The concept of making resolutions and setting goals for personal growth tends to get a bad rap among some of us feminists — and for good reason. Too often, they are driven by the societal pressure to be thin and perfect: I will lose weight, I will work out every day, I will magically become one of those people who meditates, jogs, and makes a balanced breakfast before 6 a.m. every morning. I agree: f*ck that unattainable, distracting noise. But in my effort to give the middle finger to the concept of Resolutions To Be Perfect, I realized that I was also throwing the baby out with the empowered bathwater. It's not the concept of setting intentions for who you'd like to be that's disempowering: it's making those intentions something punishing that is.
In that spirit, I recently took a walk and thought about some personal goals that actually felt attainable: to write for an hour every morning before work (bribing myself with a cappuccino, of course); to sit and stare into space more; to sometimes try to slow down when I eat and actually enjoy my food; to be an LA person who walks as much as a New York person ... the list went on and on, but no goals were so unrealistic. I found I had lots of little resolutions which were actually more like stated intentions. Thinking them through didn't have to be some sort of strict promise to myself, but simply a conscious awareness about the way I'd like to continue developing as a person.
I just turned 29, and while turning 30 is an arbitrary milestone, it can also feel like an important one. I have an idea at this point which "personal growth goals" have been most useful to me in my 20s — and those I'd still like to work on in my last year of this decade. So, with that in mind, here are my humble suggestions for 30 resolutions worth making before you turn 30. You certainly don't need to make them all before you're 30 (these don't expire!) — but I hope some might inspire you to remember that not all resolutions have to be total b.s.
In general, the best thing about aging is gradually giving fewer and fewer cares about whatever other people think of you. Just think of the Golden Girls, and how few f*cks they gave, and imagine yourself as on the trajectory to your way there.
Want to go eat out alone, but afraid you'll look lame? Do it. Want to wear a trend that you're worried doesn't look "flattering" on your body type? Do it, now. When faced with apprehension, ask yourself: am I not doing this — or only doing this — because of what other people think? And then, just resolve to practice doing what you actually want to do, without judgement, so long as it doesn't harm yourself or others.
As you settle into your adult body, you can sometimes lose a sense of wonder at how it continues to change. Instead, when you do confront your body in the mirror, all too often it is in criticism — picking out "problem areas," or bemoaning how your boobs are already sagging.
In order to have an ongoing and healthy relationship with your body, it's important to confront it naked as often as possible. When you're alone, speak to yourself in the mirror naked. If you have anything critical to say, try saying it to your own face instead of keeping those mean voices inside your head. Examine yourself, and what you appreciate about your body. Look at your vagina head-on. Stare at the part of yourself you hate most until you can find something beautiful about it. Dance around naked in your room to Destiny's Child. Sleep totally naked. Just spend more time naked, and see if you don't see more self-acceptance come your way. If you make friends with your naked self, it becomes much harder to hate on her, clothed or not.
You don't have to fake orgasms to be faking it. I was well into my 20s before I realized that I was performing in bed without really even realizing I was performing. Sure, all sex is sometimes somewhat performative, but trying to have sex honestly — rather than mainly for your partner's benefit — takes active work, especially as a woman.
Check out this handy guide to having sex more authentically, and challenge yourself to try new things, like silent sex sessions, to help you differentiate when you're moaning because you want to ... and when you're just stroking someones' ego and imitating porn in an attempt to be "hot" or "normal."
You're an adult now, and you hopefully know your physical limits. Now's the time to examine the degree to which you use substances like alcohol and marijuana to self-medicate and alleviate social anxiety, and to find some intentions for your substance use that feel healthy for you, even if you don't have anything close to a "problem."
Unfortunately, we're taught to view exercise as a punishment at worse ("I was so bad last night, I have to go to the gym today"), or a chore at best. The truth is, all that really matters about fitness is that you move a little bit every day in a way that brings you joy.
For me, that means walking. I bought myself a treadmill desk, and I walk as I work, because that's what makes me happier. I don't walk to punish myself; I walk because it is almost always something I feel like doing. Find your exercise that feels like it would always be doable — taking a 20 minute walk and listening to a podcast, or dancing in your room like a crazy person — and view anything else as gravy. Just follow what feels good, and try to appreciate the fact that your body is alive and can move. As long as you use and love your body, that's really enough. Really.
On that note, flat abs — the newest code for skinny, with the added level of pressure of "fit" — are a rigged game. Seriously, check out this article about why women just aren't biologically wired for flat abs, and are basically made to store some belly fat.
Spend some time with your belly in the mirror. Take pictures of it for yourself. Talk to it until you make friends. Do sit ups sometimes if you feel like it, sure, but not because you think your abs need to be flat to be lovable. Your belly is there for a reason, and it is part of your femininity, if you want it to be.
