5 Ways To Be More Self-Aware As A 20-Something Kid Entering Adulthood

by Lizzie Mulherin

For those of us Millennials born in 1990, this year marks the oh-so-significant milestone of clocking a quarter-century old. (It also marks the 18th birthday of "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls, just to make you feel really old.)

We are now officially and inescapably in “adulthood.” We can no longer justify reckless irresponsibility with our teenage or early 20s youth, and we cannot select the 18 to 24 age bracket on national surveys. (Thankfully, there is no age limit for eating peanut butter out of the jar with a spoon.)

While I personally often feel act like I am 25 going on 19 (especially where financial responsibility is concerned), there are some things I've picked up along the way.

As a totally mature adult, I try to remember these things and put them into practice.

1. When it comes to others…

Know that family and friends are everything.

Keep them close, even when you may be far apart. They will support you when you don’t even realize you need it.

See them as often as you can; reply to their WhatsApp messages; make time to Skype; ask how they are and really listen when they answer.

Be present.

Social media has been brilliant for keeping us connected, but the value of human contact cannot be overstated.

Set aside time for your loved ones, and when you have company, put the phone down. Instagram can wait half an hour, and so can your boyfriend.

Surround yourself with the right people.

As we go through life, we encounter various people and relationships.

Learn to differentiate between the ones who lift you up and the ones who drag you down. Set boundaries with the latter, and invest energy in the former.

Anyone who can selflessly celebrate your success and provide support when you struggle is truly invaluable.

2. When it comes to work…

Strive to be defined by your passion, not your job title.

If you want to make them one and the same, go for it. If that’s not feasible, set aside time for what you love.

Finding what makes you tick and nurturing it is a worthy investment of energy; staying inspired will motivate and benefit you in more ways than one.

Know your worth.

Don’t be afraid to aim high, or speak up when your voice isn't heard. If you don’t show confidence in your own ability, others will struggle to see it.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions or change your path if your gut tells you to. Now is the time for trial and error.

Master the art of money management.

Or, at least, try to.

Remember that one from your parents about putting some of your pay away each week? Do it.

We may not be buying houses just yet, but you never know when it might come in handy.

3. When it comes to travel…

If you haven’t already, make it a priority.

“Wow, I really wish I stayed in my 9-to-5 job six months longer, instead of taking that trip abroad,” said no one, ever.

We’re so fortunate to live in an era where employers value life experience, so don’t waste that.

Make a plan, commit to it, save the money and go. If you can live abroad, that’s even better. Travel is worth the sacrifices.

Be bold and appreciate every moment.

Plan not to plan, and don’t be afraid to go beyond the tourist trail. Authentic experiences are often the most memorable.

If you are able to, travel solo, even if it’s just for a little while. There is no greater freedom than discovering the delights of a foreign place all on your own.

Be smart.

Trust your instincts, make copies of your passport, and keep a contingency fund for emergencies. Travel insurance might also be a good idea, especially if you’re planning on cliff jumping in Croatia. (Just saying.)

4. When it comes to dating...

Put yourself first.

Rather than searching for your "other half," aim to experience how wonderfully empowering it is to be whole without anyone else.

Dating that is built as a quick fix for insecurity rarely ends well.

If you can get to a place where you're content on your own, you'll attract the right kind of people without even trying.

Act on your own terms.

Free yourself from external judgment, and figure out what you want. Don't be concerned with what (or who) your friends would approve of, or what society makes you think you should want.

Want to date the guy with adult braces? Do it. Keen for some casual fun? Have it.

As long as you maintain self-respect, the opinions of others shouldn't affect you. Besides, the ones who judge are likely just projecting their own jealousy, seriously.

Have fun with it.

Let's not get confused: First dates are not future-life-partner auditions. Why should they be?

Enjoy the excuse to get a bit dressed up, have a drink and engage in some banter. If it's meant to be something more, things will progress naturally. If it's rubbish, at the very least, you'll get a funny story (or in my case, a good article) out of it.

5. When it comes to you...

Open yourself up to who you are.

It's great to admire qualities in others, but trying to be something you're not will only exhaust you.

Own your achievements, learn from your mistakes, and remind yourself that success is ultimately subjective.

Being comfortable with who you are and what you genuinely value will make it a lot easier to feel fulfilled.

Prioritize your health and wellbeing.

These things are so easy to take for granted, until they are compromised. I'm not saying it's time to stop staying out until 5 am (Will it ever be?), but by now, we've seen enough people impacted by illness to know how precious good health is.

Drink lots of water, eat foods that nourish you, spend time outside and minimize stress wherever possible. Life is short enough already.

Know your power.

Never be afraid to reach out for guidance or ask for help. But if you are in a situation that makes you unhappy, or you simply want a change, making it happen is up to you.

Whether you're considering ending a relationship, leaving a job or moving overseas, there will be times when your gut instinct is telling you to do something people may not understand or necessarily support.

If there's ever a time to take risks, it's now. Feel the fear, and do it anyway.

Dream big.

Aim high, and don't be discouraged by those who prefer to paint inside the lines. Every game-changing company and life-altering experience started as someone's dream.

If others can make it a reality, why can't you? Besides, fantasizing is half the fun.

Of course, mastering all of the above is an ongoing process, but at least I'm trying.

Perhaps, by the time I reach the half-century milestone, I’ll have the peanut butter consumption under control.