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Twenty Things I Learned By 20 Years Old

I celebrated my 20th birthday this week. 20! It feels so crazy to say that. I have not quite wrapped my head around the fact that I am no longer a teenager but, in fact, an adult in my twenties. As I enter this new period of my life, I thought it would be the perfect time to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned so far. Although I have a lot of learning left to do, I think my experiences over the near two decades of my life have led me to develop some valuable ideas.

1. Be Confident… Even If You Have to Fake It

They say you have to fake it ‘til you make it, and I’ve found that to be especially true for confidence. It’s definitely not something you can achieve overnight, but a long-term combination of a positive mindset and self-love can get you there. One of my favorite ways to think of it is imagining your highest self and act in ways that align with those behaviors!

2. Learn To Enjoy Your Own Company

Freshman year of college was one of the first times that I found myself spending more time alone. Even though I knew it was a common experience and expected it coming into my first year, the loneliness did bothered me a bit. However, over time, I learned how important it is to be okay with being by yourself and to enjoy your own company. It’s honestly a great opportunity for self-reflection and growth.

3. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

It’s important to remember that everyone is on their own path to success. It’s futile to compare your life to someone else’s when you’re working under completely different circumstances. Rather than using your peers as a point of reference for your accomplishments, consider how far you’ve come from where you were in the past.

4. Mental Health is Just as Important as Physical Health

Although it’s often overlooked, mental health is critical to your wellbeing. It is important to check in with yourself to make sure that you’re doing okay, especailly during stressful times. Journaling is a great way to do so. In the way that we give a lot of attention to physical health and take measures to take care of it regularly, the same should be done for mental health.

5. Stay Hydrated!

This doesn’t need much explanation. Drink water, your brain and body will thank you later.

6. If You Don’t Ask, You Won’t Know

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! This can be applied to school as well as professional and personal contexts. You often leave yourself in the dark by hesitating to ask a question. Even if you think its a silly question, it’s better to feel reassured and informed than regretful later on.

7. Live In the Moment

You can’t change the past and there’s no way to control the future, so you might as well focus on the present!

8. Don’t be Afraid of Failure

You cannot have success without the failures. Although it can be hard to overcome, failure is what directs you in the right direction for future attempts. Don’t get discouraged if things are not working out the way you would like, keep moving forward! My fear of failure held me back from a lot of opportunities and was the leading cause of procrastination. But by reminding myself that it is okay to fail the first time, I have definitely grown a lot more.

9. Go to Sleep!

I know it can be hard with hectic school and work schedules, but it is a really important part of your health to prioritize sleep. I’ve learned the hard way that pulling all-nighters before exams does not work. Ever. Getting sleep will actually help you retain whatever information you do know better than whatever you try to cram into the late hours of the night before an exam.

10. Use Time with Intention

I am definitely guilty of losing hours to scrolling through social media. It can be hard to pull away from distractions but you need to be mindful of how you’re spending your time. Manage your busy day by creating a schedule and making to do lists, as a way of staying accountable. Scheduling breaks can be a great way to find a balance between tending to resposnisbilites and taking care of yourself.

11. Take a Break and Make Time for Self Care

College has taught me that burnout is real. Self care and breaks are defnitely neccesarry parts of taking care of your wellbeing. Whether its exercising, haging out with friends, or binge-watching your favorite TV shows, engage in activites that take your mind off stressors.

12. Be Creative/Explore Your Interests

Try a new hobby or pick up an old one! Busy schedules can make it feel like there’s no time for the things you truly enjoy, but doing so really feeds your soul. Even if its only a few times a week, allow yourself to be creative and express yourself in different ways. 

13. Don’t Overthink It

Overthinking can be very overwhelming. Reminding yourself that there is only so much you can control, and focusing on those things, can really help to overcome it.

14. Be Authentic to Yourself

No one knows you better than you know yourself! Although it can be difficult, do not let the opinions of other people influence your self-perception. Having to sacrifice the most meaningful parts of yourself for the satisfaction of others can be damaging, so focus on rebuilding those unique characteristics that make you who you are.

15. Communication is Key 

It’s much better to tell someone how you’re feeling than to keep it to yourself. While it may be a bit uncomfortable, it’s better to share your thoughts, rather than holding back and resenting other people because of your own hesitation. Don’t be afriad of confrontation and learn to be comfortable in openly sharing how you feel with the important people in your life. Communication is a critical part of maintaining any kind of relationship.

16. There’s a Perfect Song for Every Situation

I find a lot of comfort in listening to music. Whether I need a motivational boost, a happy jam, or a sad song to match my mood, I can always find the perfect fit, somewhere in my Spotify library. 

17. Invest in Yourself and Your Future

Although there’s a lot of tempting distractions around you at all times, focus on yourself and goals. Your future self will thank you for it. It can be daunting, but taking even the smallest steps to achieve your dreams can make a difference.

18. Treat People with Kindness

Yes, this is Harry Styles’ trademark phrase, so maybe I am a bit biased for including it. But really, you never know what someone may be going through. In approaching everyone with the same respect and kindness, you can see how the slightest bit of kindness can go a long way.

19. You Deserve an Iced Coffee

Whether you’re stressed, tired, or looking to reward yourself, coffee is the perfect fix.

20. Learning and Growing Are Lifelong Processes

You really dont ever stop learning, not matter what your age. As you grow and gain new, exciting experiences, there is so much to learn about yourself and the world around you. Relax and enjoy the ride!

row of blue cupcakes
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Iqra is a sophomore majoring in Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys reading, watching her favorite shows on Netflix, and trying new coffee shops. Iqra also loves getting involved in creative projects!
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