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Our early 20s are an interesting age.
We have crossed teenagehood chronologically, but its dilemmas of unique identity and self-worth may persist. It’s an age where we announce our arrival on the world’s stage as capable individuals. Yet, we are still wet behind our ears as an adult. An “adulting” or a fledgling adult—that’s what I like to call it!
We may still struggle to understand ourselves, what we stand for, what we value, and what we want out of life. The remnants of parental expectations linger around, the peer pressure continues, and the desire for approval flickers on and off. This can result in confusion and anxiety, leading to a lot of self-doubt. Even the smartest people may have self-doubts, as these are an inherent part of human reality.
In our early 20s, many of us may not feel comfortable in our own skin. The first thing I want to tell someone in their early 20s is, “Love yourself.”
Let’s accept ourselves as we are—warts and all. We may not be perfect—none of us are. But, we each have unique gifts and abilities, and it’s up to us to leverage our strengths to get what we want from life.
When I say “love and accept yourself,” it also means to be careful about who and what we accept from the world as advice or opinions. People with fragile self-esteem get tossed around like a piece of wood in the rough sea of the world’s opinions. One would rather be a well-steered boat—it does get impacted by the waves, but it can either adapt itself by making course corrections—or withstand the stormy waters and continue in the right direction.
It’s important to let go of worrying about what people will think of us; we must not let “what people think” impact our life decisions.
What people think about us is their business—let’s leave that to them.
However, stay cautious. Don’t confuse “people’s opinions” with constructive feedback. Constructive feedback from others is important and should be valued. Remember the difference between constructive feedback and “people’s opinions.” Constructive feedback is well thought out and given with genuine care and concern about us and is in our best interest. People’s opinions lack most of these attributes and can be quite hurtful at times.
Add a dash of irreverence to your life. Just like a dash of spice that makes food delightful. Don’t overdo the irreverence as that can make us arrogant, but just the right amount of it can make us a playful, confident risk-taker.
What you think about yourself is what matters most.
If there are genuine areas of improvement, work on those, and become a person you, yourself, would love, respect, and admire. When we love someone, we take care of them, we protect them, and we nurture them. Do that to yourself as well.
That is self-love.
And, if our selves are aligned with the universal principles of integrity, perseverance, compassion, and courage, it’s unlikely that we will veer far off the right path.
Choose a boss
At the beginning of our career, many of us find it difficult to resist the allure of a fancy job title, global travel, money, status, and fame. I am not a proponent of self-deprivation, and I consider all these desires as natural and healthy.
But, I wish to add one more item to this checklist: find the “right” boss.
We all know a boss can make a huge difference to our engagement level at work. But, in the early stages of our career, the right boss is even more important. The first few bosses that we have in our career can be excellent mentors who encourage and nurture us in the right direction.
Try to work with a boss who is passionate about development and personal growth—someone who will take you under their wing and teach you the ropes.
If we have some not-so-good bosses in the early part of our career, we can lose out on a significant amount of learning, guidance, and wisdom that come from a well-seasoned professional. When trying to choose between two or more comparable jobs, let the scales tip in favour of a better boss.
It will be a better decision in the long run.
Don’t look for a good job, look for a good boss!
Re-size your perspective
A piece of candy was important when you were five years old. At 15 years of age, it wasn’t. Not merely a re-sizing of your body, but a re-sizing of your perspective has also taken place.
When we first begin our career, it can feel really overwhelming if we didn’t get into the college we wanted, didn’t get the job we wanted, or the person who studied less than us got better grades. But, it is also true that these situations will slowly even out over the long marathon of life.
Keep this in mind, “Life is not a sprint race, it is a marathon.”
Even if things go wrong (as they will every once in a while), opportunities will still come our way if we stay on the lookout for them.
At a young age, we haven’t really developed our coping skills and something that gives us sleepless nights at 23 may not even catch our attention at 33.
Time is your ally. Develop a larger, more holistic perspective of life, work, and play. Don’t allow setbacks to disillusion you, instead learn from them to emerge sharper and stronger. Stay resilient to bounce back from whatever life throws at us.
Whatever obstacles arise, it will not be the end of the world. The sun will still rise tomorrow morning, and it will be time for you to shine once again.