As I get closer to my 30th birthday, I reflect on the transformation from my adolescence until now. As a teenager, I made mistakes. As an early twenty-something, I kept making mistakes, but I started taking lessons from each one. As a late-twenty-something, I started putting those lessons into practice. (Better late than never, right?)
As a 29-year-old, I am happy to say that I am more sure of myself than I’ve ever felt before. The road to get here was filled with obstacles that always appeared bigger than they really were; the older I got, the smaller those problems looked. I learned to exercise radical acceptance and how to allocate my energy where it had the most impact.
When I entered my twenties, I was angry, naïve, and painfully insecure.
As I’m about to enter my thirties, I’m feeling grateful, receptive, and courageous.
The irony is that I’ve heard primarily negative messages about entering a new decade. As a society, we are incredibly ageist, more so towards women. (Can we stop that already?)
The words of others have labeled this new milestone as something negative, since it means I’m getting older (i.e., “ugh, oh no, you’re really getting up there, huh; it only gets worse,” followed by uncomfortable laughter). I wholeheartedly reject that negative notion, stable in more excitement for a birthday than I’ve ever had before. I know who I am today—with the willingness to continue evolving with every moment I receive. I know what I want for myself, and I know the impact I want to have on people. This sense of certainty doesn’t mean I have it all figured out; it means I want to figure things out, it means I’m excited to figure things out, and it means I know I’ll never really have it figured out. No one has it all figured out, and some of the most insightful people you’ll ever meet or learn from are those who can acknowledge this. It’s all about the journey, not the destination.
This is not to say that suddenly life is easy—but it does mean I have the tools to navigate barriers better than I did before, along with the openness to continue learning about what sets my soul on fire. Don’t let anyone tell you that aging is something to hide or feel bad about; that includes the visual indicators. Loving the skin you’re in only happens when you start at the source. Don’t forget that aging is living. Age is life—and life is the greatest gift any of us will ever receive.
Every one of us is traveling on a unique path at our own pace. Age means nothing, and experience means everything. For anyone that may be traveling at a similar stride, here are 30 pieces of advice I’ve learned in the last 30 years:
- Words are loud, actions are louder, but sometimes neither is necessary to make a point.
You do not need to react to everything, and in those scenarios, it means you’re going to have to sit uncomfortably with pain. We often try to avoid that discomfort by focusing all of our attention and energy on others, me included. It took me until this very year to finally understand that it’s less important that I feel heard or seen and more critical that I see and understand myself. Not everyone deserves access to you, but anger does not support healthy actions. Anger tricks you into thinking it needs to be released through ways that often allow negative energy to stick around longer than it needs to. There are alternative ways to release anger that have nothing to do with words or actions towards others. Walking away is sometimes the best way to get through to someone and move forward.
- When people hurt you, it almost always has nothing to do with you—and everything to do with them.
Hurting people is an act of massive deflection that projects all the parts of someone that’s hurting. Remember that that’s their journey, and you’re traveling somewhere else. Stay your course and don’t travel backward. Imagine a car trying to drive backward on the highway; yikes.
- Just because you have an objective, helpful piece of advice for someone doesn’t mean they’re ready to hear it—or they need to hear it.
When we’re close to someone, whether it be a friend, family, or someone we’re committed to, we want to help that person any way we can. When someone we love makes decisions that hurt them, it can be tough not to try and steer—or push—them in a new direction. But no matter how helpful your guidance may be, the independent factor here is the other person’s willingness to listen. If someone doesn’t want to change their behavior, they won’t hear anything that’ll support change. Real change starts within, so don’t get discouraged if someone you care about doesn’t take your advice; they may not be ready, or they may need to learn the lesson a different way on their own.
- Not everyone needs to like you, but you need to like yourself.
You will never spend more time with another person than yourself. Seeking validation or approval from others is not sustainable. Inevitably some people will not like you for reasons that probably have nothing to do with you. There’s only one person you’re stuck with in this life, and that’s you—so treat yourself better than anyone else. Plus, prioritizing your relationship with yourself will support all of the other relationships in your life.
- Only accept feedback from credible sources.
