth pocketing, other advice comes from people who either think they know what’s best for others or, even worse, just love the sound of their own voice. You’ll come across hundreds of people in your life who’ll be more than willing to tell you what THEY think YOU should do. Take it all with a grain of salt.
  2. Financially prepare for tomorrow. Although living in the moment is rarely a bad idea, it’s important to have a rainy day fund. Not starting a savings account as soon as you can is something you’ll kick yourself for later in life. You never know when you’re going to be thrown a curveball and you’ll need some extra cash to dig yourself out of a hole.
  3. Accept that you’re disposable. Fun fact: We’re all disposable. Whether it be in our jobs, our relationships, or our friendships, we could be tossed to the side at any moment. Positions get cut, people break up, and sometimes friends just outgrow each other. When you realize that nothing is permanent, you’re less likely to be disappointed and more likely to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, as they say, and get right back to life without skipping a beat.
  4. Get some self-awareness. You can’t really succeed in life until you know exactly who you are. I don’t mean “who you are” in that usual cliché type of way, but I mean really know who you are. Know what your strengths are, know what parts of you totally suck; if you’re a flaky friend, own it (and change it); if you’re a klepto, be able to look yourself in the mirror and admit to it. You can’t be proud of your life if your life is built on delusion. [Insert Trump joke here.]
  5. Don’t define yourself by your relationship status. It doesn’t matter if you’re single, engaged, married, living with someone, or have just been dumped on your ass — you are NOT your relationship status. Too many women put their lives either on the back burner or on hold all together because of some stupid relationship that they’re bound to laugh about later. Don’t let that stuff interfere with your ability to build your life how you want it to be.
  6. Give more than you take. Of course it’s necessary to take in life, but if you give more than you take, then you’ll be able to look back and know you were a good person — occasionally. Whether that act of giving comes in the form of financial donations to causes important to you, volunteering your time or sitting across the table from your brother-in-law and not fighting with him for a change, do it. Giving doesn’t just give you the opportunity to pat yourself on the back, it makes you feel good too.
  7. Never waver in your convictions. Your beliefs are going to be challenged over and over again in your life. Both the stuff you kinda-sorta believe in and the stuff that you believe in 250 percent will be questioned and you’ll be forced to defend them at some point. Always defend them; always stand your ground and never turn your back on what you believe. Your beliefs may evolve over time, but that’s all you. Never change them for someone else.
  8. Be realistic in your expectations. First of all, you have to have expectations for yourself and for others. If you don’t, you just end up floating through life without having a clear goal or direction. However, it’s important to be realistic in your expectations. If you’re 5’1”, don’t expect to be a world-famous runway model. If you can’t carry a tune, even after years of vocal training, don’t expect to be Taylor Swift. This isn’t about settling for something else but being self-aware enough to realize you need to reign those expectations in a bit.
  9. Ignore the naysayers. True story: I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but when I first moved to New York City, I had to go to a headhunter who was going to place me in an office manager job because I couldn’t get anyone to give my writing the time of day. During that meeting, I said I wanted to be a writer and the headhunter laughed, saying she had once wanted to be chef but sometimes you need accept that dreams don’t come true. A decade later, I write full time and travel the world. The headhunter? Something tells me she’s still not a chef. In other words, prove them all wrong.
  10. Celebrate every success along the way. Every time you succeed or feel proud, celebrate it — even the small successes. Everything that comes to you is because you worked for it and those achievements need to recognized. Besides, on your death bed, you don’t want to realize you should have drunk more champagne.
  11. Learn to finish chapters. Nothing in life is permanent. Even life isn’t permanent. Once you learn this, you’ll be able to finish each chapter in your life and move on to the next without lingering. There’s nothing there for you in between the chapters of your life; you don’t have time to reread the last page because you’re second-guessing something. Learn to let go, and when you’ve reached the end of a book, put it on its shelf and pick up the next one. See where I’m going with this analogy?
  12. Allow yourself to be scared. You can’t, under any circumstances, move forward and have a life of which to be proud if you’re not scared AF sometimes along the way. Being scared means you’ve taken a risk, you’ve pushed your boundaries, you’ve thought outside the box, and you’ve challenged yourself in such a way that you’re shaking in your damn boots. You want to shake in your boots sometimes! You really do!
  13. Always put yourself first. It’s NOT selfish to put yourself first when it comes to your life. Yes, it’s selfish to cut the pregnant lady in line in the bathroom, but when it comes to your life, you can never be too selfish. No one else is going to put you first, so you need to be the one who does it if you want to get where you want in life.
  14. Remember that regret is for suckers. While I’ll never say “everything happens for a reason” because I no longer believe such BS, I do believe that your life is the combined effort of everything that has happened to you. From the great to the awful to the one-night stand in Vegas to the job you walked out on to the fight you had with your best friend on your 25th birthday to the cereal you had for breakfast this morning — all these components have put you where you are today. Since that’s the absolute truth, you can’t have a life you’re proud of if you have regrets. It’s mathematically impossible. Do yourself a favor and regret nothing.
Amanda Chatel is a sexual health, mental health, and wellness journalist with more than a decade of experience. Her work has been featured in Shape, Glamour, SELF, Harper's Bazaar, The Atlantic, Forbes, Elle, Mic, Men's Health and Bustle, where she was a lifestyle writer for seven years. In 2019, The League included Amanda in their "15 Inspirational Feminists Every Single Person Should Follow on Twitter" list.

Amanda has a bachelor's degree in English and master's degree in Creative Writing from the University of New Hampshire. She divides her time between NYC, Paris, and Barcelona.

You can follow her on Instagram @la_chatel or on Twitter @angrychatel.