26 Life Lessons I Learned in 26 years
March 7, 2018 |

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Have you ever reflected on your life over the past few years and all the precious life lessons you've picked up over the years? Most of the time we're too focused on the daily grind, that we don't stop to think for a moment about how we've matured over the years. Adulthood isn't easy, but a great support system and self love are the key to brightening up any situation. This post wasn’t originally planned out, but I figured it would be nice to share what I've learn feelings about turning 26 on the 2nd of March. I then realized just as I was about to post this, that Arshia Moorjani, one of my favourite beauty influencers, actually posted a video titled 28 Things I Learned in 28 Years, and so I've linked her informative video as well.

The past few years haven’t been easy for me. I got married*, lost my mom, moved to a continent and back in a year, my family dynamic has changed and I’ve lost my own sense of self. *[My husband kindly pointed out that it sounds like getting married was a negative event in my life, but I wrote 'I got married' because I think there's a lot of hard work on both sides that makes a marriage successful.]

In other words, adulthood finally hit me. And it hit hard like an earthquake. Although I wish I had prior warning, I’m glad I faced all these uninvited challenges alone. It taught me how to face my past, present and future.

Having said that, I think it’s unfair not to pass along my learning along the way, so here’s my list of 26 things:

1. The only person you can count on is yourself:

Here’s the first bittersweet truth about adulthood - you’re mostly alone in your journey towards self discovery, appreciation and fulfilment. I’m not saying that you’ll never get help: on the contrary, there will always be help whenever you need it. Life however, isn’t equivalent to getting help (or cheating) on your homework. You’ve got to learn how to navigate through rough water on your own, because that’s the only way you’ll know what works for you. Guiding yourself through coping mechanisms, learning your procrastination triggers, or who makes you happy are great examples of maturing that can’t be solved without self reliance.

2. Everyone in your life fits into a specific box:

Not everyone can be your everything. Each person in your life can only be around for you in a way that makes sense to both of you. For instance, being in different time zones makes very regular conversations difficult. Instead, you might be content with sharing photos every once in a while, or having a quick catchup. Try not to pressurize friends and family to tick off all the boxes on your requirements checklist. Be glad that they’re there for you in a capacity which works well for both of you.

3. You don't have to always take someone else's advice

I come from a family with two brothers over 10 years older than me who’re the best at giving advice. There comes a point, nevertheless, when you just need to tune into your own thoughts and pay attention to what you want. Older people have great advice most of the time, but placing importance on your own opinions produces the least amount of strain. Remember though: there's a difference between people who dole out advice and people who expect you to do what they say. It isn’t always easy to identify these people, but if you find yourself being pushed into a corner, that’s your first red flag. Don’t ever let people tell you what’s best for your life unless you trust them. If someone tells you that you ought to do something with ulterior motives, ignore them.

4. People change. Get over it:

The most important part about being an adult is accepting that people evolve over time. My husband likes to say that age plays a good trick on everyone, and I think that’s true. Our experiences, social circles and relationships play an important role over time, and the transience of life means that our personalities unfold as we learn more about ourselves. Unless the person is Chip from the TV show Friends who never matures, ageing brings on growth.

5. Family dynamics change over the years. Don’t overthink it:

Family means everything to me. I am a part of a big, happy family. Sure, we have our differences, and our arguments where I’m often bawling my eyes out. I’ve had moments in my life where I have wanted to share everything with my family - my accomplishments, my dreams, my fears and their lives. Just as people change however, family too, changes. The gawky, moody older brother who you found intimidating is no longer the same person. The relationship between each member evolves to accommodate the growth or loss of family. Look at what you’ve got instead of what you’ve lost. Cherish it, and respect it.

6. Death is a part of life. Loss shouldn’t dictate how you live:

When my mom died, I felt a huge void in my life. I felt like someone stole my soul and left me with a body to carry around. I spent all my time questioning the point of survival, and let my life pass me by for two years. Death is unbelievably difficult to process, but fight the urge to lose your reason for existence, because purpose is what will carry you through the tough time. I've written a detailed post about how you can help a friend going through loss (I highly recommend it if you include being more empathic on your list of things you have learnt).

support group meeting with woman holding man's hand
It's okay to ask for help, because it's the right thing to do

7. Asking for professional help shouldn’t be a taboo:

It’s 2018. Talking to a professional therapist or counsellor should no longer be something you hide from everyone. If anything, you should be really proud of your ability to self reflect and determine that you need some professional assistance with your problems. Seeking help isn’t shameful; hiding it because you’re worried about what the world will think is.