Most opinions don’t matter, but some do. Make sure to listen to the people that know and love you; these are the people with a proven track record of objectivity, authenticity, and dependability. Dodge anything else that tries to land on you because judgment and opinions hold no value.
- Love what makes you different.
They say “comparison is the thief of joy,” and they’re right because comparison often motivates a person to abandon what’s unique to them while trying to replicate what they think someone else has. But that’d be pretty boring if we were all the same, right? Celebrate what makes you different and nourish those parts of you to help them grow—and inspire those around you to do the same. By loving what makes you different, you will honor your truest self.
- People will cheat on your friends—and your friends are going to give them second, third, and fourth chances; you need to let them.
When someone hurts your friend, you want to do everything in your power to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Unfortunately, not everyone has the strength to walk away or say goodbye, even if they should. It’s not up to you to decide someone else’s actions; it’s up to them. So, you can give advice when asked but don’t try to control someone else’s choices. They might keep making the same mistakes, which might create some distance—but that’s okay. We’re all learning at our own pace. It is not your place to judge.
- Face your trauma; the longer you put it off, the more opportunity it has to attach to your psyche, evolving with your behavior.
Although recovering from trauma doesn’t erase it, it extracts the control your trauma has had and reassigns that power onto you. As unpleasant as it may be, you must hold your trauma accountable for the damage it has caused. Then, acknowledge what that painful experience was. Merely naming your trauma shows that you are starting to heal. While your path to healing is as unique as your trauma and the support system behind you, you can and you will heal from your trauma.
- Forgive everyone—but remember that forgiveness does not require reconnection.
Forgiveness is a highly underrated skill that we should always strive for, even in our darkest moments. The key is only to take what’s useful to you going forward from a painful situation: the lesson learned. Forgive people, work through the pain until it has less meaning in your present-day, and always remember what you learned so you can put it into practice in the days ahead.
- Stand for something; if you don’t know what that is yet, go look for it—relentlessly and courageously.
Ignoring injustice supports injustice. I stand for racial and gender equality. I stand for a women’s right to choose. I stand for the LGBTQIA+ community having access to the same rights everyone else has. I stand for extinguishing homophobia and transphobia. I stand for equal rights for disabled persons. I stand for my Autistic nephew, making sure that he has every opportunity for success. I stand for body neutrality. I stand for inclusivity regarding race, gender, sexuality, ability, and body type. I stand for giving a voice to anyone that faces oppression due to their race, gender, sexuality, or ability. This fight is ongoing, so I make sure that my words and actions support this stance.
- Everyone sucks a little; some people suck a lot.
People are awful (chuckling as I write this), but it’s true! We’re awful because we’re not perfect, and that’s okay. We all have things that can be a turn-off to someone, and the longer we know someone will reveal a person’s quirks, but the truth is we all have them. We all have something that makes us suck a little, and that’s okay. Focus on self-awareness, and you can ensure you suck a little, not a lot.
- You can’t love people the way they deserve until you learn to show yourself the love you deserve.
You cannot love someone if you don’t first love yourself; it’s not sustainable. A relationship will never fulfill you; a fulfilled you will fill a relationship.
- Be a good friend, and you’ll have good friends.
Supporting your relationships with friends is good for your soul because it unlocks the freedom to act without fear of judgment. Your friends are there before, during, and after your relationships with boyfriends, girlfriends, fiancés, marriages, sex-friends, or whoever. Treat them as such. Friends will get you through the good, the bad, and the ugly, because friendship is family: chosen family.
- It’s healthy and inevitable to outgrow environments or people.
Evolving into your power happens at your own pace, so not everyone will be moving by your side. The moment a relationship or environment is stunting your growth, it’s okay to say goodbye. Some people are only meant to stay with us temporarily; the same goes for environments. The older you get, the more clarity to surround yourself with the right people and the right environment—and if there needs to be a change, make it. Your friends and your environment are a reflection of you.
- Know your feelings and you’ll know your voice.
