How to feel happier in your 20s and 30s. Even if they suck right now.
Man, my 20s and 30s have been a swirly whirly adventure. And now I'm at the tail end of this 'two-decade extravaganza' I've gotta say, the prospect of entering my 40s isn't looking so bad 😂 ha!
Now I'm not saying that to make you lose all hope in your 20s and 30s, quite the opposite in fact. I'm writing it to let you know, #imperfectionista to #imperfectionista, there 100% IS hope! Because I've learnt four key strategies that have quite literally transformed my thinking over the past 18 years; from a point of hating myself and my life, to a point of sincerely loving the life I've created (however messy and barmy it is). So perhaps instead, you could think of it as – I've been through the wringer, so you don't have to! 😇
My story starts in the mid-1990s. I was an unusually driven and focused teenager, and from the age of 14 I was like 'Yep, Graphic Designer. That's what I'll be', so I set about working my butt off and taking the steps I needed to take to get there; choosing the right GCSEs, A-levels, university, work experience and then I stepped into my first design job straight after graduating. A pretty fortunate, uncomplicated path I guess. And then I lived happily ever after right?
Erm, well nope.
Fast-forward to the mid-2000s (and my mid-20s); well into my design career, owning a home with my boyfriend of 12 years and feck...somehow I found myself feeling as lost as a newborn puppy without its mama. My life didn't feel my own anymore, I was 'existing' on auto-pilot and I could barely look at myself in the mirror from all the self-loathing. I'd lost all direction in my life and forget a five-year plan, I could barely piece together a five-minute plan! But instead of dealing with these feelings, of course I buried them and squished them down as far as they could go instead. It then took me two years of what can only be described as torturous anguish (and the realisation that I was in the thick of full-blown depression) to actually confront what was going on and learn how the hell I was going to get out of this alive!
Some priceless therapy sessions then followed which gave me the impetus and courage to step out from under this dreadfully heavy cloud, make changes, and learn how to love all the imperfectness this life brings. And here my friend, are the juiciest, most priceless things I learnt;
Be on your own team.
Now I know this is a novel idea when you're probably far more used to being on whatever team was the meanest to you, but seriously – I'd say this is the number one thing I'd drum into my teenage self if I ever got chance to talk to her. I think it would've drastically changed the trajectory of my life and my mental health.
So what does it involve? Being your own biggest cheerleader instead of your own biggest critic basically! It involves switching out every single nasty thing you tell yourself into the nicest, most supportive thing. It involves being uber-aware of when your inner critic is usually in her element, stripping your confidence down to dust and telling you how crap you are, and making a conscious effort to replace insults with encouragement. What I've found to be a particularly effective technique is actually telling myself the opposite of my inner critic's jibes (or what I'd say to my best mate if they told me what their inner critic said to them). Par examplé; when my inner critic tells me 'Haha, are you serious Kerry? Do you seriously think you're gonna make a success of your business? Why would anyone read what you write or buy what you sell?' – I'd replace that with – 'Oh my days Kerry! This is THE most exciting news! You've wanted this business to be your life for so long, I'm so proud of you for believing in yourself and taking this leap. You won't regret it.' Can you spot the difference? 😊 One is doing everything to tear me down, the other is doing everything to build me up. Take a guess which one has had a monumental positive impact on my life 😇
Trust your instincts.
I spent so much of my 20s asking other people for advice – 'Do you think I should do this? Should I try harder at doing that? What do you think about this idea?' It got to a point when I had so many voices flying around in my head, I had no idea which were my thoughts and which were everyone else's. In hindsight however, I knew exactly which voice was mine, the issue I was having was – I just didn't feel ready to hear what it was telling me.
So if you're in a similar spot to where I was and you're struggling to decipher what your instincts are (amongst the muffles of everyone-around-you's opinions), then really take some time to write it all down, get those voices on paper, read them out and see which sound like your voice, even if it's something you don't wanna hear. I'm pretty sure you'll know exactly what your instinct's saying too, just like I did. And if you don't absorb anything else from this post, please just hear this – your instincts will not serve you wrong ❤️️
Be unapologetically you.
I think it's super-easy to slip into the habit of adapting who you are to help you fit into certain groups or situations. And I'm not talking about the odd upmarket party where you mind your Ps and Qs rather than swearing like the mutha f**king sailor you really are 😂 I'm talking about things like, trying to change the fundamental nature of who you are to fit in with or gain approval from certain friends or relationships. Being around people who don't feel the real you is good enough, does not a happy human make.
So what am I recommending here? That you ditch the friends and relationships that make you feel like you have to change the way you are? Well, erm, yes! Even if it leaves you friendless and relationshipless. The method being – #1: your most crucial relationship is with yourself. If you're not nurturing and tending to this relationship by allowing your true self to shine, then you're never going to feel content in your life. And #2: if you waste all your time in said forced/toxic relationships, you're doing yourself a terrible disservice – because of the forever-lost time you're wasting not seeking the relationships that will help you flourish!
PS, just so you know, the person you are right now as you read this, is 100% good enough and worthy of being 100% themselves. Never apologise for that ❤️️
Realise all the crappiness is for all the goodness.
As you may have guessed by now, there are gonna be storms along the way. There are gonna be tough times that challenge you to your very core, and no-one is immune from that. We're all in this togevva honey. And even though there's no escaping these trying times for any of us, we do have control over how we respond to them 🙌
I know sometimes it doesn't feel like there's any 'choice', but there totally is! We get to choose how seriously we take ourselves and our lives. We get to choose how much we allow these challenges to consume our minds and lives too. We also get to choose how much negativity and positivity we take from these times aswell. Since my epic quarter-life crisis over 10 years ago, it's now my choice to always seek the guiding light of goodness in any quagmire of crap. I truly believe all manner of sucky life experiences shape us for the better in some way. I think this quote by the late (and ever-so-great) Robin Williams encapsulates it perfectly;
It kinda ties in everything I've said here – if you neglect to care for yourself, trust yourself, be yourself and moreover HEAR YOURSELF, life's gonna find a way of making you listen.
Of course it's impossible to just follow these steps and fall in-love with your 20s and 30s overnight. It takes commitment from you to want to change the story of how your quarter-life/third-life experience is panning out, and then implement that commitment on the daily. And if that sounds like some kind of weighty cross to bear for you, let me tell you that it's 100% worth bearing, or at least giving it a try. (Plus it won't feel like a cross to bear at all soon enough – because you'll notice the difference it truly makes).
So what do you think? Are you gonna give any of them a try? If any of them really 'clicked' for you, made you think or made you feel excited to implement 'em, I'd love to hear from you in the comments below! 😍
Until next weekend pumpernickel 💋 mwah!