When I was a child, I would look at twentysomethings and think they were the most grown up, self-actualized beauties I'd ever seen — and I don't think I was alone in this. For whatever reason, lots of kids grow up thinking that their twenties are going to be this epic, decade-long peak — only to discover upon arrival that their actual twenties are going to be (or at least feel) pretty f*cking tumultuous. That said, it really makes perfect sense that this particular decade of life feels so uncertain (and often stressful) — because our mindset changes in so many ways during our twenties, and the experiences we have that push us to change the way we view things can be pretty rough.
Wherever you're at in your twenties, it's important to remember that that decade isn't really about having everything figured out. (Hell, our brains aren't even fully developed yet!) I'm not suggesting your twenties should be taken for granted, either; and I'm certainly not saying you should put off attempting to figure yourself out until you turn 30. But it's OK if you feel a little uncertain (or a lot uncertain), because your life and mindset are supposed to change a lot between 20 and 30.
So if your twenties are freaking you out, know that you're not alone. Your fellow twenty-somethings (myself included) are probably freaking out just as hard as your are — because growing up, and changing the way you think about life, is really hard. For proof, check out these seven ways your mindset changes in your twenties.
1. You Start To Value Your Time Above Almost Everything Else
OK, so you've probably always valued your time. But at some point in your twenties, you're going to become downright protective of it, and you should be. Because unless you were forced to assume adult responsibilities in your family at a young age, your twenties are going to be the first time you become truly burdened by the many time-consuming responsibilities of adulthood. (Seriously, how is it that tiny errands can take up an entire Saturday?) So while spending every afternoon at your friend's house was perfectly fine when you were in your teens, the mere thought of doing that will probably exhaust you by the time you're 24.
2. You Realize That Small, Daily Choices Will Have A Lasting Impact On Your Life
Again, this doesn't necessarily apply to every twentysomething out there, but I think a lot of twentysomethings are with me on this one. It's pretty common to take your body for granted when you're young — of course, I'm sure there are some high school kids that would choose a kale and banana smoothie over Taco Bell, but I was not one of them. However, as my twenties have progressed, I've learned that being healthy is important to me, and I can only be healthy by making good choices on a daily basis.
If you're anything like me, then there was probably a time when you couldn't imagine wanting to get up early, take the stairs, or turn down that third bowl call — but odds are high that your twenties have taught you that choosing what feels good now over what you know is going to make you feel good later isn't always a great long-term strategy.
3. You Slowly Get Better At Dealing With Change
Change is difficult to deal with at any age, and that's not inherently bad. Being scared of major life changes means that you are acknowledging them as the challenges that they are. That said, your twenties are so full of romantic, professional and geographic changes that you'll pretty much be forced to positively adjust how you think about change — because if you don't, you'll just make yourself miserable.
4. You Will (Hopefully) Grow More Body Positive
Personally, I feel like I'm not nearly as body positive toward myself as I would like to be — but I'm working on it, which I've found to be a major theme of the twentysomething experience for a lot of people. Like I said before, part of going through your twenties is learning the importance of taking care of your body — and if you cherish your body, chances are going to appreciate it and its beauty more than you ever have before.
5. Your Concept Of Success Becomes More Flexible
Your twenties have a way of changing your ideas about success, and even though it is a process with a positive and confidence-boosting outcome, it's also a process that usually includes a whole lot of self-loathing and negative thinking. At the beginning of my twenties, I thought I needed to be living in New York and working full-time as either a writer or a publisher's assistant within a year of graduating college in order to be considered successful (cute, right?). What I've realized since then is this: success isn't a formula or a recipe — it's really just about being happy with who you are and what you're doing. To quote the great Maya Angelou, "Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it."
If your twenties haven't already changed how you view both your personal success and the success of others, be prepared — because time will change your mindset regarding success, and you're going to be really happy that it did.
6. You Stop Believing That Love Is Enough To Make A Relationship Work
Speaking from experience, this one sucks super hard, but it is also a crucial thing to learn. Sometime in your twenties, the "all you need is love" mindset you once had is going to be completely decimated — and it really should be, because it's actually quite unhealthy for everyone involved. Your heart will hurt for a long time after you learn this lesson, but your mind will adjust, and you'll be an emotionally stronger person with healthier relationships when you stop putting so much pressure on love to magically "fix" problems.
7. You Learn The Importance Of Validating Yourself
Learning how to think that you're good enough isn't easy, and it takes lots of practice, so this one doesn't really end in your twenties — in fact, I think this part of our mindset never stops evolving. But I do think that, in our twenties, many of us first discover how important it is to feel like you're good enough, and that you are the only one who actually needs to validate yourself. It's tough to achieve — you can love alone time, be super independent and still not know how to be enough for yourself all of the time (which I know because I love hanging out by myself and I'm pretty dang independent, but I'm still trying to figure out how to personally provide myself with all the validation I need).
I can admit it's a skill I need to learn, though, and if you're at least partly through your twenties, you probably feel the same way. Because your twenties aren't about having everything figured out. They're about realizing how much you still have to learn.