Living honestly and authentically starts with knowing your feelings inside and out. Dig deep to track your reactions and interpret how you handle your darkest moments. The way you face pain reveals who you are at your core, and if it’s not someone you like, you’ll always have the opportunity to change it. Once you unlock that control, you retract power given to the actions of those around you—and recycle that force to stabilize your reactions.
- Support that comes with strings attached is not support.
Welcome others’ support—but deny their judgment. If someone only wants to help you with the caveat that they get something in return, that’s not help; that is manipulation and an effort to control you.
- Boundaries support healthy relationships.
Boundaries are everything. You cannot change someone else’s actions, but you can place a boundary so that their actions can’t touch you. Family, friends, and romantic relationships all need boundaries so that you don’t put someone else’s needs above your own.
- You can’t save, fix, or change people—but you can always help people.
No one needs fixing, but everyone needs love. Sometimes we need to love people from a distance so that they can discover how to love themselves and progress forward. Loving someone does not require you to try and fix or change someone. The only person anyone can change is themselves. Only change what is within your control and hold your focus there.
- Forgive your parents and anything else you’re hanging onto from your childhood.
Your parents were once babies, kids, teenagers, and young adults too. They did the best they could, and that’s all any of us are doing. Parents make mistakes because humans make mistakes. Let go of what your parents taught you and teach yourself. Think for yourself and do the best you can with a growth mindset
- No one is thinking about you—as much as you think they are.
Self-doubt, overthinking, and assumptions are all inside jobs led by insecurity. No one is thinking about you nearly as much as you think they are, and once you realize that, you have much more time to focus your thoughts in a way that’s productive to your growth.
- If something sounds sexist, it is; so question it, challenge it, and change it.
Sexism is everywhere and is constantly being pushed into our subconscious in every direction. It’s up to you to actively look for ways to participate in the fight for gender equality by unlearning normalized sexist behavior.
- Feeling good > looking good.
You are so much more powerful, at peace, and content when you feel good versus when you look good. Plus, internal changes have the bandwidth to outlive external changes.
- Don’t get defensive when you can get receptive.
Admitting your faults, acknowledging your mistakes, and owning your slipups is the only way to grow. If it’s coming from a person you think highly of, or a credible source, it might benefit you to listen.
- Negative feelings can be a positive action.
If a negative feeling is an honest feeling, it will support healing. The key here is that negative emotions don’t need to invite negative words or actions. There are several ways to release negative feelings in a healthy way. Maybe it’s venting to a trustworthy friend, exercising, meditating, journaling, drawing, or even cooking. It can be anything that puts your negative energy somewhere other than the situation that brought these feelings on. For some, the best way to deal with negative feelings is to drop them on the ground, turn in the opposite direction, and leave them behind. The more energy we give negativity, the more power it has to grow. However you choose to release negativity, know that there is strength in taking a step back before reacting.
- There’s no limit to the number of times you can be the bigger person.
Have empathy even if you think they don’t deserve it, because really, who are any of us to decide who deserves what?
- When you focus less on what people think of you, you have the capacity to uncover what you think of yourself.
It doesn’t matter what they think; it matters what you think. Knowing yourself will give you the stability that overpowers the judgment of others.
- What could be is not what is. What’s already happened is not what’s happening now.
When people show you who they are—believe them. Don’t get distracted by the possibility of a possibility. Stay present and know that you deserve people that can show you who they are, rather than tell you
- The best day for a fresh start is the day you’re ready.
In all scenarios, you don’t get to choose how fast you move forward. Time truly does heal, but the amount of time is always different for every situation. There are too many factors to estimate your travel time to get over it—whatever it may be. You can do everything right on your end, but moving on from loss or heartbreak takes different periods with various routes.
- Supporting your mental and physical health is an inside job.
Mental and physical health are two critical power sources that support your well-being; No one can see your mental and physical health; only you can feel it, so you must prioritize and advocate for them from the inside.
- No one can hurt you harder than you can hurt yourself—and no one can love you greater than you can love yourself.
When the way we see ourselves is powered by the love we feel from another person, we give that person the power to unplug the outlet. No one will ever know you better than you know yourself, so be sure that power chord is sourced through you. The moment you realize no one can hurt you harder than you, and no one can love you greater than you—is the moment you step into your power.