8. You'll think people are trying to steal your thunder only when you pay attention to their actions:

You’re always going to have to deal with someone who’s trying to compete with you. And it’s not even a marathon! As much as it’s easy to say that it wouldn’t bother you if you didn’t pay attention, it really is the best advice I’ve received to date. If you can’t handle that piece of gold though, don’t beat yourself up - humans do think, after all! You can either be the bigger person, or escape the negativity. If you’ve read my article on negativity, you’ll know I don’t exactly walk away from negative people because life is more complicated than just shutting doors. Talk yourself out of those negative thoughts because you never know what the other person is going through. Everyone is allowed to do things that make them feel good, and while it may feel like it’s overshadowing your efforts, master the art of shifting your thoughts.

9. Don’t ever look at what someone else is doing because jealousy is hard to reverse:

Tie this in with the previous point, and you’ve got a complete disaster. We’ve all been there and done that - don’t you say no! The biggest discovery I’ve made about jealousy is that I’ve been jealous of the person, not their fortunes! Their situation may tempt you, but remember that you’re another person with a different life. Make your own situation - challenge yourself, but don’t do it because the other person is doing it/has done it.

10. Social media is for inspiration, not for jealousy:

There’s a pattern of jealousy and self confidence in the past few points, but I will stress on the evils of social media for the rest of my life if I have to. Social media is great for all those wonderful snaps, but that’s all it is really - a collection of wonderful snaps. Don’t let your friend’s boasting, or your family’s great life ruin your self worth. Remind yourself that you don’t see their bad days. You don’t even see their normal days. If their normal is so busy, picture a life where you’ve got no time for yourself. The grass is always greener on the other side - till you’re actually on it. Shahd Batal describes this well in this video with Arshia Moorjani. Use social media as an inspiration, not as a platform for envy. If you still need some more proof, Indian actor Sonam Kapoor breaks the celebrity life down for you in her open letter.

11. Break down everything into manageable pieces or you’ll choke:

A pile is always going to resemble a steep, laborious hike up a mountain. Unless you’re a hiker, that hike isn’t going to feel rewarding in the least. Break down mammoth tasks into morsels so they don’t freak you out. Write everything down, or type it out; some people work more efficiently when tasks are tangible.

stones piled in a river
Take a moment to think about whether an argument can be dealt with in a calmer manner.

12. Breathe before you speak:

It’s no secret that you can never take back something you’ve said in anger. While my mother and I had some epic nasty arguments, she’d warn me to watch my tongue before saying something I’d regret. Goddess Saraswati is said to have controlled Manthara’s words and thoughts as Manthara evilly manipulated the queen of Ayodhya into banishing the heir of the kingdom. While that was out of necessity, the life lesson that was taught is that nothing good comes out of speaking before thinking. When you’re angry and you know you’re about to burst, take some time out. Breathe deeply, think about everything that is bothering you, and ask yourself if it’s worth it. Most of the time, it just isn’t.

13. The happiest you feel is when you take good care of yourself:

The biggest goal of my life in the past couple months is to feel really good about myself. For me, that means focusing on my mental and physical health, staying fit, and surrounding myself with happiness. I always encourage you to break this up into bite sized pieces, so you know exactly what it is that you need to feel amazing.

14. When you find relationships that matter to you, hold onto them for your life:

The most important relationship I miss in my life is the one I had with my mother. I lost her when I was only 23, but the memories I had with her are still alive today. I had people speak of maintaining a distance with parents, but I’m glad I never listened to them. Although we had a lot of disagreements and I worried my mother a lot - by telling her I was hungover, for instance - our relationship was special, and I will always cherish it.

15. Choose your battles wisely:

It probably was great fodder for gossip in high school, but petty arguments about the small things is not worth wasting your time on as an adult. If someone does something you don’t appreciate, decide whether it really bothers you before you confront them. Nothing is worse than adding fuel to a slow burning flame.

man sitting alone looking at the lakeview
Peace and self reflection works wonders on your wellbeing and relationships

16. Accept your shortcomings, but also work on them:

It is important to accept that you have a few flaws, but I think it is far more important to try working on improving them. For instance: if you consider your shyness a flaw, push yourself to thresholds to becoming an extravert instead of remaining a glum hermit. The failure (if it happens) stings, but nothing will sting more than wishing for something that can be rectified. Remember though, if there’s a flaw that just cannot be fixed, and you’re still sad about it, build some useful coping mechanisms and come to terms with it.

