In honor of my 20th birthday, I wanted to share the 20 most valuable life lessons I've learned during the past 20 years. I know I have much more to learn, but these are my key takeaways at this stage in my life. Enjoy!
1. Never take life for granted
Life is _______. We can fill that in with a million different words, depending on our own experiences, current emotions, and situations. I think everyone can agree on that despite the chaos, complication, stress, sadness, etc. over time, we realize that life is beautiful. If it were easy, it would have no value. The beauty of life is overcoming the unknown and finding yourself through uncomfortable situations. And it can all go away in an instant. Recently, I've acknowledged how lucky I am to wake up every single morning because it is a gift. We need to understand the value of that more often and enjoy the chaos of it all. Because time stops for no one, and we only have one life.
2. Be true to yourself
No matter what, there is only one you in this world. So own it. There is no point in tearing yourself down and trying to become someone that you are not. Live to be your best self and who you want to present yourself as to the world. No one can decide this but you. Love yourself. Be honest with yourself. And stay true to who you are. Forget everyone else's standards and perceptions of who "you should be." You are the only one responsible for the person you are and how you show up in the world.
3. Change is inevitable
If you know me, you know that change has not always been my greatest friend. But it has been my most valuable teacher. No matter what, change is going to come. It's the Earth's nature, and no one can stop it. With 100% confidence, I can say save your energy when it comes to fighting change because you won't win. It is much easier for you to accept change and make it work for you. To help me cope with unwanted change, I think about this prayer or quote that says, "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." Even if you're not religious or spiritual, think about the meaning behind that quote. It is so applicable to our everyday lives, even when we may not realize it. This is something that I am striving to improve and channel more in this new decade.
4. You are not perfect & you never will be
Like Hannah Montana said: "Nobody's perfect" and "Everybody makes mistakes." 2 songs that talk about the same thing, and I couldn't have said it better myself. Being true to yourself is the closest to "perfect" that you will ever reach, so my best advice would be to stop striving for "perfection" because it doesn't exist. Instead, strive towards YOUR version of perfection that represents who you want to be, what you value, and what you can contribute to the world.
5. Know your values
Understanding your values and what's important to you in life is the best way to understand yourself and who you want to associate with. Often, if you feel trapped or as if you are in a negative space/cloud, it is because you are in an environment that doesn't uphold your values. If that's the case, GET. OUT. OF. THAT. SITUATION. It is not serving you positively in any way. You deserve to be happy and live by your values. Connect with people who share the same standards and beliefs as you, and learn to respect others who don't. Recognizing what's important to you will bring you so much more peace and clarity in your daily life.
6. Be passionate
Passion is one of the best feelings in the world. It makes life so valuable and refreshing. Through passion, you find your purpose. If you don't know your passion, that is perfectly ok and NORMAL! Often, I have felt "weird" or "different" because I didn't know what my passions were or how I could fulfill them in my daily life. Dabbling in new things here and there, I realized that passion comes from within. And when you know, you know. When you know you feel passionate towards someone, you just know. Passion can be scary because of its intensity, but if you just let it be and stop fighting it, you will feel free and liberated.
7. Learn how to genuinely forgive
Without forgiveness, it is almost impossible to move on. This one is a TOUGH lesson! If you have a hard time doing this, I suggest reading books and listening to podcasts about forgiveness. Holding on to grudges weighs you down physically and mentally. Learn to forgive genuinely, and you will be set free without even realizing it.
8. Let. it. go.
Let that sh*t go!!! Whatever you feel is holding you back from being your best self or reaching your goals... LET IT GO. This is usually a lot easier said than done, but I am telling you it is a complete life changer. Letting go of the things and people that did not serve my best interests has made me feel so much happier and at peace with myself. Life is too short and you can't be so serious all the time. It's unhealthy. Letting go can be a tough decision to make, but if you know that it is the best choice for you at that time, then do it for yourself!
9. Don't take yourself too seriously
This skill has not always come so easily to me, even though I wish it did. But recently, when listening to a lot of "life" and "purpose" speeches, I noticed a trend throughout all of them: Don't take yourself too seriously. Learn to laugh at yourself and embrace your struggles, imperfections, and failures. Of course, this doesn't mean completely letting yourself go and not care about anything, because that's not good either. But sometimes, you just need to take it easy and learn to RELAX!
10. Be grateful
Showing gratitude and appreciating the life you live is a great way to humble yourself and take in positivity. Being grateful doesn't necessarily have to be about all the material things you have, though it can. But being appreciative of your health, well being, family, friends, education, opportunities, freedom, even the ability to walk and talk. Simply understanding how lucky we are to wake up in the morning and see, hear, and touch our surroundings is gratifying. Acknowledging all the simple, small things we take for granted every day has brought my life into perspective. When I notice these little things, I realize that I should not stress so much about silly inconveniences and be grateful for the blessings I overlook every day.
11. Always try to learn something new
This one is self-explanatory. Learning new things teaches you a lot about yourself, your interests, and your talents. I have recently been trying my best to learn something new every day, and it has been a lot of fun. You discover things you never even knew existed. I think this skill is necessary to spice up your life and expand your knowledge because it will benefit you significantly.
12. Get out of your comfort zone
STOP SETTLING! Be uncomfortable, try new things, meet new people, travel, learn, take risks, and be bold! Being complacent and almost too comfortable is dangerous! At 20 yrs old, this is the time to step out of what we know and explore. Being too sheltered and living in the same circle for your whole life leads to a lot of regrets as you get older. There is so much to see in the world, and NOW is the time to take advantage of it!
