A few weeks ago I turned 22 and I decided to make a list of 21 things that I learned while I was 21, because this past year I have learned more about life, myself, and other people than any other year of my life. It has been an incredible year of discovery and growth, and I wanted to share some of that with you.
1. If I am not content with my life right now, I will never be content.
"Someday" is a dangerous word. Someday, when I have a career I'll be happy. Someday, when I graduate high school/college/grad school I'll be happy. Someday, when I'm in a relationship/am married I will be happy. Someday, when I have children, then I'll be happy. Someday is a trap. There will always be something more, something missing. I will never be fully satisfied if I place your happiness in some future event or person. It will never be enough. This is it, right now, right here. (Watch my YouTube video “Tomorrow Doesn’t Exist” for further explanation).
2. Other people are just as interested in me as I am in them.
For most of my life I've had this story I’ve been telling myself that I'm not very interesting and that people don't want to talk to me/hang out with me. I am very interested in other people, but because of my insecurities I would always keep other people at a distance, for I didn't want to be rejected by them. Every time someone would show interest in me I would get confused. Don't they know I'm not that interesting? Don't they know I'm not worth their time? I would always wait for other people to come to me, for I didn’t want to risk being rejected. I had to get rid of the notion that I’m not good enough, or interesting enough. What I realized is that other people are just as interested in me as I am in them, and I’d hate to think that I missed out on a really great friendship with someone because we were both too shy/scared to say hello.
3. The little voice inside my head is a liar.
The little voice inside my heads is always telling me what I can and cannot do. It's always setting up limitations. Vincent Van Gogh said "If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint," then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced." The more I do the things that the voice inside my head says that I can’t, the more I find how wrong that voice is. I’m discovering that the voice inside my head is a liar, and there is nothing that I cannot do.
4. If something needs to be said, say it.
I am so incredibly afraid to be honest with people. I’m afraid I’m going to hurt their feelings and afraid I’m going to look or bad or that other people are not going to like me. I am EXTREMELY nice, and my tendency is to people please. This year I’ve learned that my niceness has caused me to pretend, and it’s fake. I have always been terrified of conflict, but sometimes it’s necessary. Ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away; it just prolongs the inevitable and creates more unnecessary stress and worry. People are usually thankful when you tell the truth (in love) instead of saying what you think they want to hear.
5. Do Away with Guilty Pleasures
I'm 22 years old and I like One Direction and Taylor Swift. Sometimes I listen to Justin Bieber too. I like YA fiction novels, and teen drama TV shows. Some people may say I'm too old for these, but who's to say? I like a lot of random things and there’s a lot of “cool” things I’ve never even heard of. I’m tired of pretending to like things just because other people do, or dislike things because other people don’t. I like what I like and I’m not going to pretend any differently so I can appear to have the same interests as other people.
6 a. The way I see myself if not the way I actually am.
This one came as an incredible surprise to me. Often times people think that the way they see themselves is the way they actually are, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. I think the person we have the most distorted perception of is ourselves. We have so many opinions, judgments, assessments and beliefs about ourselves that are completely inaccurate. This goes back to #2 “The Little Voice Inside My Head Is a Liar”. The little voice that talks to me really has no idea who I am, and the perception I have of myself is not the truth.
b. and the way I see other people is not the way they actually are.
If the way that I see myself is not the way I actually am, how could the way I perceive other people be the way they actually are? We so often define people by their actions, by their reactions, by their attitudes, but none of those things are who they actually are.
7. "Easy" is a Waste of Time.
I have spent my whole life in the zone of easy and comfortable. And what did that get me? More of the same. Nothing new or different will ever happen if I never risk anything, if I never challenge myself, if I never take an action that I have never taken before.
8. Give up Always Needing to be Right.
"It does no good to win the argument but lose the person". No true joy or love comes from needing to be right. Most of the time people argue over mere opinions, attempting to prove our opinions as the truth. Then we get angry because we’ve decided we’re right and they’re wrong. We have a choice, to always be right or to always be in the presence of love. I’ll go with the latter.
9. The way I perceive life is not the way life actually is.
I am a 22 year old white female, residing in Oregon in the United States. The way life occurs for me is very different from the way it occurs for a person of a different race, gender, socioeconomic status, location, religion, etc. None of these perspectives is the "correct" perspective, nor is any of these perspectives the “incorrect” persepective. Learn to listen to other people's perspectives, and don't write them off because they don't line up with the way you think the world works, because their view of life is just as valid as yours.
