As I approach my thirtieth birthday, I am reflecting on what I want to design for my personal, interpersonal and professional life in this next decade, but also on what I want to leave behind in this one. My twenties have been probably pretty typical: tumultuous, adventurous, confused, varied, emotional, high, low, wonderful and full of growth. Leading up to this big birthday, I’ll be honest with you, I’ve had a little bit of grief come up. Grief for the end of the “youth” I have associated with being under thirty, and perhaps even for the parts of myself that I know are shedding as I age. I’ve had my inner-critic voices chiming in to say “I haven’t gotten enough done yet”, “I haven’t grown enough yet”, “I haven’t built what I should have yet.” I’ve been reconciling the image I’ve created for where I would be by the time I was thirty with where I am today. The irony is that these are the kinds of doubts I call out in my clients and help them work past, but it’s always harder to turn the same wisdom on yourself.
Although the closure of my twenties has had moments of discouragement, certainly, it has also had new energy coming in of liberation and authenticity. There are many things that I have done in the first 29 years of my life that I am incredibly proud of. Some things that I have even surprised myself with like finding a heart-centered and fulfilling career in coaching, being an entrepreneur since I was 26, and finding and choosing the most wonderful romantic partner. There are also many hard parts about being younger that I will not miss at all going forward, and that I am very glad are no longer a part of my life. Dating men who didn’t treat me well enough, staying friends with people I have no shared values with, spending money on things I didn’t care about, doing work that didn’t light me up. I’m glad that those parts are over. With all of that in mind, I’ve put together this list of twenty things to leave behind in your twenties. If you are going through this transition as well, or perhaps you are well before it or beyond it, see what resonates with you about what no longer serves you in your life as you move forward and consider letting it go.
This seems like it should be simple, but it might be the hardest one of all, and especially when you’re young. Doubting yourself can lead to negative outcomes in all shapes and sizes. Self-doubt could lead to not trusting your gut when you know something is off and paying the price for ignoring it, not believing in yourself enough to go after something you really want, or not building a strong and true voice for yourself. Let’s say “goodbye” to this now. It is inevitable that self-doubt will creep in sometimes, sure, but let’s no longer let it take the wheel. By simply asking yourself questions like: “Why am I doubting myself here?” What do I really want from this situation?” “What is right for me in my heart?” We can get in touch with the part of ourself that knows best, and let the doubt be cast to the wayside.
2. Toxic Relationships
We’ve all had them. A bossy friend, a condescending co-worker, a manipulative lover, a family member who doesn’t actually want the best for us. I bet you could list at least 5 toxic relationships you’ve had in your life in under a minute. There are some difficult people in our lives who are to some extent unavoidable if they are in our families, workplaces, or community, but we still get to choose our interaction with them and set boundaries for them. When a relationship is an energy drain instead of an energy lift, it needs to be examined. The people around us should enhance our lives, not deplete them.
3. Abusing Your Body
Hey, college was fun, but now that I am thirty I am totally ok with the fact that I need to stay away from some habits in order to take care of my health and wellness. Drinking too much (I hope I never gag on another shot of alcohol for the rest of my days), eating poorly (pizza at 2AM, anybody?), not using good skin products (or not washing my face at all before bed), not exercising enough (couch days galore), are all things that you can join me in leaving behind now, and instead we can focus on how we can make ourselves feel good, look good, and be well for the rest of our lives.
4. Reckless Spending
Your relationship with money will probably be evolving your entire life. Having said that, mindless spending on things that don’t enhance your life or honor your values is a habit to break. Buying things because it’s what others are buying or because you are sad and feel like treating yourself to something extravagant are not the best ways to decide what to spend your money on. Pause, and ask yourself if that’s something that’s truly worth it before you pull out your credit card.
5. Bad Debt
Speaking of credit cards, another thing to leave behind is bad debt. It’s one thing to have a mortgage or maybe you are still paying off student loans, but racking up a credit card bill that you can’t pay off each month is stressful and irresponsible. Let’s leave bad debt behind, and work hard to pay off what you need to pay off, and enter into financial empowerment as we enter this next stage.
6. Feeling Too Old
If you' feel too old now, how about when you’re 60? Be grateful for your youth! You’re not old, and it’s not worth it to make yourself feel the limitations of that anyway. God willing, you have plenty of life left, so enjoy living it without restriction.