Back when I was meditating more regularly, one of the most beneficial things I got out of it was to "make friends," as meditators like to say, with the voice in my head. Until I had really forced myself to sit with my stream of consciousness — seeing where it wandered, noting it, and then attempting to bring myself back to my breath, over and over again — I don't think I realized the degree to which I was always either a) living in future plans and worries or b) berating myself for not being something-or-else enough. The voice in my head was much meaner than I'd ever admitted, and I talked to myself in a way I'd never dare treat anyone else. In other words, I was screwing myself before I even started — because I wasn't a good friend to myself.
Whatever it takes for you to bring awareness to the narrator in your head — walks, meditation, journaling, therapy — starting a dialogue with yourself in your 20s is key. When the voice says something berating, talk back to it, saying, "Damn, that was mean." When the voice is overly critical, say, "Hey, I'm doing the best I can right now." As long as you start talking back and becoming aware of your own thought patterns, you'll begin to form a stronger alliance with yourself.
While you're becoming friends with your mind, one of the best words to become more conscious of is the word "should." Women, especially, are always using this word with themselves without even realizing it.
Sometimes, The Should is implicit. I need to go out tonight because my friends will think I'm lame if I don't. I need to go to the gym because I ate too much last night. Sometimes, The Should is explicit, but disguised as pseudo-enlightenment. I should be grateful for my job even if it makes me unhappy. I should stay with him and give him a chance, I'm just being judgmental. The Should is not necessarily always wrong – but you *should* note it when it pops up, and examine whether it's really true for you — or just the way you think you should be.
On first dates, I used to fill every silence in an effort to be polite and ingratiate myself. I used to apologize to my parents for not calling them back right away, even though I wasn't actually sorry — I was just feeling guilty. I would say sorry for asking people I managed at work to do their job, or even when someone else bumped into me on the subway.
Politeness is all well and good, but not at the expense of you being an autonomous person with needs, boundaries, and goals. Resolve not to say sorry when you aren't, and don't make yourself smaller in order to build men up.
Despite writing my whole life, I didn't believe I deserved to call myself A Writer until very recently. And despite liking women as well as men my whole life, I didn't feel I deserved to call myself Queer until I'd actually had sex with a woman. Well, I wish I had owned those two identities sooner. If you are an artist who just collages in her room, you are still An Artist. If you like all genders, you get to define what you call your sexuality — no one else does.
Of course, this has important caveats — don't speak up for other identities as some sort of authority when those identities aren't your publicly-lived experience, and check your privilege at the door. So, for example, while I had a right to define myself as queer, I don't think I had the right to speak on behalf of the LGBTQ community when I'd only publicly dated men and had never incurred discrimination because of my sexual preferences.
Probably one of the most important battles of my 20s was beginning to establish clear boundaries with my parents. As an only child with very needy parents, it was really, really hard. I felt at times a crushing guilt simply for being my own person who needed her own space to figure out who she was. Therapy was key (more on that soon), but so was learning more about how to establish boundaries with my parents — and stick to them.
Ever since I can remember, I was in a huge rush. I sort of thought of life as some peak you reach — as if once certain milestones are met you know you're in "Your Life." I felt a huge pressure to get there right away, on all levels: I will love myself, I will find The One, I will travel all the world now, I will write a bestselling book, I will finally have the perfect wardrobe, etc.
One of the more liberating and scary things about aging is realizing that life is not some peak you reach just because you get married or have a kid. It is what you're in right now, as you sit here picking your nose. Similarly, all the self-love I've been talking about is not something you one day "achieve" — it's a daily dialogue and battle. Don't beat yourself up for not loving yourself perfectly, and don't think that if you could just figure out that one thing everything will fall into place. Instead, think of life as a series of hills and valleys, and remember that you don't have to follow any particular marked path. Just resolve to keep making your own map.
In my 20s, I went from meat-eater to vegan, monogamous to mostly non-monogamous, thinking I would definitely have to have my own kids to not being sure whether I want them at all and thinking I'd adopt if I did.
The point is, I changed, and in some pretty fundamental ways I viewed my world. As a result, I know that I'll continue to change radically as I age, and that nothing is ever absolute. The realization is both scary and liberating, but in allowing myself the freedom to continue evolving past the phrase "that's just the way I am," I remember that nothing is ever known or fixed — and that's actually really exciting and liberating.
I was never totally comfortable with being on the Pill, but I thought that's just what I had to do to have a "regular" cycle. It wasn't until I actively questioned whether it was the right longterm option for me that I realized I was letting doctors dictate my reproductive and hormonal choices for me. Similarly, my relationship with anti-depressants has been an ongoing and complicated one — sometimes I feel like I need them, sometimes I don't, and sometimes I feel totally mixed about it.
