Undoubtedly, my teens would likely constitute the most transformative years of my life. It’s definitely a time period where I saw vast personal growth as well as a period where I made some of my greatest mistakes. Even though it didn’t really feel like it at the time, through all my mishaps, I was somehow stumbling in the right direction. I learned so many valuable lessons about how to cultivate really healthy relationships, how to protect your happiness, how to progress through your passions and all the ups and downs that often comes from that.
In this blog post I’d share with you a couple of my experiences, how I persevered in tumultuous moments and the lessons I learnt.
Well, let’s just get right into it.
- Effective communication will solve most of your problems
I think half of all the major problems and conflicts that we have as individuals, almost every single one of them could have been solved with better communication.
There is a trope which goes like assumption is the mother of all disappointments and I couldn’t agree more.
Besides our predisposition to assume instead of getting concrete facts, we also tend to convince ourselves of what is not true because a part of us desperately wants to avoid the bitter truth. Now while this might be good for sometime, we only set ourselves up for first class disappointment and pain. I can’t recount the many times I have deliberately sugarcoated someone else’s words or actions because I wanted to avoid a confrontation. Now as tender as this might sound it facilitates many feelings of low self worth because majority of the time you know exactly what the person intended to say. It’s the same for the opposite side of the coin. Every so often we overthink certain situations and dialogues and try to attach an implicit meaning to it when there isn’t one. We keep silent about it and grow apathy towards harmless associates. Now you might think you are being the bigger person but I have come to realise that a true sign of growth isn’t ‘holding your tongue’ when someone steps on your toe. Maturity is being able to vocalise your feelings in an appropriate manner even if you are upset. Holding your tongue just fosters unexpressed feelings that tend to come out unbidden in a nasty manner.
Classic example: Someone makes a demeaning joke you don’t appreciate.
- Don’t smile or laugh: You didn’t find it funny so don’t act as though you did.There’s the fear that they might think you’re taking things too seriously. Well, it is serious.
- Reinforce boundaries: Shortly after their joke, calmly but firmly let them know that you didn’t appreciate the joke and you’d appreciate it if they didn’t repeat it again.
- Attach consequences: Let them know that you’d excuse the friendship if they aren’t willing to do better. Go straight to the point: “If you persist in making such jokes, I’m not sure I’ll be able to continue this friendship as I can’t be in a space with someone who has no regard for my feelings.” Such a statement should go a long way if they respect your friendship that is.
- Don’t fall for their gaslighting attempts: They’d most likely want to turn the tables around so you come off as overly sensitive or making a big deal out of nothing and proceed to make you feel bad for attempting to reinforce that boundary. Don’t let them get under your skin. They might say something like, “Oh I was just kidding, why are you being too sensitive?” A good reply would be, “We are all subjective in our response to peculiar remarks. It might be a joke to you but it upsets me. If you have any respect for me at all, you’d understand that.”
- Life is stressful enough on its own. You don’t need to deal with the baggage of constantly reminding yourself that others’s careless jokes aren’t the truth.
2. There is no substitute for hard work
As much as I talk about the importance of self care and taking time out to relax as much as possible, I truly believe that there is no replacement for hard work. No matter how smart you are mastery of an art takes time, dedication and consistency. This goes for athletes, students, business workers, photographers, you name it. You need to show up every day and do the work if you want to get better.
Now I have the “privilege” of being able to talk about my experience from trying so hard to reach a target. When I started my blog in 2019 there’s barely much I could say about positivity and encouragement then. I’d wake up everyday with a new reason to take my blog down completely. It’s a big challenge trying to keep yourself motivated when you’re single handedly realising your potential. Well, the truth is you will never always be motivated. You have to learn to be disciplined. Perhaps I’d go into more details in another article. Bottomline is I’m grateful for the people who support me unconditionally because now I wake up to a bunch of emails pitching ideas on how to make the blog better, how to expand it and collaborations. Don’t get me wrong though, I’ve always loved working on my blog. Everything I do here is driven by passion however it stings when you spend tough hours of days and weeks putting together what you think would be of much value to people but ended up performing poorly. I’m grateful for the process anyway because it has made me more appreciative of the effort people put into trying something new.
Notwithstanding the societal castigations, my personal life barely afforded me the luxury of working on my blog. I’ve had to sacrifice hours of sleep, leisure and funds because there’s a much bigger cause at stake.