7. Waiting for “Someday”
Guess what? “Someday” is today. It’s so easy to think I want to live abroad someday, I want to learn Spanish someday. I want to get into yoga someday. Don’t wait for someday. Start today.
8. Blaming Your Parents
All parents are flawed, limited, human people. You may have had incredible parents that you have felt very supported by. You may have had really shitty parents that you have felt broken by, even in your adulthood. Either way, stop blaming them and take care of you and what you need to do to move forward. Get therapy. Find other people to support you. Appreciate and thank them for the things they did do for you. Ultimately, you are an adult now and it will not serve you to blame them for their mistakes as your life continues. You are in control of your life now.
We’re all guilty of it sometimes, and I find that it can be almost a mindless habit to make a snarky comment about someone or to share news that probably wasn’t mine to share. Gossip is hurtful, no matter what. Let’s not be people that talk poorly about others. Let’s practice constant kindness with our words.
10. Limiting Beliefs
The world will make us feel like we can’t do things sometimes, but why would we make ourselves feel that way? Notice negative beliefs you have about yourself that might not even be true about things you aren’t good at or can’t do. Let go of limiting beliefs that could be holding you back before you even get started.
Do things you love to do. Say “yes” to things that are worth it to you. Don’t do things you don’t love to do or aren’t worth it for you, and be comfortable with those decisions! Focus on your life, and don’t get bogged down with comparison.. You aren’t missing out. You are where you are meant to be. Know that if something is that important in your life, you’d probably be a part of it.
12. Not Having Expectations for the Way Others Treat You & the Way You Treat Yourself
I love this quote from Rudy Francisco: “Perhaps we should love ourselves so fiercely that when others see us they know exactly how it should be done.” Having expectations for the ways others treat you starts with having expectations for the way you treat yourself. Be kind to yourself, have standards for yourself, stand up for yourself. Model that behavior for others and expect that they treat you accordingly.
13. Saying “Yes” to Everything
You can’t ride two horses with one ass, and you definitely can’t ride seven horses with one ass. It does not serve you or anyone else to over-commit to things, or to agree to things that aren’t in alignment for you. Life is short, the days are limited, so only agree to the things that actually matter and do them well. Don’t take on too much and then show up as less than your very best self. Edit. Edit. Edit. Say “no” regularly, so you can fully say “yes” to what matters.
14. Over-Using “Sorry”
Particularly as women, “sorry” is such a regular part of our vocabulary that we instinctively say it even when we don’t have anything to apologize for. Don’y let it weaken your speech and instead save it for when you really mean it.
15. Only Thinking About Yourself
A beautiful thing about being young is being selfish. It’s important for our growth and development to be self-focused in the beginning of our lives. We need to continue to be self-focused in many ways so we reach our goals and push ourselves, follow our hearts, and take care of ourselves. There comes a time in life though when we need to broaden our vision to think about more than just ourselves, and for me, that has come at the transition out of my twenties. I now have a partner and aging parents, and I do want to make the best decisions for myself, but also keep in mind what’s best for them.
16. Being a Doormat
Don’t let people walk allover you. Whether it’s an abusive boss, a nagging parent, or a rude person at the grocery store who cuts in front of you in line, stand up for yourself when your boundaries are being crossed. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you.
I think you might be surprised by some of the grudges you are holding. They might be big grudges toward a person that come up often, or they might be little grudges that came out of someone rubbing you the wrong way one time five years ago. Stop carrying that weight around. Start fresh. Forgive.
Disorganization is simply a waste of energy. If you are spending hours dealing with clutter, looking for lost items, or forgetting commitments, those are not the best ways to use your highly valuable time. Do what you need to do to get some systems in place. Find a calendar system that works for you, get rid of clutter you don’t use, make lists. The time you spend upfront to get things in order will save you way more time in the long run.
19. Taking Things for Granted
It’s so important to keep wanting more for ourselves to keep us growing and working hard. While we keep striving for bigger and better things, it is essential to not take what we currently have for granted. Stop and appreciate, even just for a moment, each and everyday. Make it a daily practice. Keep a gratitude journal and write down what you’re thankful for before you go to bed each night. Don’t let all of the good in your life go unnoticed.
Living, acting, speaking, breathing without intention is something to leave behind no matter what age you are. When we bring intention to what we need and want and what’s important, we invite more of those things in. When we act with intention we don’t waste as much time on the things that aren’t part of our bigger picture. So release unintentional living, and invite intention into your daily life and future years.