Hard Life Lessons I Learned Before I Turned 30
Real & Frank Life Advice From an Extroverted Introvert.
Turning 30 seems to have a bad reputation. But I couldn’t feel more optimistic about it!
It’s something I embrace wholeheartedly because I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. I must admit, it’s been a long, winding, bumpy ride to get here. And yet with every obstacle, I became a more resilient person.
When I look back, I’m grateful for all the hard lessons. Because at 30 years of age, I feel like my backbone is made of solid steel. It is a very recent feeling, but one that I am grateful for. Here are the top things I’ve struggled to overcome (but managed to!) before I turned 30.
I hope that sharing these will help a few of you who may be fighting the same battles.
- XO Natalie
No, I Don’t “Need” Breast Implants, Thanks Though.
“You know,” he said while eyeing me fully naked, “if you got breast implants it would even you out. You’re a little bottom heavy. I’d pay for them for you.”
I balked and snapped back at him: “No, that’s not me. Besides, I’m confident enough as it is…”
While seemingly trivial, this conversation with my ex-boyfriend was an important one. The hard truth was that I actually wasn’t super confident in my physical self—but I was trying to be.
It took a lot of effort to identify and silence those harmful thoughts, whether they originated from myself or from other people. (And believe me, many people are going to give you an opinion on your body when you’re a woman. In a big city, it’s all the time and unsolicited.)
But you know what? 98% of the body-shaming I’ve received over my life comes from people who are just reflecting their own insecurities and short-coming onto other people. Point in case: that ex who insisted I needed a boob job? His boobs were bigger than mine!
I would be lying if I said that none of those insults stuck. Along with the mixed messages from pop culture, the media, and friends complaining about their own self-perceived imperfections, it’s hard to be okay with yourself sometimes.
Body image is easily the topic I’ve struggled with the most over the past 30 years. And I think that’s true for most women, and a growing group of men. I worked damn hard to distance myself from body image obsession.
I won’t allow my “value” to be determined by my physical attributes, because I am so much more than my body
The topic of breast implants, in particular, can be dangerous. It becomes a candid obsession for some women. Something they casually talk about “needing” to do, as though it were a manicure instead of major surgery.
If I ever do undergo major cosmetic surgery, it will be my own decision and not for the appeasement of someone else’s agenda. Honestly, I can say I’m pretty okay with who I am! Both inside and out.
Don’t Wait for Other People To Make Your Dreams Come True.
You are the captain of your own ship. If you want something, don’t expect other people to bring it to you or even accommodate you. If they do—great! But you need to build the skills to achieve things on your own because there won’t always be people around willing to help you. Learn essential life skills like negotiation, self-discipline, and financial management. These skills will make you more confident when making tough decisions.
Invest in the person you want to be next year; or 10 years from now.
Don’t wait for permission to live the life you want to live. Take those extra courses so that you can pursue a career that you love. Learn how to invest your savings properly.
Also, don’t feel discouraged if these things seem overwhelming! If it was super easy, everyone would be doing it. But you’re not like everyone else, right?
You Won’t Regret Being Kind.
I’m naturally a very empathetic person. My natural reaction in most scenarios is to offer help. And, unfortunately, that makes it easy for people to take advantage of me.
When I was younger, I used to tell myself how naive I was for trusting or standing up for someone, only to have them betray me. But you know what? Reacting with warmth and kindness, even in difficult situations, always serves me better than reacting in anger.
I no longer regret being kind to awful people, because it shows I was the stronger person in those scenarios.
Of course, there is a balance to this. Don’t let people walk all over you either.
Be kind; but also be firm when you feel they are being inappropriate or intentionally helpless.
Don’t Obsess About Other People; Focus On Yourself.
Be selective in who you give your time and energy to. Spending hours mulling over what others are thinking or why they act a certain way is a poor use of your time. In most cases, you can only speculate, which leads to assumptions. And living your life based on assumptions won’t get you far. So don’t do it. There are times I’ve given myself full-blown anxiety attacks wondering what people thought about me or something I did.
“Oh God, why did I pronounce my name so weird when I introduced myself??”—an actual thing I worried about.
It seems silly, but I know this sort of over-thinking and over-analyzing effects lots of people.
I think anxiety set in early for me because kids bullied me a lot during elementary school. Despite all the incessant teasing, one thing became very clear to me: inmature people’s insecurities are louder than their confidence. I noticed that the kid who teased me about my shoes had pretty ugly shoes himself. The cheerleader who was putting all the other girls in class down was desperate for approval on her looks. See what I mean?
Everyone has insecurities; it’s not just you. How you handle your insecurities (or other people’s) is the thing that matters.
Learn to read between the lines of the things people say and do. 98% of the time, they are talking trash in an attempt to counteract how poorly they feel about themselves.
Own Your Mistakes and Learn From Them.
So you made a big mistake, eh? Well, it’s probably not the end of the world. In fact, you have to make mistakes to get anywhere in life! So don’t sweat it.
Just be sure you learn from the mistake and don’t repeat it. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.
Be humble. Sometimes the lesson is that you have to change your outlook.
Cut Negative People Out of Your Life;
They Have a Problem for Every Solution.
People are always going to toss out advise, regardless of if they have the right experience to be weighing in. Even well-meaning people will say things that hinder instead of help. Listen to your intuition in these scenarios.
If you are a positive person, negative people may gravitate towards you subconsciously. They may feel inspired to change or that you can help them. Sometimes, they may even want to be who you are! However negative people have an odd way of communicating that. They will give you backhanded compliments and dig at you every chance they get. They’ll plant seeds of doubt and water them over time. They enjoy seeing you suffer, whether intentional or otherwise.
If you want to live a happy life, you’ll need to limit or deny interactions with these people. If this isn’t an option, try any of the following phrases: “This is something I’m actually very happy about, and I’d like to focus on the positives.”; “My outlook on this is good because I’ve done enough research to know that I’ve made the right decision for myself”; “You’ve made it quite clear that you have negative feelings about this.” This shuts down the pity-party fast and may lead to a more constructive conversation.
Pro tip: People who’ve never taken the time to invest in themselves don’t want to see you doing it because it makes them feel guilty.
You may have noticed that most of the things I’ve struggled with have to do with other people.
If I had to guess, that is because I’ve always been highly alert and overly aware. I notice everything. And I’m also very cautious: with my emotions, with trust, and even when making restaurant recommendations! So when I do make an important move, it’s one that is calculated and backed by hours of research.
Determined would also be a good way to describe me. Bettering myself and evolving is a top priority for me, but I can get in my own way a lot of the time. What I mean is that although I’m most comfortable as an introvert, I have to force myself to master the skills of an extrovert to succeed.
Putting myself “out there” on the internet is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But it’s also a bit of a cathartic experience for me—It’s super scary sometimes! But I’m so glad to be sharing this journey with you.