There are no shortcuts. If you want to progress in your career, field or craft it’s going to take rolling up your sleeves and doing the work and if you’re lucky enough to find something that you truly love and you can make a full time living from you’ll find the reward in the work itself.
3. Don’t let your ego sabotage your relationships
Self awareness is one of the most important skills you need to develop if you want to be a better employee, friend or partner. It’s important that we understand our strengths and weaknesses and own up when we’re wrong or we’ve made a mistake. The truth is no matter how great of a match you are with your partner or friend, you will inevitably have difficult times. When it comes to building healthy relationships it’s not about avoiding conflict. It’s about learning how to deal with your own emotions so you can navigate through the issues together. Personally, I’m not one to be caught off guard in a heated argument. I’ve always preferred to think through things throughly; analysing the nitty gritties of the situation before I make a leap forward. As a result, whenever I feel my patience plummet and my temperature rise I know absolutely nothing good/thoughtful will come up. I’ll just continue to dig a deeper hole and say something mean, hurtful or untrue simply because I got caught up and I let my ego do the talking for me. So once I do realise that I’m starting to approach this, I decide to take a step away to remove myself from the conversation for a moment to cool down.
I’m not running away from my friend or partner. I’m not running away from my problem. I’m simply giving myself some space to cool down and within a couple of minutes even if I haven’t reached a decision or consensus as to what I want to do I can come back to the conversation level headed. I can communicate more effectively. I’d have the decency to let you know why I am hurt or why I feel that way, how I feel about the situation and albeit I might not agree with you, I’m not ready to loose the relationship over this kerfuffle.
Sometimes we underestimate the significance of our relationships because our ego can get the better of us. We convince ourselves of all the reasons we deserve better but I believe it’s important to learn to show our friends grace. The behaviours of some of our friends are borne out of childhood trauma and repressed emotions so give them the grace to unlearn and relearn. Friendship is about nurturing; no ones comes into it perfect.
However, learn to know when you’ve shown enough grace and it’s time to move on. In overlooking/tolerating certain actions, we tend to ignore our need for peace, consistency and stability. When a friendship continuously robs you of these, with no remorse, maybe it’s time to leave.
It think it is worth mentioning that one of the biggest joys in life is activated by friends you connect with. The presence of some of our friends functions as a clear light in our life and sometimes it helps you remember what is actually important.
4. My anxiety isn’t evil, it only shows that I have high expectations for myself
I’ve had anxiety for the most part of my life. I’m not exactly sure when it first started. It has for the most part being mild, completely manageable. It’s not something that has gotten in the way of my life apart from maybe a few instances. I am especially grateful to be able to open up about this vulnerability on here because I’m certain there are other people who face a similar plight but unfortunately aren’t able to open up about it.
Fortunately, having been an avid reader I was able to decipher what the symptoms I was facing were by linking it to what I had read in a couple of books. Moreover, I have supportive parents who didn’t make me face this alone but rather helped me work through it.
It’s easy to push the symptoms under the rug but there are some instances that it’s just impossible to ignore.
Now if you have experienced anxiety in a mild way or form you realise you get nervous and overwhelmed in the slightest of ways. You overthink everything that’s going to happen in the future. You play through every scenario to the point where it feels uncontrollable. It feels like everything is going to fall apart and even when you wanted to relax you couldn’t.
I’ve felt like that often times through out my life and for the most part I’ve been able to work through it.
I wasn’t on campus during my first year of university largely for this reason. When I moved to campus during my second year I initially thought I was having an allergic reaction to the room. I know that sounds insane in a lot of ways but it was easier to convince myself of that because facing the reality of what was happening ~I wasn’t accustomed to such an environment with many people~ would mean that I had to leave and that wasn’t an option this time. Gradually by rebuilding my routine, going to the gym and meditating I was able to keep things in check.
Everything was fine up until the morning of my first paper, end of semester examinations. The semester in itself was an evil one to begin with. As I got dressed, thoughts flooded my mind incessantly. I got chills all over, I started to feel dizzy and lose the rhythm of my breathe. Take note that this happened around 5:10 am and I had to catch the bus at 5:30 am. As I have aforementioned the worst part of having an anxiety attack is how much you can try to control the situation but everything proves futile. I felt a mess coming up so I had to make my way to the lavatory and I let out what I had for supper the night before. I just lay down in my clothes next to the water closet. I wasn’t sure of a lot of things but in that moment the paper was the least of my worries. My mum’s call came through shortly after, she called to wish me luck. It turns out that her voice was all I needed to hear to pick myself up.