I think that what matters is that I'm committed to trying to think about which medications I take, and why. I try to remember that my body is my choice, and take my decisions from there, with as much gentleness towards myself as possible. Resolve to remember that what you put in your body is your active, ongoing choice.
If you want to use a vibrator during sex but are too afraid to break it out, check out this guide. If you'd like to enjoy oral sex more but find your mind is a nonstop soundtrack of self-conscious thoughts, actively work on that. If someone is doing something in bed that hurts or just feels weird and you don't like it, don't just moan and bear it until they're done. Ask for more lube or for them to stop. The point is, sex is supposed to feel good. It is not a performance to be acted out for other people's benefit, or some test of your body's "normalcy." Advocate for what you need and want like a grown-ass woman. (Oh, and while you're at it, resolve to always pee after sex and wash your sex toys. You'll save yourself many infections.)
Masturbation is a feminist act. It is an act of self-care, bodily autonomy, sexual agency, and love. If you're not doing it regularly, whether you're in a relationship or not, you're denying yourself some key insight into your psychology and sexuality. Make it a resolution to rub or buzz one out on the regular.
It wasn't until my mid-20s that I realized I was regularly doing things to my body that I didn't actually want to do just to "look good." I wore clothing that restricted my breathing when I sat down, I wore shoes that I couldn't walk as much as I wanted to in, I shaved my vagina just to be normal, and bras that were uncomfortable just so my boobs looked "better."
Well, I'm here to remind you that you have the permission to say eff that noise. Rock a full bush if that's what feels comfortable and sexy to you. If underwire hurts, consider giving it up. Stop wearing clothes that make you feel restricted or bad about your body on any level. Remember that comfort in one's skin is what's actually sexy.
Maybe you think you can't afford it, but you can find somewhere to go. Maybe you think you don't have any problems, but trust me, that in itself is probably a problem. Maybe you think it's self-indulgent — it is, but in a way that makes you a better friend, partner, daughter, and citizen.
Therapy is the key way I got to know myself in my 20s, and finding a good therapist is like having an ally through some of the most tumultuous and searching years of your life. It always helps, it always makes you more powerful, and it is always worth the hour.
This one is tough, I know. But if you don't advocate for what you want at work, no one else will offer it to you. Read this guide to asking for a raise, and commit to doing it this year. Advocate for what you need to be happiest and most productive. Know your rights in the workplace, and dare to ask for what you want. The worst they can say is no — and even that rejection will ultimately make you more of a badass going forward.
I think it is useful to have a rough five-year plan, and by "plan," I mean "vision and intention that is allowed to change at any time and that you are not rigid about." For example, if you know you'd like to be making more money, living a quieter life, or spending more time on your art, start creating the conditions for that to happen, and keep your visions for the future in mind when making choices big and small.
That said, for the love of Gloria Steinem and all that is holy, please, please do not create a five-year plan that dictates you "have to" get married, have kids, find love, reach enlightenment, or get your dream job by a certain expiration date. In my experience, every person I know who put that kind of deadline on themselves failed spectacularly — because the were chasing the word "should."
You're not even 30 — what do you need to think about your biological clock for? That was my attitude — until my late 20s, when I realized I'd actually been subconsciously rushing through life in an effort to pack all my pre-kid experiences and goals in before I hit that magic number when my eggs started dying and I turned into a pumpkin.
It's unfortunate and crippling that women are taught to view their bodies as ticking time bombs — Quick! Do it now before you're infertile/old/ugly/used up! If you want to give birth to kids, great. There are certain physical limitations to that dream, and I'm not suggesting you ignore them. What I am suggesting is that you examine the ways in which your awareness of your biological clock is affecting the way you approach your life and the future possibilities you believe you have. Personally, I found that once I realized and embraced the idea that adoption could be a real, fulfilling option for me, a huge weight was lifted — it was as if I got years of my life back I didn't even know I was stressing out over.
Maybe you also think you're too young to confront getting old and the fact that you're going to die one day. Nope. Thinking about the relationship with aging you'd like to have now sets you up for success once it more visibly and achingly begins to become a more present concern. Try doing a death meditation, where you imagine your own death (instructions are here). Think critically about the way women aging is talked about, and how you'd like to think about your first wrinkles and grey hairs. Tell your loved ones if you'd like to be an organ donor, even if you're registered (they can override the sticker). It's not dark — it's setting yourself up to be less freaked out and in denial about death in the future.
Are you using baby talk with the people you date because you think it's cuter than your adult voice? Are you more likely to call yourself and other women "girls?" Do you diminish your accomplishments and talents because you're still young and inexperienced?
Yeah, you're not a baby. You're a legit adult now, and the sooner you embrace that fact — and the responsibility and agency that comes with it — the better. You are not your parents' little girl, and the right person to date will not be threatened by a grown-ass woman. Resolve to be wary of anyone you find yourself infantilizing yourself around.
