As twenty-somethings we are awash in expectations, advice, rules, and, for the first time in our lives, overwhelming freedom. So much so that it can seem to be a chore to simply get through the day without arguing with someone about the choices we make in our own lives. If you have ever felt frustrated by others’ attempts to control your decisions then these tips are for you. Not all of these will apply to your own situation, but that’s OK – pick and choose as you deem fit. After all, it’s your life!
1. Have a firm sense of self. Everyone struggles with knowing who they are to some degree, but sometimes it gets to the point where a lack of self-identity can actually interfere with your life. If you don’t possess a strong sense of self then it becomes too easy to build your life choices around what others believe. Once you know firmly (or even a little bit shakily!) who you are is when you can start making choices based on your likes and dislikes – not anyone else’s.
2. Pick your battles. Driving is one of the most stressful experiences of my day. Whenever I have a run-in with a jerk driver (you don’t need to cut me off simply because you disagree with my bumper stickers), I panic, thinking I need to somehow “get him back” to prove that I have a backbone. Um, no.
Fighting bullies with bullying never solved an ounce of the world’s problems. The same goes for your life: You don’t need to give in to someone else’s preferences if you don’t want to, but you don’t have to disagree simply because it’s someone else’s idea.
3. Love yourself. Before you roll your eyes, let me re-phrase this: Treat yourself with love and respect. You may not be feelin’ tha luv at the moment, but if you step outside yourself and consider how you would treat your best friend in the given situation, that’s a good place to start. If you don’t believe that you are worth the life you want rather than you one you are supposed to want (as dictated by the media, your parents, politicians, whatever), then it is gonna be damn hard to stop being a doormat.
[For more on self-love: Radical Self-Love – What I Know]
4. Keep an open mind. Look, if you’re going through a bumpy spot in your life right now, you have no idea what to do career-wise, and your mom suggests applying to medical school, you don’t have to get all defensive about this being “your life.” Don’t be afraid to accept help or suggestions! And please, please be kind to those with good intentions who are completely off the mark (like your Irish grandfather who keeps asking if he should find a good convent for you).
5. Stop worrying so much about being right. This especially applies to current job situations. Look, in the long run does it really matter if your boss gets mad (again) because you forgot that the staples belong in the closet, not the supplies room? There’s no need to prove perfection to the world. All you need to do is prove yourself – to yourself.
6. Know what you want. How can you live for yourself if you don’t know what you wants out of life? It’s hard to get anywhere without concrete plans, goals, and a few beautiful dreams. Oh, and if you know what you want (even if you don’t know how to get there) you’ll have a much better idea of what not to do. I used to get anxious if I turned down a job offer, but once I gained a better idea of where I want to go in life, the guilt pretty much disappeared because I knew that those jobs would be doing nada for practical goals.
[We suggest: You’re Never Ready, But You Need to Take the Leap Anyway]
7. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. OK, that sounds a little obnoxious – I mean, who is so fearless that they don’t care whether they make mistakes? Even if you are scared out of your mind, remind yourself that sometimes the best things can come from a bad situation. So if you ignore someone else’s advice and fall flat on your face, don’t worry that they’ll say “I told you so.” Pick yourself up, give a little self-love, and know that you’re just growing stronger.
One of the most important things to remember is that it is not selfish to live life on your own terms. While others may try (intentionally or unintentionally) to make you feel as if you have an unreasonable amount of obligation to them (like your boss) or you’re making the “wrong” decision, it is ultimately up to you to determine whether that choice will work for your life. Feeling empowered yet? Good!