As candid as my mum and I are with each other it was difficult for me to tell her what happened. I felt like somehow all of it was just in my head. I felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed to be going through this.
The thing about anxiety and worry is, I dont want to say ‘you don’t have control over it’ but for the lack of a better word, when it gets bad you don’t. There are certain coping mechanisms but sometimes it’s just about pushing through.
I ask myself everyday how long this is going to last? How long am I going to have to deal with this? Even when you have the good days you worry that it’s not going to last and eventually those feelings and physical symptoms are going to return.
I have gotten through it enough times to know that there would be tough days ahead and I’m going to have to work through it again. There would be times again where I have to face uncertainty and doubt in my life.
I am partially consoled to have experienced this because it gives me a lot of compassion and empathy for other people who have experienced this to a more severe extent than I have.
If anxiety is something that you’re dealing with or you struggled with in the past then you should know that suppressing it, burying it, ignoring it or pretending like it’s not there isn’t the best antidote for it.
Sharing my experience here has been really helpful. It feels like therapy. It feels like progress. You don’t have to go through it alone. We can use each other to uplift ourselves and provide support.
5. True growth takes time
I have come to ascertain the fact that there’s no such thing as overnight success. (Success here is used lightly to refer to success in in the field of academia, success in a career, success in achieving a dream physique, etc).
We feel exhilarated hearing stories of people who’ve made seemingly huge leaps in short periods of time for the same reason that millions of people play the lottery each year. Somehow we think that there might be a shortcut to finding success, happiness and financial wealth but that’s simply not true. If you go throughout life thinking that everything will come naturally to you you’re going to give up the minute you hit any form of resistance and this isn’t just about wealth. Remember that it’s not only the desire for wealth and position that debases and subjugates us, but also the desire for peace, leisure, travel and learning. Where our heart is set, that is where our impediment lies.
For instance, when starting a YouTube channel for most people it takes years of making videos week after week before they’re able to turn it into a full time income. As a matter of fact there’s no guarantee that you will make it happen at all but if you expect to get there in a couple of months, you will absolutely fail.
At 20 years old, I don’t worry about failure as much as I used to. Of course I’m not trying to fail and I don’t want to fail but I understand that it is literally the price you pay for trying anything. Many self help books I’ve read sing the same song where they talk about using the time in your 20s to invest in your skills, letting them build upon themselves, learning as much as you possibly can, making as many mistakes as you can because you have so much time to pick yourself up and to move forward. In all aspects of our lives, we must endeavour to be our best selves. Never let others dissuade you with comments that imply you striving for excellence in a particular environment is not worth a candle. Often, when you let such suggestions influence you, you develop a nonchalant attitude to things that matter and they affect the extent of success you could potentially realise. Striving to be excellent births a resolve that inherently makes you better off than having an indifferent disposition towards a cause.
True growth takes time. Once you become a certain age, it is your responsibility to unlearn behaviours that hinder your growth as a person. So pace yourself to show up each day and do the small things that will have a lasting impact on your life. Make the investment in yourself now and you’ll reap the benefits in just a few years time. Your future self will thank you.
So much of life is perspective. Our perspective changes continuously as our conscience is more informed. Looking back at certain things I did in the past gives me an understanding of what growth really entails. I know I’ll certainly look back at the time of my 20s probably when I’m 30 and cringe at some of the things I did; photos that I took and some of the articles that I’ve written but that’s just part of growing. It never stops. We always continue to change and hopefully we can learn from our mistakes to continue to do better.
I probably could have come up with about 100 other things that I would have done differently the past couple of years but these were the big ones. I think if I were to correct these six things, it would have relieved me of about 90 to 95% of my anguish as a young adult, student, blogger as well as a human being. So no matter how old you are, whether you’re a teenager, 20, 30 or 40 let me know in the comments below the highlight of your 20s; what you’ve learned since you were 20 and what you would have done differently. I can’t wait to hear from you.
I know the title of this blog post says 20 things I learned at 20 however due to the length of the blog post I’d have to wrap things up here but there’d certainly be a continuation. Stay tuned for it.
To be continued…
Also guys, I have uploaded some self development staples on the shop which can help you with organising and planning. I’ve been using them for the past two years and it has given me the best of results. They are completely FREE for download so you can head over to the shop and download either. I’d link the shop below.
If you found this blog post helpful be sure to hit the like button and share it with others who need to hear this. Love you so much if you made it all the way here🤗, enjoy the week ahead!❤️