An extension of listening to the word "should," this is also one of the most important resolutions you can make in your 20s. Perhaps you've "always thought" you'd get married, be a doctor, have kids, etc. Challenge yourself to examine the things you've "always thought," and might even be actively pursuing.
Are you pushing yourself into a career you don't actually want, but just think is what your parents would be most proud of? Are you thinking you should get married in the next five years just because that's what everyone around you is doing? Do you actually believe in and want the total monogamy you've been told equals "happily ever after," or does something more open appeal to you when you imagine a longterm partnership? The point is, you get to define what your dreams are. Not the nosy people of the world.
For many of us, it's been a year of feeling powerless against the political system. As much as I understand the urge to crawl under a rock for the next four years, this is not the time to cower. Resolve to remember that no matter how powerless you may feel, so long as you have your sense of self, you are not powerless.
Check out this list of 50 feminist resolutions that make a difference. Get involved by volunteering, mentoring, giving money or signatures. Look out for women at work you can help lift up — offer to be someone's sounding board for their dreams, and let them know they have an ally in you. Compliment women you don't know and make their day. Help lift up marginalized voices, and don't take checking your privilege as license for inaction.
There came a point in my 20s post-college where I realized Sh*t. If I don't read those books I assumed I'd read by now, no one's going to make me read them anymore. That said, when you're a grown-ass woman with a job, it isn't easy to find the motivation after a day at work to do much else but veg. Set up manageable ways to continue your education — join a bookclub that will hold you accountable to reading tougher books, subscribe to podcasts that actually teach you something, and keep working on your craft, or whatever else works your brain out. No one is responsible for your being informed and engaged but you.
This is a tough one, and one I'd personally like to do more of in the next year. Whether it's thinking about how often you check your email after work, the more abstract ways in which social media affects the way you conceive of your identity, or simply trying to see something besides your phone first thing in the morning by buying an actual alarm clock, it's up to you to have a more mindful relationship with technology.
There is no manual yet, and our generation (or, more likely, our children's generation) will have to come up with a code of manners and standards around how we use technology, because lord knows it feels pretty out of control right now. I know it isn't easy to stand up for things like what's right for you after work hours, and might not always be possible, but it's at least worth thinking about the kind of relationship with technology you'd eventually like to have, and beginning to steer your lifestyle in that direction.
I know I'm not the only one who struggles to take breaks during my workday. But if, in an effort to be a hard worker and more productive, you aren't allowing yourself to even take some time away from your screen to eat lunch or take a 10 minute walk, you are scientifically proven to be less productive. If you are worried about being unreachable, just set up alerts on you phone, take it with you, and take a goddamn break. You will be better at your job, and you'll certainly enjoy your life much more, too.
This also goes for giving yourself permission to take breaks in general, whenever you need them — breaks from family, breaks during or from sex, breaks from trying to always be perfect, breaks for trying to save the world. As a woman especially, advocating for your need to take a break can be a radical act.
I used to view my intuition as useful, but probably faulty. After all, what did I know? I was so new to the job market/dating/writing etc. Well, as time went on, I realized my intuition — especially the vibe I got from people on first dates or job interviews — was always spot on. If you can tell you'd be compromising something major in a job or a relationship, trust yourself and try not to be flattered into a situation that isn't right for you. If something feels weird or disrespectful during sex and you're not sure why, ask to stop and talk about it.
The important caveat to this is that sometimes, our fear can feel pretty similar to our intuition. How do you know when you're just following your gut, and when you're giving into the knot in your stomach that might be holding you back?
For me, the simplest test to follow has been to ask myself: am I making this choice based in fear, or love? Even if the choice is to say "no" or not do something scary, that can be a choice based in love if you know in your gut it's what's genuinely right for you. Just keep following the direction of love — and your trusty intuition — and you're making good choices.
We tend to talk about love like it's a finite resource, like we only have so many slices of love pie to give out before we'll run out. With each heartbreak, we might feel we've wasted our time, or we might feel we can only care about specific causes we've claimed as "our thing."
In my humble experience, love is more like a muscle. The more I work it out, the stronger it gets. The more I love, the greater my capacity to care. I resisted becoming a vegetarian for years, thinking "my issue" was feminism instead. It wasn't until I finally opened myself up to the reality of the animal agriculture system that I realized feminism and animal rights are completely connected. When I became a vegan, I found it was a snowball effect of caring — suddenly, I also cared that the clothing I bought was ethically manufactured, I became closer to my partner, I indirectly inspired multiple friends and strangers to change their habits in a way that improved their lives ... the love just seemed to breed more love, like mold on vegan cheese.
So if you want to pare this list down to one resolution to make in your 20s, you might as well make it that: I will love myself and others, and take it from there.