30 Life Lessons to Learn Before 30

In exactly two weeks I turn 30 (shoutout to my birthday twin Lucy Hale who also turns 30!)

I used to be terrified, thinking by 30 I had to “have it all” (whatever that means). Now that it’s really happening, I can tell you it’s not that scary. Surprisingly, I feel better now than I did when I was 20 and 25.

My twenties were a blast and I wouldn’t change a thing. But I’m excited about starting the next chapter. Plus, your thirties are supposed to be the best years – and I will definitely keep you posted.

In honor of my 30th, I wanted to write about lessons I’ve learned over the years – funny, serious, and everything in between:

  1. While there are a handful of friends you will always have, most friendships will come and go

And that’s okay because the friends you keep are meant to stay in your life. When you’re in your late 20s, you learn to accept this rather than be disappointed by those you lost touch with or those who hurt you.

  1.  Nothing worth having is easy

When it comes to career success, there are no shortcuts. You will spend most of your twenties paying your dues – working for a boss you don’t like, doing a lot and getting paid little for it. By the time you reach 30, all the hard work starts to show up and it’s the most rewarding thing ever.

  1. Focus on your own progress and stop comparing yourself to others

There’s nothing wrong with looking at someone else’s success as a way to inspire you. But when we compare ourselves to others who we perceive as having more and doing more, this is what makes us feel like we’re coming up short. When we have this mentality we end up chasing things (beauty, money, etc.) that won’t bring us happiness in the long run.

  1. Your spending habits will make or break you

Going out for dinner and drinks for every night is great until you realize you have rent due in a week and you only have $20 left for groceries.

  1. Setting boundaries shows that you respect yourself, and others will respect you as a result

I was a people pleaser for a long time, saying yes to things I didn’t have time to do, and agreeing with opinions I didn’t believe. Over time, I learned saying “no” doesn’t mean you’re selfish. It means you respect yourself.

  1. It’s okay if you don’t have it all figured out

We look around and see people who “have it all”, wondering why that amazing job, relationship or more money hasn’t happened for us yet. So often this is the case, when people in our lives are at a high point and we struggle to be happy because we’re comparing ourselves to where they are and where we are.

When I have a weak moment and start to worry about the future, I remind myself to trust the timing of life. I make a conscious effort not to compare my life to anyone else’s and remind myself that I’m not supposed to be anywhere other than where I am now.

  1. Worrying never solves anything

We don’t know what’s going to happen, even though we think we do. In most cases, we make a big deal out of nothing. Keep calm and carry on.

  1. Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you

I had a friend several years ago who LOVED to vent. We would sit there for hours over a glass of wine and she complained about everything going wrong in her life. As her friend, of course I wanted to help her, but it got to a point when I started to feel like her therapist. Her negative energy left me feeling emotionally drained. Not surprisingly, the moment I decided to take a step back and distance myself, I started to feel better.

The bottom line: who you spend time with shapes who you become.

  1. Holding on is harder than letting go

When you’re in a healthy relationship, it brings out the best version of yourself. You feel safe, secure and happy. If you’re having doubts and your intuition is telling you something is off, listen to it. It’s usually right on. Even if you decide to walk away for the time being, it will give you clarity on the situation. Space really does help.

The real reason so many people feel devastated when a relationship ends is not because they actually miss the other person, but because they gave away so much of themselves in that relationship. You know you want better for yourself and made the brave (not easy) decision to leave.

  1. When life doesn’t go the way you planned, replace your expectations with acceptance

By eliminating expectations, you’re going with the flow. When you accept the way things are, life is a lot less stressful. You’re in the moment, and you leave yourself open to what’s coming next.

  1. You can’t control others’ opinions of you

While it’s normal to want to be liked and accepted, it’s dangerous when you become too addicted to approval. When validation becomes a habit, you will keep wanting more of it. It’s a chase that never ends.

Plus, you never really know what’s actually going on in someone’s mind so why draw conclusions? Especially conclusions that destroy your self-esteem in the process.

  1. Embrace change

One of my favorite quotes is from Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

The fear of leaving our comfort zone for unfamiliar territory causes many of us to stay trapped in a life we don’t want. But before you know it, next week turns into next year, and you are in the same exact place. Change doesn’t have to be scary. It can be exciting, if you choose to see it that way.

  1. Holding a grudge only hurts you

It’s a fact of life: People will hurt, disappoint and betray you. The best thing you can do is forgive and forget. Cut your losses, let it go and keep moving forward.

  1. Many of the qualities you found attractive at 21 become ridiculous at 28

At least this was the case for me. 21-year old me liked guys with shaved chests and six packs, guys who played it cool and waited days to call after we met. Now, I think chest hair is manly and calling the next day is sexy.

