life lessons: early 20s

Presently I am 21 years, 2 months and 28 days old. What makes me in the slightest bit qualified to give advice on living your early 20s when I’ve barely experienced them?!

I reached out through my Instagram story asking peeps (ages 20 – 27) to share with me some of their most important life lessons. Everyone I have spoken to about this have had, or are having, wavering feelings of self-doubt and uncertainty — myself included. My personal experiences living and growing as a young adult, along with gaining insight into the lives of others inspired me to create this post.

This is not to say your 20s aren’t a time of euphoria, entertainment and rebellion — because they totally are. Some of these lessons were prefaced with my favorite memories! I mean, come on, we all have a good “I Need to Take a Break from Drinking” story, right?

Thank you so much to the amazing people who took the time to share with me.

These lessons are in no particular order. They are equally important.

YOU ARE YOUR OWN BIGGEST CRITIC.

I want to share that many of the women who responded to my question touched on self-confidence or body image issues in someway. It has taken me my entire life, and I am still working through, learning to love and accept myself. “You are more than the sum of your parts,” is a quote I have reflected on daily for quite sometime now. It continues to remind me how far I have come in life and how much more potential I have beyond my corporeal self.

As some of you who follow me on social media may know, I am currently watching Mad Men. The show is amazing for many, many reasons. One of which being alpha-male character, Roger Sterling. His witty comments, alcohol-loosened mind and complex personality make him one of the most beloved characters. At some point in season 5 (I think? They all run together when you binge watch) Roger says, “It is far healthier to be flawed than insecure.” This line is one that really hit me. I paused the show, wrote the quote down and began to brainstorm what it means to my life. I’m telling you — great show!

In dark times it is easy to fall into patterns, allowing yourself to fall out of priority. Something or, often times, someone is used as a substitute. You cannot love someone else until you love yourself. While the distraction may work, it is not sustainable. The root issue of self-love needs to be attended to otherwise you will continue missing something in life.

CULTIVATE AND VALUE RELATIONSHIPS.

Whether it be platonic, romantic, professional, etc. all relationships should be respected. Although this may seem obvious, I cannot stress how important it is to establish and build a good name for yourself in the world. Life is wild and it will take you all over. It is unknown who you will bump into later in life or how they may impact you. For example at my previous job, I spent a bit of time working closely with old co-workers, including my manager from a couple years ago!

I cannot even begin to tell you the countless stories of my social webs somehow intersecting. This is why it is so important to have a diverse integration of people in your core circle. Keep the people who you enjoy spending time with close to you. Take comfort in knowing there is always someone in the world who loves you, although you may not know it. And remember, everyone wants to feel loved. Once you find the people you are able to communicate open and honestly with, be sure to show your appreciation and gratitude for them — they are not easy to come by.

LEARN TO ACCEPT AND GROW FROM CRITICISM.

Many of us, myself included, have received a critique we’ve struggled with accepting. A standout moment for me happened fall of my freshman year of high school. I remember the moment so vividly… My grandma and I were standing in the kitchen as she cooked dinner. She told me about her day at work, I told her about my day at school. Then she blindsided me. “Alexandra,” she said, “maybe you should make your eyeliner a bit thinner. It looks a little harsh…” She was absolutely correct! But at the time I thought I knew everything, so of course I wrote her off as a “hater” and continued to wear my eyeliner absurdly thick. While this critique is not as important as others may be, accepting you are not always right can be a hard pill to swallow.

Fellow Philly blogger and Positivity Publicity author, Camille Mola, shared her early 20s “were a time of some serious growth — whether I knew I was growing or not.” Camille attests that during this time of chaos, it was easy to feel like “everyone else has it all figured out, except for me.” It takes time to realize no one really knows what they’re doing! I find comfort in the fact that we are all playing along in this life trying to figure it out.

KNOW WHAT YOU WANT AND COMMUNICATE IT.

COMMUNICATION IS SO IMPORTANT!!! Without properly being able to convey your feelings, the person (or people) you are dealing with will not understand your perspective. The same applies for the other side. In romantic situations is where I personally have found this communication to be very useful and empowering. In my personal experience of dating as a young woman I have taken notice, more often than not, there are expectations associated. This blame can be placed on a number of things, such as Tinder or Grindr, apps which condone immediate gratification. However, it can also be to blame on a lack of communication.

Just like communication, boundaries are integral to a healthy relationship. If you are in a situation in which you would rather be alone, say it. You are allowed to say no. You are allowed to leave a bad date and not call them back. You are allowed to speak up if you want a specific project role. No one will know unless you make it known.

Thanks for reading!

Talk to y’all soon,
Alex

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