17. Learn to listen to people. There’ll come a time when you want them to listen to you:

Don’t you hate it when you’re telling someone a story and you can see that they’re not paying attention? I do. I’ve got a fairly high EQ, and it bothers me when I voluntarily pay attention to people as they talk, ask them questions and don’t get anything in return. If you want to maintain a healthy relationship with someone you care about, do for them what you’d like in return.

18. No one is perfect. Don’t hold flaws against people:

It’s funny I wrote this right after the previous two points, but at the end of the day, we all have lapses in our judgements. Learn to forgive people for their mistakes as long as it makes sense. I always weigh my options when deciding whether I want to dwell over a flaw, or just let it pass. Most of the time, I ignore it because it shouldn’t bother me.

toxic blue poison bottle
After careful consideration, it is okay to distance yourself from people who make you lower your self worth.

19.It’s okay to move away from people you don’t feel good about:

As much as I advocate for sorting out issues, if you don’t think any good has come out of associating yourself with a particular person, move on. If you’re on the receiving end similarly, accept that people have the right to add or remove people from their social circle. It is essential to remember that this doesn’t mean that the person is evil or toxic, it just means that you don’t get along with them and it is better off to maintain a healthy distance.

20. It’s okay to talk about unpleasant things. You’re not an adult if you can’t stand awkward conversations :

Life isn’t only all about unicorns and sunshine. There will always be good moments and bad moments. Don’t sit around for the good moments and recoil the second bad stuff happens. Take it in your stride, talk about it openly. You’re no longer a child; no one will admonish you for candidly discussing a divorce, bad sex, or death.

21. Stop judging people. It’s not nice:

I’m going to slowly raise my hand when I ask “who here has been judgemental”. If you don’t raise your hand, you’re either lying, or you’re a saint. The art of judging people -I call it an art because it has different techniques - is self destructive. Why? Because you’re letting yourself comment about the way someone else lives. If you’re in a democratic society, and you’re fighting for laws and rights, who’re you to judge someone for not watering their plants, or choosing to remain silent as you haggle? There’s always a reason behind someone’s actions. If you’re confused about it, ask instead of judging them.

22. It’s okay to put your needs before others:

Friends and family are great, but if you find yourself stressed out because you’re always putting their needs before yours, then it’s time to take a break. Don’t feel obligated to show/feel guilt, because placing your needs first cultivates strong relationships. You’ll feel far more satisfied and in tune with your needs this way, and there won’t be distractions to worry about when you’re helping everyone else out!

pieces of a jigsaw puzzle
Keep a daily gratitude log - it helps you think about the little things and things that need extra attention

23. Appreciate the little things because it makes you a happier person:

It is very easy to take a look at the big picture and notice all those missing pieces. That is exactly what makes you a miserable person! Focus instead on the smaller components that make the whole. Simple moments like enjoying your morning coffee, or completing a small task need to be appreciated because they complete everything. If it works for you, keep a gratitude log as a reminder of all the good things you’ve got going for you.

24. Life is an obstacle course without a clear finish line or prizes:

If you find life challenging, welcome to adulthood. Life isn’t meant to be a cakewalk; if it is, then you’re not doing it right. What makes our lives worth it, are the challenges that we learn to swat away, or the opportunities we make use of. Welcome them in your arms, and tackle them one at a time.

pieces of a jigsaw puzzle
Look at the pieces, they don't give you the entire story, but think about how important that one piece is.

25. Being you is the easiest game to win. Trying to be someone you’re not is a waste of your time:

Oscar Wilde’s famous phrase “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” is super relevant in today’s social media obsessed society. This isn’t about being jealous, but not being original about what works for you. Find joy in learning about yourself, what you’d thrive in, what makes you tick and what makes you feel amazing. Don’t choose someone else’s life to imitate, because it may not bring you the same happiness it brings them.

26. You’re always worth it:

Yes, you are. Need proof? Go look at yourself in the mirror, smile your best smile and repeat it till you believe it.

pinterest graphic with 26 points

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