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Protecting Your Energy: 3 Things I've Learned in My 20s

Most people will experience a time when they feel lost and uncertain about the future. It can be daunting when you’re unsure of your purpose or whether you will achieve any of your dreams, and it’s easy to compare your life to those around you. I’ve spent most of my twenties so far struggling to figure out what I want out of life, and my mental health journey has been a rollercoaster.

Now that I’ve passed the halfway mark in my twenties, I’ve finally started to feel at peace and accept where I am in life. Even though I’m still far from having it all ‘figured out', I’m no longer putting pressure on myself and only surround myself with people who bring out the best version of me.

Here are some of the valuable and crucial lessons I’ve learned so far that have help to protect my energy and my mental health:

Take Life at Your Own Pace

Due to societal pressures, we often expect to have everything figured out by a certain point in our lives. People talk about your twenties being the time to ‘find yourself’, but that’s not really how it works. You’re not lost, you don’t need finding. It’s just difficult to see your true self underneath all the pressure we're faced with.

Navigating through all the challenges life throws at you in your twenties is scary at times, and you may get to a point where it feels like everyone around you is thriving - your friends start landing their dream jobs, getting married, having children, buying their first homes and so on. This underlying panic starts to creep in that you’re running out of time to achieve those things yourself. I used to feel a nagging sense that I was falling behind my peers because I still hadn't achieved my dream job by the time I hit 25, but I’ve come to realise that it's not uncommon and perfectly normal to feel this way and there really is no rush to get anywhere. These milestones will happen for you when they’re supposed to. You’ve got to trust the process and stop searching so hard to find yourself. Take it as it comes. It’s okay to not have your life together in your twenties.

Spare Your Mental Health the Toxic Connections

Maintaining healthy relationships with friends, family and romantic partners can be challenging in your twenties. The new chapter of personal growth and self-discovery you enter is lonely at times, and you will probably lose some friends as you realise that certain people no longer add any value to your life. Reflect on your relationships with people and break off unhealthy connections that prevent you from exploring the version of yourself that you’re destined to be. Shrinking yourself down to seek approval and validation is draining and unnecessary. Instead, prioritise your growth and mental health and cut off any bad energy holding you back.

Cutting ties with people close to us is probably one of the toughest things you’ll face as you become more self-aware, but growth isn’t supposed to be comfortable. It’s a time when you outgrow unhealthy patterns and people that have been holding you back from being your authentic self. The people in your life should be your biggest supporters. If you constantly feel negative after interacting with someone, or they are making you doubt your self-worth and not reflecting the support you need on your journey, that’s probably a sign that they’re not good for you and do not deserve a place in your life. Sometimes ending these relationships can be the biggest blessing, whether it’s a lifelong friend, a significant other, or a family member. The people who truly matter to you and support your growth are all that you need in life. Don’t settle for toxic, unfulfilling relationships and friendships with people who are not your biggest cheerleaders. Your energy is far too precious for that.

Stop People Pleasing and Start Setting Boundaries

When you become a people pleaser, you have a hard time setting boundaries. We’re taught from a young age to be kind to others and to help people, so as we get older, we often have a hard time saying no because we want to be liked by people, or we worry about how others may react and we don’t want to cause tension by saying no. People pleasing tendencies often stem from a lack of confidence and low self-esteem, but you must find the balance between being kind to others and being kind to yourself to avoid feeling disrespected and burnt out.

I used to struggle with setting boundaries in my personal and work life. I especially found it hard to say no to my boss because I felt indebted to them for giving me a job, and I didn’t want to jeopardise my position. I’ve since learnt that setting boundaries for how much you’re willing to do for others isn’t selfish, it’s healthy. It conveys how others treat you, and it’s not your problem if someone doesn’t respect your boundaries. It’s theirs.

Establishing boundaries is the key to all healthy relationships. It allows people to understand your limits and know what you are and aren't okay with. You will become exhausted if you say yes to every request when you want to say no. You 100% deserve to say no without feeling guilty, but if setting boundaries is uncomfortable for you or it makes you anxious, start small. It can take practice! Begin by setting a small boundary in a space that feels manageable and go from there.


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