Most 40-somethings agree that your 20s are the time to really get to “know yourself”. It’s a lot easier to do in your 20s than it is in your 40s and particularly helpful to do before you get married.
“How can you know if someone is right for you if you don’t know who you are?” – 40-something, fashion designer, New York
“You don’t know yourself well enough to know what you want to do for the rest of your life and you don’t know that you don’t have to do the same thing for the rest of your life. Don’t rush to climb the ladder” – 40-something, producer, Los Angeles
Your 20s are your time — your chance to explore and learn about the world, other people and other cultures, and in the process, learn what you want. Date around. Learn what you want physically so that’s one thing you know by the time you are ready for an emotional relationship. Travel if you can. Explore jobs within reason. Take classes. Do yoga or some sort of spiritual activity. Read. Volunteer to get outside of yourself. Just spend some time by yourself. These are just a few of the things 40-something women have said.
As for “why?” , most women say, “So you don’t end up waking up in your forties wondering how did I get here?” Others found that the process of experiencing new things, taking risks, making mistakes and learning from them was the best preparation for life’s challenges. You will have a Rolodex file of experiences and inner strength to draw on as life’s stresses get bigger (and believe me they do get bigger…bigger job, bigger house, bigger family = bigger stress).
The thing that really hit home for me is that “knowing yourself” is really about knowing what YOU want. You’re not dependent on anyone else for how you feel. You are in control of your happiness. How freeing is that? Forget friends or trends. Find your own personal style and get that uber-confidence and sex appeal of being comfortable in your skin. You can stop worrying about how “he” feels about you and start getting into how you feel about him. You can stop taking on other people’s negativity and choose to be positive.A woman in Chicago shared this anecdote.
“If I do something nice for someone else — let someone in line or return a lost wallet for example, I used to get upset if they weren’t appreciative. But now I’ve learned it’s about how it makes me feel. It makes my world a more pleasant place. It’s actually selfish. I learned not to expect thanks or make the pleasant feeling I get dependent on the “thanks” because I can’t control that”.
So be selfish 20-something women. Now is the time when you don’t have a whole lot of responsibility to other people. Of course, I know many 20-somethings are out there having fun and enjoying that lack of responsibility. But take some time for yourself too. Your biggest responsibility is you. Be responsible for figuring out what makes you feel good about yourself. You will be grateful for it in your 40s. While we don’t regret our lives, some 40-somethings do regret skating through their 20s having fun, working hard too, but not focusing on knowing themselves.