The Gifts of 30: Learning to Love Yourself

30th Birthday

As my 30th year comes to a close, I have been reflecting on why 30 has been my favorite age thus far. The year has certainly included challenges and disappointments but overall I have felt more at home and secure with myself than ever before. After turning 30 last June, I felt a shift from an underlying feeling that I was not good enough or needed to get better in some fundamental way, to believing that I am worthy and good enough just as I am. I settled into myself. I began fully embracing my weird, quirky, silly, generous, anxiety-prone, outspoken self and it feels wonderful. When I was younger I had many personal life goals (e.g. getting married, having kids, etc.) that I wanted to accomplish before turning 30 and they have not happened yet.  I am thankful that I have experienced this level of groundedness and contentment without reaching those goals. It has enabled me to understand that I don’t need to get everything I want in order to be happy. What follows are the key things that have helped me to love myself during my 30th year.

Live Life Fully Right Now

One of the major things that shifted for me over the last year is learning to appreciate my life just as it is right now. Not waiting for the next vacation, fun event, or accomplishment but working to appreciate simple joys that happen on a daily basis. I acknowledge that having a job that I enjoy, making enough money to sustain myself, and having a stable social network has made this much easier than it would be without these things. Also, it can be helpful to have an idea of what you want to have happen in your life (e.g. travel, a certain job, to get healthy etc.). However, when we get too caught up in goals we can feel that accomplishing these goals is the only way that we will be happy. For example, many of us may feel or have felt that we won’t be happy until we get married (people who are married will hopefully remind us that it is not always smooth sailing after the wedding). When we attach our happiness to these goals we miss the wonderful things happening in every day life.

How to: Imagine waking up tomorrow and having everything you always wanted in life: the perfect job, a loving partner, a great place to live, etc. If you had all of that tomorrow, how would you engage in your life? Would you be more bold at work? Would you be more loving, supportive, and open with people in your life? Would you be kinder to yourself? Whatever your answers to those questions, I encourage you to begin doing those things now. Don’t wait until you have what you want to live the way you want. Be bold, vulnerable, courageous, loving (whatever fits for you) now. You just might find that all the things you’ve been waiting for will show up sooner.

Don’t Base Your Worth on External Things

We live in a culture that encourages us to base our self-worth on external things. We may feel the need to have the newest gadget, most stylish outfit, or go on the most exotic trip to be happy. Many of us feel compelled to post constantly on social media in order to receive affirmation for who we are through likes and re-tweets. Unfortunately, the positive feelings that we get from these things is fleeting, which leaves us always needing something or someone else to affirm our worth. During my 30th year, I began to let go of my attachment to needing affirmation. While I still enjoy receiving positive feedback, I no longer need it to feel worthy.

How to: Remind yourself that you are worthy just because you are human. When you get caught up in thoughts about needing to look better or being harsh with yourself when you make a mistake or don’t do as well as you hoped, remember that you are good enough just as you are right now. If you don’t lose another pound or get another promotion, if you don’t take another trip or get another like on Instagram, you are good enough. You are good enough if you don’t get a graduate degree, get married, or have children. You are good enough just the way you are right now. If you think this is particularly difficult, notice what you are feeling the next time you are prompted to post a selfie or something else on social media. Sometimes you may just be feeling that you look good, in which case, go right ahead. However, if you are longing for affirmation, see if you can keep yourself from positing for a bit and try to provide that affirmation to yourself.

Let go of Wanting Everyone to Like You

I spent a lot of my life wanting everyone to like me and feeling upset when I found out that someone didn’t like me. While I still hope that most people think positively about me I have let go of trying to fit myself into a mold that everyone will approve of. This does not mean that I actively “don’t care what anyone thinks of me” because it is helpful to incorporate some feedback about how others respond to me but I know that people not liking me does not make me a bad person. During my 30th year more than ever, I have been fully myself in the various spaces of my life and my actions are no longer moderated by worries about what others will think of me.

How to: Get in touch with how you want to be in various parts of your life and act accordingly. To be clear, I’m not advocating that you disregard the feelings of others in the process. You might speak up and share your experiences or feedback at work, assert your needs and wants to a romantic partner, or set a boundary with a friend who is always asking for too much of your time. Whenever you worry that someone might not like you, see if you can acknowledge those concerns and do what feels right for you anyway.

Embrace all of Yourself

We all have things that are wonderful about us and things that are no so great. Many of us spend a lot of energy focusing only on the things that we don’t like or ignoring our areas of growth and only acknowledging the positive things about ourselves. I encourage you to fully embrace the fact that as a human being you have both positive and negative characteristics. Embracing all of myself has brought a sense of peace and ease to the way that I respond to mistakes, disappointments, and challenges. While I value personal growth and learning, I am no longer engaging in these pursuits with the desperate hope that they will make me perfect and eliminate the things I don’t like about myself. Loving myself fully has enabled me to respond with compassion to my rough spots and affirm the areas where I shine.

How to: I encourage you to look for the connection between the positive and frustrating aspects of yourself and accept the fact that these things go together. Almost all of the things that frustrate us in ourselves and others are connected to characteristics that we admire. For example, those of us who are more uptight and anxious are also usually more conscientious and on top of things. Those of us who are more likely to forget things and miss deadlines are usually more laid back and relaxed.

Whatever age you are right now, I hope these suggestions for loving yourself more fully are helpful to you.

3 thoughts on “The Gifts of 30: Learning to Love Yourself

  1. Adia: You are marvelously and daringly introspective – if only much of the world had your fearless qualities of honesty and self-observation.… And from my limited and somewhat biased “uncle” perspective — you are damn near perfect at merely almost 31! Love, Gary

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