  1. No one judges you more than you judge yourself

Trust me, to everyone else you look great in that photo. Nobody is seeing the 100 flaws that you’re seeing.

We all have insecurities and doubt ourselves every now and then. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to let go of the self-criticism. The most beautiful women are the ones who are most confident in their own skin.

  1. It’s not a coincidence that when you’re in a positive state of mind more good things start coming into your life

Ever heard, “Energy flows where attention goes”? The same is true if you choose to focus on what’s going wrong and what you don’t have – you will always be unhappy, always wanting more.

I think this is why change always seems to come in waves, kind of like a ripple effect. It seems I’m either in love, with an amazing job and having the time of my life or I just broke up with my boyfriend, I’m stressed out at work, and everything is falling apart.

When you have a positive mentality all the pieces of your life will eventually fall into place.

  1. The more time you spend staring at your screen, the less time you spend enjoying the real world

Trust me, you’ll miss out if you don’t look up.

  1. When you’re young, you feel like you have the luxury of time to waste, but it’s a false luxury

Life is short, and let’s face it: none of us know how much time we actually have – which is why we have to make each moment count even if you’re spending a rainy afternoon watching TV or curled up in bed with a good book.

  1. Being clumsy can be cute

I’m the one in the group where friends say, “It would only happen to Kaitlin.” With more embarrassing stories than I can count, I used to be embarrassed, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized admitting to mistakes makes you more relatable. And I’m grateful for all the funny stories.

  1. Stop chasing perfection

Growing up, I was the type of student who had to get straight As and the type of athlete who always had to perform at the top of her game. Picture a blonde, less annoying version of Hermione Granger. The problem was that my standards were so ridiculously high that I was never happy. During my twenties, I learned to let go and forgive myself for my mistakes.

  1. How to deal with difficult people

There are many types of difficult people you will come across: complainers, know-it-alls, pessimists and the list goes on. When responding to a difficult person, you have several choices—do nothing, walk away, change your mindset, or change your behavior. Sometimes walking away may not be an option (if it’s a coworker or relative, for example). In this case, the only thing you can do is change how you react to that person and learn how to set boundaries.

  1. You’re prettier when you wear less makeup

When it comes to makeup, less is more. Can’t beat a natural look. Ask any guy, and he will agree.

  1. Develop a good skincare routine

I wish I could go back in time and yell at my college self for going to the tanning salon and falling asleep with makeup on. Being tan may be pretty, but wrinkles aren’t cute.

  1. How to stand up for yourself

I’m not a confrontational person and growing up, I avoided conflict whenever possible. When I was upset with my highschool boyfriend, I gave him the silent treatment. He would call me, tell me to stop being stubborn, and then we’d make up. But we never really resolved anything.

Back then I didn’t know how to set boundaries or ask for what I wanted. Now, I’m more straightforward and call my boyfriend when something’s bothering me. I’ve learned there are times when walking away is smart, but there are times when you need to speak up.

  1. Social media will ruin your relationship if you let it

I don’t monitor my boyfriend’s social media activity. My motto has always been “Ignorance is bliss” when it comes to social media and my romantic relationships. Of course, if he’s cheating I would want to know, but I’m not going to cyber-stalk him. Besides, if I can’t trust him, I shouldn’t be with him in the first place.

  1. How to stop taking things personally

As Taylor Swift would say, haters gonna hate. Shake it off. (She also wrote an article on 30 things she learned before her 30th birthday). Also, see number 11.

  1. Always trust your intuition

I can’t count the number of times I’ve said to myself, “I know I should have done that.” Intuitively I knew something, but then I talked myself out of it. It took me a long time to learn how to block out the noise. In the end, my intuition always pointed me in the right direction.

  1. Make time to eat well and exercise, even if you’re busy

Life is stressful, and stress will take its toll on your mental and physical health. You will become burnt out if you don’t take care of yourself.

  1. When you reflect on how far you’ve come, you’ll start to appreciate where you are today

After everything you’ve been through, you start to see things differently. You know what it’s like not having money and then making money; getting your heart broken and finding love again; losing a job and finding a better one.

Gratitude comes naturally through enduring life’s hardships and overcoming obstacles – after which you emerge a stronger, wiser version of yourself.

  1. Enjoy the ride

As you grow up, you learn that life can go from 100 to 0 (and vice versa) pretty quickly. One minute you’re up, the next you’re down, and you’re left wondering why the happy times seem to forever be fleeting.

This is because once we have what we want, we don’t take time to enjoy it. Instead, we’re thinking about what’s next. Alfred D’ Souza says it best, “For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.”

Be happy where you are. We’ve all heard that happiness is about the journey and not the destination, and it’s really true.



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