40 things I would tell my 20-year-old self

Twenty years ago, I was a sophomore at the University of Georgia, majoring in English/pre-med. I was trying to figure out who I really was while still living up to my parents’ expectations… and failing at both.

Twenty years. Wow, that’s a long time. In those twenty years, I’ve lived a couple of lives. I fell in love young and got married, only to find myself a few years later uncertain about everything I thought I knew about myself and about love. And then going against everything my “logical brain” and parents advised, I asked for a divorce.

I’ve been a single, successful career woman. I learned to rock climb, snowboard, surf (a little), and ran a marathon. I’ve been a student, a software engineer, a manager, a coach, and a writer. I taught myself to play guitar, knit, and built a semi-successful food blog.

I have dated younger guys, been the dumpee and dumper (and once in a weird way I was both at the same time). And then when I decided to stop dating, I found true love in a friend I had had for years.

I have been athletic & svelte, and then I’ve gained 30 pounds and struggled to take it off again. I have been depressed, and I have found real happiness. Most of all, I’ve learned a lot about myself and about life along the way. And in honor of my upcoming 40th birthday (in just a few, short weeks), I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned.

here are 40 things I would tell my-20-year-old-self:

  1. You are worthy of love.
  2. Real love is not dependent on what you achieve.
  3. Follow your own heart, even when it flies in the face of expectations.
  4. You have nothing to prove to anyone (including yourself).
  5. It’s not your job to make other people happy. No matter how much you love them or want them to be happy.
  6. It is your job to make yourself happy. No matter how much you want others to do it for you.
  7. You are the only one who has to (and gets to) live your life. So others can have opinions, but you get the final say.
  8. Forgiveness is freedom.
  9. Not all love lasts forever. And that’s okay.
  10. When you overanalyze something, it usually means you’re scared and avoiding a hard truth you don’t want to face.
  11. When you make excuses for your boyfriend and keep “finding” reasons to stay, it usually means it’s time to break up. (This goes for friends too.)
  12. Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.
  13. Worrying about what you “should” do is a warning signal that you’re not listening to your own heart.
  14. Healing and recovery don’t happen overnight. It takes work… and tears.
  15. Don’t be afraid of emotions or crying. Feelings aren’t wrong or bad. Sometimes they are the only true thing.
  16. Stop waiting for permission.
  17. Do the things that make you feel alive.
  18. Forgiveness does not mean letting yourself get hurt again. Forgive, because that’s where you’ll find healing, but also set your boundaries. You can do both.
  19. Love yourself first… and have the courage to let someone really love you.
  20. Be gentle with yourself and others.
  21. Don’t apologize when it’s not your fault.
  22. Don’t shrink yourself so that others can be bigger.
  23. Don’t hide or run away. You are strong enough to stand in the light.
  24. Life won’t always go as you planned, but it all turns out better than you could have expected. Enjoy the ride.
  25. Stop assuming you know what someone else is thinking. You are not a mind reader.
  26. Your parents don’t always know what’s best for your life. Trust yourself.
  27. There will be times when you could’ve handled things better. Apologize for that, but don’t give up on what your heart knows to be right (for you).
  28. Families come in all shapes and sizes. And sometimes, blood and marriage have nothing to do with it.
  29. Your body is strong and resilient. Take care of it. Love it.
  30. It’s all connected: mind, body, heart, spirit. No, really. It is.
  31. You are sensitive, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s one of your biggest strengths. (Read The Highly Sensitive Person. It will change your life.)
  32. You aren’t as shy as you think you are.
  33. You are a strong, independent woman capable of doing so much. But that doesn’t mean you need to do everything alone.
  34. Just because you are good at something doesn’t mean that’s what you should be doing for a career.
  35. Surround yourself with people who love you for who you are, not what you do for them.
  36. You are not what happened to you.
  37. You are worth fighting for. Don’t avoid the fights.
  38. Don’t let the fears others have hold you back from your own adventures.
  39. Don’t wait for someday, start now.
  40. You already have everything you need in order to live a happy life.

What would you tell your younger self?

2 Replies to “40 things I would tell my 20-year-old self”

  1. I can’t thank you enough for all that you’ve shared. I am turning 20 tomorrow and before reading, I was in a bit of a rut. Unsure as to what tomorrow holds. Many people may very well think that that’s such a crazy way to look at life but that was my reality up until a few minutes ago. I’m sure you have touched many hearts with your words. Keep in up.

    Thanks for everything,
    A Grateful Soul.

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