13. Love is the greatest feeling
Choose love! Life is so much better when you genuinely love those around you and surround yourself with the things that bring you joy. When I think of the happiest moments in my life, it was when I felt love for myself, for those I care about, and for what I was doing. When you choose to love, you choose to be free of yourself. You learn to accept, give, and appreciate the good things in life. Negativity doesn't tie you down, and you are free to share yourself with others. There are different levels and types of love, but it has been my favorite thing to experience all of them. Love for family, friends, my boyfriend, and myself has been a major blessing in my life.
14. You are your worst critic
100% you are your worst critic, there is no doubt about it. In reality, no one cares as much about you, what you're wearing, or what you're doing as you think they do. For some reason, especially as women, we feel the need always to point out our own insecurities and talk down to ourselves. Um, why? I have no idea because it's a terrible/toxic habit, but it is the truth. Whenever I feel bad about myself or my body, I remind myself that I am nitpicking every little thing about me, which no one else even notices. It's ridiculous and something that I need to stop doing. Trust me; nobody else thinks that badly about you. Everyone is mostly focusing on themselves, and that's ok! Let it go, it's not that deep, it's not a big deal, and do your best to be kind to yourself.
15. Love yourself first
Like RuPaul says, "If you can't love yourself, how in the HELL are you gonna love somebody else?" Queen was right. Without genuine self-love, life is going to be extremely challenging to maneuver. People will tear you down, and your insecurities will only worsen and accumulate over time. Self-love is not as easy as it seems; as I said before, we are our worst critics. But it's definitely possible. As a woman, being self-confident and not comparing ourselves to others or worrying about what everyone else thinks is one of the hardest things to do. And not only do but carry out consistently. The best ways to truly love yourself are to surround yourself with what you define as "happiness," accept your flaws, read positive affirmations, cleanse from social media, spend time alone, and look at yourself in the mirror naked! I swear, this actually helps so much. It will first feel really uncomfortable, but the more you look at yourself naked, the more comfortable you will feel in your own skin and realize that you are THAT BAD B*TCH! Own it and be genuine and compliment yourself, please! There is only one you in the entire world of 7 billion people, and that's pretty cool when you think about it.
16. Enjoy the little things
For me, it's the little things in life that make it worth living. Laughing, spending time with the people I love, treating myself, eating my favorite food, listening to music, dancing around, singing loudly, being with nature, buying flowers, growing plants, etc. All these subtle things take away from the inevitable chaos and drama that we face every day. It can get exhausting! Sometimes, you have to step back and just enjoy the little things. It's so refreshing! Even sitting with yourself for 5 minutes every single day, taking the time to acknowledge your breath, and just being with myself brings me an immense sense of inner peace (basically, meditation). Even if this sounds dumb or uncomfortable to you, I encourage you to try it. At least for a week. And see the shift you feel within yourself, your attitude, and your approach every day when you wake up in the morning.
17. It's ok to feel things deeply & be emotional
Being an emotional person has been my greatest gift and biggest curse. I feel so deeply and intensely about things very often, and my senses are always heightened. When I feel happy and loving, this is amazing, but when I feel stressed or upset, my emotions consume me. This is normal. Sometimes I wish I wasn't like this, but I am. So the only thing I can do about it is to realize that I control my emotions; they do not control me. Meditation, yoga, and pilates have helped me understand this and have more self-control when I feel my emotions start to take over. Never shut down your feelings, whatever it is, you have the right and worthiness to feel that way. But, it is your choice not to let it affect you so deeply and completely change the course of your mood or your day. Only you have the power and the control, no one else.
18. Meditation is key
Listen up, people!!! Do not, and I repeat, do not dismiss the power of a good mediation. Before this year, I always wanted to get into mediation and do it consistently, but I could never follow through. However, I realized that I was following meditations that didn't work for me. I would lose focus very quickly and felt like I wasn't mentally "strong" enough to meditate. WELL, THAT WAS ALL WRONG. Through meditation, I have gained so much more clarity, confidence, peace, and self-awareness. I feel more focused throughout the day and in-tune with my body. I've been more inclined to physically and mentally take care of myself, and I definitely notice the difference if I skip meditation even for one day. Trust me; it helps A LOT! Below are my favorite meditations. Wim Hof meditation is less about talking and more about controlling your breath. Doing his practice makes you feel a "high" through breathing techniques, which is actually really interesting and soothing. Melissa Wood Health meditations are self-reflective and specific to your needs, such as being grounded, aligned, anchored, or overcoming anxiety. Ex: 14 Min Meditation to Breathe in Abundance & 15 Min Meditation Finding Calm in Chaos
Wim Hof Beginner Meditation (Once you feel comfortable, click for the Advanced Guided Meditation)
19. Prioritize your mental & physical health
"Me" time is ESSENTIAL to living a happy life. I truly grasped this during quarantine, and although it wasn't so pleasant at first, I look forward to my "me" time now, like I never did before. Enjoy spending time with yourself and doing the things that bring you joy. Don't try to do something that someone else likes if it doesn't fulfill you or positively serve you. Eat well and prioritize taking care of yourself both physically and mentally. You will thank me later!!
20. Know your worth
Learning to accept who I am and stop apologizing for being me has been a challenging skill to acquire, and trust me, I am still working on it, and I have a long way to go. I am not saying that you shouldn't try to become a better person and work on your faults. But, you should never apologize to someone for living your truth and being yourself. You shouldn't feel the need to change who you are to make someone else happy and fit their version of you. This is a tricky concept because people can manipulate it to deny help or refuse to change for the better. But this lesson relates more to being in a relati0nship, from my point of view. If your partner is continually bringing you down and pointing out every single thing they dislike about you without suggesting solutions to help you improve, seek help, or find happiness, then why be with them? Know your worth and own who you are. Live authentically and never be embarrassed or ashamed of yourself for living your life how you choose and seeking help if you need it!