Though many people think of their 20s as their throwaway years, the time to be reckless and wild and decidedly undecided... research has shown us the opposite to be true. Your 20s are the most important decade of your life. They lay the foundation for your long-term relationships, your career, your overall earned income. And while going crazy over whether or not you're living up to your own standards is counter-productive, there are a number of simple, everyday things you can start with–a series of little promises to make to yourself to ensure that, no matter what, you know you're trying your best, doing what you can, and–above all else–treating yourself the way you want the world to treat you for the years to come. Here, 20 promises every woman should make herself while she's still in her 20s.
Be brave enough to be your own best friend
If the choice is between being alone and being in a room of people who don’t love, respect or appreciate you, always choose to be alone. Be liberated enough to put yourself first, give everything you’ve got to your life. Be realistic with yourself, but be kind. Little by little, day by day, discover that it’s always been OK to be exactly who and what you are, and that, in fact, acceptance is the path to everything you hope to have. Find liberation in that. Follow it unconditionally.
Buy the good wine
Get your hair cut when you need to. Start a budget and stick to it. Cook yourself dinner. Make a “peace of mind” savings account and add to it bit by bit. Create your own safety. Become your own security. Blaze a path to your own validation. Get your nails done now and again. Say sorry when you mean it. Say nothing when you don’t.
Care about yourself enough to not wear shoes you can’t walk in, or date people who can’t love you
Don’t cause yourself pain because you think that wearing things through, forcing them enough, will break them, change them, or make them hurt you less. If you’re uncomfortable, change where you’re headed, not what you find on the path.
Radically accept your body, regardless of how far it is from where you want it to be
Remind yourself that love and beauty are not mutually exclusive phenomenons. The most ugly and socially unideal among us find purpose and joy and love and light, and if you stop to notice that, you will realize the path to what you desire is not in being a jean size smaller or a cup size bigger. It’s in living a little bigger, and being fierce enough to face what belittles you to believing “how you look” is what will get you there.
Tell yourself the truth, even if you don’t tell anybody else
When you have a problem, be able to tell yourself that you do. Get help when it’s available. Seek it out when it’s not. Research and read about what it is you’re struggling with. Be able to withstand the crashing in your heart for a few seconds, you will need this when you have to tell yourself that the person you’ve placed hope in doesn’t reciprocate the feeling. Doing this will change your life in the most gorgeous way: You won’t disillusion yourself into thinking you’re OK all the time—you’ll actually get there for real.
Do something each day that makes you feel as though you have purpose
It can be as small as helping a stranger on the street, as large as writing another three pages of the book you believe you have inside you, as full as forgiving a family member who has hurt you, as enlivening as accomplishing another bit of a great project that you believe in more than anything. No matter what your “it” is, be able to go to sleep at night saying, “I am so goddamn proud of what I did today.”
Value the money you earn, and spend it in a way that respects what you do
It’s not about how much you do or don’t have, it’s consciously spending it on things that house you, nourish you, bring you joy. Be grateful for every dollar because you respect the time and energy and awareness you devote to whatever it is you’ve committed to.
Date the person who wants you to live your life, not live your life for them
Love is not being consumed. It is not a needing feeling. It is subtle and empowering. It will make you want to live your own life better, and more fully. The kind of love that makes you desire nothing else to exist is not the kind of love that lasts (but it is the kind that will wreck you from the inside out).
Keep only the friends who make you better for having been with them
Don’t half-ass friendships. Don’t waste your time on people who don’t love you back. Give your everything to the people who matter and release the people who don’t. You’re doing everybody a favor in the end.
Follow your gut, especially when you’re mad at yourself
It is a privilege to be able to be uncomfortable; Many people in the world cannot acknowledge it longer than they have to tend to their most basic needs. Your dissatisfaction is you telling yourself, “There is something greater out there for me, though I’m not sure what that is yet.” Heed it. Respect it. Appreciate it. Follow it. Listen to it. Do not cast it off. You are the only one who will suffer.
Never let yourself believe that your value is measured compared to other people
You are not only as beautiful as you can convince yourself your friend is not. You are not only as successful as you are better than someone else; You are not only as much of a failure as you haven’t done as much as someone else has. You are your own entity. Your life does not change in proportion.
Remember that everybody “worries about the bills”
Most “problems” in your life aren’t problems, they’re just human experiences, which mean growing and seeing ourselves often in the things we dislike (and then change). Everybody’s gotten to a point in their life when the finances have run low. Everybody looks in the mirror and worries about their body. Everybody is afraid they’ll never find love or they’ll lose the love they have. But not everybody lets these things stop them from being loved, or having fun, or living their lives. That’s the difference.
Remind yourself every single day that everything is temporary
The apartment you live in, your relationship status, your job, your money, your problems. They will all pass. Don’t take the hard stuff too seriously, let it grow you, and guide you to the next, best step. Get serious about the good stuff. It’ll be gone before you know it.
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, figure out what prevents you from accepting it.
Most things don’t go away until we heal what they’re trying to show us–and that’s because, psychologically, we do it to ourselves. We want to heal. We want to change. We want to address what’s wrong, at our core, even if it makes us put ourselves in discomfort until we do so.
Do not let the happiest moments of your life be in the future
Your life will not be defined by events, or a summary of your story. It will be the little moments in which you chose to be completely present and aware. Those are what you will remember and value and seek out time and time again. The trick is that we believe seeking out some kind of external experience will naturally do that for us–but it’s not true. Things are only as good as you choose to be aware that they are.
Do not wait until you’re burnt out, used up, or have otherwise destroyed yourself before you decide to make a change
Have the foresight to know that you’ll ultimately arrive in the direction you’re headed. Don’t let the catalysts of your greatest awakenings be your greatest tragedies. Don’t fall so in love with comfort that it doesn’t let you change. These things are your choices, ultimately. Start making them now.
Remember that wanting to leave something is enough reason to do so
You don’t need to wait for a good reason, or make one happen so you feel justified.
Remember that the most worthwhile thing to make beautiful is your mind
Read things that interest you. Explore caverns of yourself you didn’t know existed. Garner understanding and empathy every time you look and see yourself in someone else: for better and for worse. Learn not for the sake of what it means to appear “smart,” but for the kind of life that’s on the other side of understanding something just a little bit more.
Let go of your projections, assumptions and expectations and replace them with ideas, inquiries and hopes
Nobody ever looks back on their life and thinks: “Yep, that’s exactly how I thought it would go!” Let go of what “needs to be.” Address why you think that hope will save you. Know that you don’t know what you don’t know. Be hopeful in being open to whatever comes your way. It’s either for you to enjoy or for you to learn from. Either way, there’s something to do with everything you go through. Think and learn and open yourself more and more each day. You don’t know which way will be the “right” way until you’re there and you know it to be true. Explore the detours, in the meantime.
Be your own saving grace
The scariest and most beautiful thing is that the things we think will save us (or, in other words, make us “happy”) rarely ever do. More money doesn’t make us feel secure. Being surrounded by loved ones doesn’t make us feel worthy of it. It is never a matter of what’s happening, it is only how you think of it. Save yourself by cultivating your mind. Deepen your life by shifting your perception. If you want a different outcome, become a different person (or, rather, evolve more fully into who you really are). There is nothing that will save you from your suffering other than your choice to do it yourself. Ironically, you’ll have to make it eventually. The question always is the same: Will you do it now, or will you do it later?
Images: Jonathan Grado/Flickr; Giphy(17)