10. The world is changed by ordinary people deciding to live extraordinary lives.
I’ve always wanted to be an inspirational speaker, but didn’t think there was anything particularly inspiring about me. Little did I know. People are inspired by people who are authentic, who admit when they’re wrong, and who express their vulnerabilities. The only difference between someone like you and I and someone like MLK Jr. that he was an ordinary person who decided to live an extraordinary life.
11. Playing the victim only takes away my power.
It’s easy and safe to blame other people for the situation we’re in, for the way we act and behave, but doing so gives them the power. Playing the victim takes away your power, and gives control to others over your choices, feelings, and happiness. When I decided to stop playing the victim and took responsibility for my life, my life became a creation of my own.
12. People who seem attractive, confident, and successful don't have life figured out any more than I do.
It's easy to see someone with confidence and think "wow, they've really got life figure out. They know what they're doing". But the truth is, they don't have any idea what they're doing any more than anyone else does. Something I've discovered is that everyone is insecure about something, and the way I perceive another person is not the way they perceive themselves. No one has it all figured out. No one has all the answers.
13. Let People Know How Much You Appreciate Them.
I have let far too many people come in and out of my life without letting them know how much they mean to me, how much they’ve inspired me, and how much I love them. I didn’t want people to know how much they cared, for fear that they did not care for me back, but what good did that do for me? It just left me in a whirlwind of “what ifs” and “I wonders”. The good news is, it’s never too late to let someone know how much you care.
14. Being Vulnerable Is a Good Thing.
For the majority of my life I have avoided vulnerability at all costs. I thought vulnerability equated to weakness, I thought I would be rejected and scrutinized if I was ever vulnerable. What I discovered this year is that just the opposite happens. When one is vulnerable, love, belonging, self-expression, and happiness are found. I thought that vulnerability came with a risk of being hurt- and that was not a risk I was willing to take. But in reality, vulnerability allows you to be free from the constraints of your thoughts, of fear, guilt, and shame. Vulnerability gave me freedom, power, and self-expression in a whole new way that I never could have expected.
15. Ask Yourself "What Do You Want Your Life to Be About?" Take a Stand For Something.
What is something that you are passionate about? What do you really care about? For me, it’s young people. There are far too many young people who believe they are unwanted, unloved, and worthless. And I am absolutely determined to find a way to show them that none of these things are true. Not even a little a bit.
16. Don't Be Afraid to Ask For What You Want (You Might Just Get It)
My whole life I have been afraid to ask for what I wanted- either because I didn’t think I deserved it or didn’t want to seem greedy. Don't assume that you won't get what you want or that you don't deserve what you want. Wishing, wanting, and waiting won't get you anywhere. Share with other people, and they just might surprise you.
17. Own Your Story. (Stop Hiding From Other People)
This is something that I am extremely guilty of doing. I put up a front, I pretend, I try to impress. It's not authentic. This can come in many forms, whether that be passive aggression, outward aggression, shutting down, or putting up a front. For me, I like to say "I don't know." It deflects another person's questions, preventing them from getting to know me. And I’m tired of that. I’m tired of hiding from other people.
18. Stop being so concerned with looking good.
Be weird, be loud, be confident. Sing at the top of your lungs, do some crazy dance moves. While it may feel like you're making a fool of yourself, more likely than not people will admire you for your confidence. Plus, you'll have more fun.
19. Inaction will NEVER produce results. (Real Life Doesn't Occur Inside My Head)
I am a thinker- an over thinker. I analyze, examine, and think about everything. I rarely seek advice from anyone else and I try to figure everything out for myself. For years I’ve felt like I’ve been stuck in a rut; living the same life over and over again with no change. I’ve believed the cliché that “Good things come to those who wait”- but this year I’ve learned that that is full of crap. Because in reality, nothing comes to those who wait. Nothing changes. I’ve lived my whole life waiting, wishing, wanting, hoping- and have got nothing for it. Taking action is the only thing that will ever give me results for the life that I want- different actions than ones I have taken in the past.
20. When I don’t contribute, the world is missing something.
I have never thought that other people need me. I’ve had the thought before, that if I just disappeared, everyone would be just fine without me. I thought I don’t really need to contribute and there’s nothing I can do or say that will make any sort of different for anyone else. In school, I was the absolute quietest kid in class. I would only talk when someone talked to me, and would never raise my hand. By not contributing to the conversation I was not allowing others to be exposed to my unique ideas and insights and because of that, the group was missing something.
21. The only real thing in between me and the life I want is me.
Once I was able to stop blaming other people or God or whatever for my circumstances- I was able to see that the only real thing between me and the life that I want is me. My fears, my insecurities, my doubts- that is the only thing in the way, really. If I decide to be responsible for my life I have the power to overcome these things, but it does take something. It takes the willingness to accept what is, and to create a new plan from there.