Your twenties are some of the most awesome years in your life — you’re young, you’re just starting out, and you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. But what if I told you your twenties are doggy doo-doo compared to the glorious freedom that awaits you in your thirties? Here’s how it took getting to my thirties to realize just how much I got it wrong in the previous decade:
- I depended on men for validation. Instead of finding my own intrinsic worth and value, I spent years focused on getting that need met by men. Whether it was by wearing short skirts to attract the attention of the opposite sex or by chucking my identity out the door when I found myself in a relationship, I depended on men to validate my existence. The beautiful thing I’ve found in my thirties is that I’m now comfortable enough in my own skin and know my own value, sans a man’s approving glance.
- I allowed others to tell me who I was. I’ve spent my life taking on the labels given to me: “shy girl,” “smarty pants,” “promiscuous.” By letting other people define me, I shortchanged myself out of discovering who I was for myself. Over the years, with every label that I’ve shirked, I’ve become a better version of me. Now that I see myself more as “me”, my thirties have found me as the best version of myself.
- I tried to please everyone and lost myself in the process. If I could count how many times I said yes when I meant no or put someone else’s needs above my own, it’s up there in the zillions. In another attempt to get validation, I wanted my friends to think I was awesome, my boyfriend to love the hell out of me, and the rest of the world to think I was the best. It took arriving at my thirties to realize that it’s not my job to make sure everyone is smiling and taken care of.
- I didn’t take enough risks. So much prevented me from taking risks in my twenties: poor self-esteem, lack of trust in my ability, and plain old fear. As those years ticked by on the clock and time became a pricier commodity, I soon realized that playing it safe wasn’t safe at all. While sticking to the status quo has its place in certain areas of life, risks are a necessary part of growth, whether it’s starting a business or speaking up for yourself.
- I was hyper-focused on my appearance. With the lofty standards we women have to live up to, it’s no wonder we get carried away with maintaining our physical appearance. For most of my twenties, I was more concerned with getting French manicures and lying in tanning beds than I was with cultivating my mental and spiritual health. On the outside, I had glossed lips and perfect outfits, but I was a mess inside. How liberating my thirties were when I found that I could wear shoes with holes in them and not cover my freckles every time I left the house.
- I answered “nothing” when someone asked what was wrong. We’ve all been guilty of it, but I had a seriously hard time with speaking up when I was feeling a certain negative way. By spending so many years bottling emotions, I prided myself on being ‘strong’ when really, I was just scared to speak up and to be vulnerable. Time has taught me that it’s okay to share how I feel, as crazy as those feelings may seem.
- I spent too much time waiting for my arrival. I can’t quantify how much of my life I missed out on because I was preoccupied with the “I’ll be happy when” syndrome. When I was single, I waited in anticipation of a blossoming romance. When it came to my career, I swore that I would be happier when I was in a higher income bracket. When I entered my thirties, I also realized that we never have a moment of arrival, and life is a conglomeration of experiences that we are meant to enjoy in the now, not whenever all the stars align.
- I wasted time with guys who weren’t right for me. Sometimes we just want a hand to hold or a warm body to snuggle with — is that too much to ask for? Yes, if you’re like I was and just kept guys around just to hold a place in your life. How absolutely empowering and freeing it’s been to learn the art of rejection. My thirties have given me the confidence to just say no, and I’ve done it with gusto.
- I didn’t invest in myself as much as I should have. My twenties were more geared toward fun, not self-exploration and development. Relationships took precedence over pretty much anything, and friends took up the other time in between. Investing time in myself would have gotten me light years ahead of where I am today. My thirties have been a time of getting deeper with myself and coming to terms with my faults, hangups, and weaknesses.