Last weekend I’ve had some time to myself from a self-imposed, ‘don’t-go-out-and-spend-unnecessarily-you-dumbass’ house arrest, and I spent it reflecting on how 29-year-old me compared to 22-year-old me. There were plenty of things I felt was different, but these four were probably the biggest lessons I’ve learned as an adult.

1) BE GENUINE (OR BE YOURSELF).

This is one I feel gets thrown around a lot, but without any context or explanation. Sure, at first glance it seems self-explanatory, but being ‘yourself’ can be hard and confusing, and it’s time someone talked about what it really means.

To put it simply, I think being genuine means being honest with yourself, in whatever circumstance you’re in. If you meet a girl, and you find out she loves crab and you hate it, being yourself simply means saying “Oh, it’s cool that you love crab, but personally I don’t like it,” instead of “Cool, me too!” and then figuring a way to kill your taste buds the next time you fake a crab dinner out with her.

Being genuine means saying difficult things to people who are close to you like, “Hey, I thought it was really rude and immature how you treated my friend,” and “Look, its not about the money, but I’d really appreciate it if you could pay back what I lent you,” even if saying those things would put you in an awkward and difficult position.

Being genuine means honestly expressing who you are, even at the risk losing the people close to you.

At this point, some of you will argue ‘but some people are naturally accommodating and don’t like confrontations. What if their relationships with others is what’s most important to them?’

Of course there are people who don’t like confrontations. But you can’t deny that the part of them which gets repressed is as much a part of them as the part that tolerates it. The difference is what they choose to express, and that’s a measure of how honest they are with themselves.

Yes, some things are not worth fighting over. You could compromise on what you feel like eating for dinner tonight in favour of your spouse’s or your friends’ preference, but at some point you’re going to argue with them over something far more important like your views on religion or monogamy or future plans or whatever it is that’s important to you. And when that time comes, being genuine will require you to stand your ground.

Putting relationships above all else, even at the expense of yourself isn’t prioritising them, it’s being a pushover. Not having any convictions or principles doesn’t just make you less sexy as a guy, it diminishes your worth as a human being. People can’t trust you or love you if all that matters to you is other people’s approval.

The fact is, being yourself is polarising. That means that no matter what your thoughts and convictions are, someone, somewhere is going to be offended by you. You can’t be loved by everyone on earth – sorry, that’s just not how we’re made. So don’t try to be too accommodating by repressing yourself, because no matter what you do, I guarantee you someone is going to hate you for it. Just be honest about who you are, and don’t sweat it when you piss someone off.

Because the bright side is, someone is going to absolutely love you for it too.

 

 2) LETTING GO OF THINGS

One unavoidable side-effect of living, is that sometimes Life throws you a sucker punch and knocks you off your feet. Rejection, bankruptcy, disease, losing a job, divorce, breakups, betrayal – the shitlist is endless.

These moments hurt like hell, and it’ll stick with you forever if you let it. That’s why it’s important to learn from the experience, and just move on. Let go of the negativity. Maybe you can’t let go of everything bad that happens to you, but knowing which ones aren’t worth the pain is a crucial part of being a mature, emotionally balanced, human being.

For example, if you grew up poor and hung on to that experience as motivation for you to be a financially stable and responsible person today, that’s a good thing. But hanging on to an ex that doesn’t love you anymore prevents you from learning the lessons you were supposed to take from the breakup and moving on.

We tend to hang on to our hurt because we’d like to believe that it’s all still unresolved. We think that until the wrong has been righted, the story is still ongoing. “My ex cheated on me! According to the story, somewhere down the road someone’s supposed to cheat on her too and she’ll come crying back to me to apologise for what she’s done!”

It doesn’t work that way. You end the story. You decide whether it’s a positive or negative experience in your life.

Notice I didn’t say a ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ ending. I think you can have a ‘sad’ ending, but still see it positively. It’s all about perspective.

The fact is, a lot of the things and people who hurt us will never realise how much they affected us. Hanging on to it is just waiting for a day of judgement that’ll never come (while still hurting in the process). It sucks, but the world just isn’t that fair.

Sometimes, you just have to accept that there’s no reason nor resolution to the things that have happened. But you can learn to let go of what you can’t change, start working on the things that you can, and slowly shape your life into the kind of life you’ve always wanted.

 

3) ACCEPT REJECTIONS

I’ve talked about accepting rejections plenty of times before. Read them here and here. The TL;DR version of it is, you’ve got to set your own value that’s independent of others’ approval.

Rejections happen when you’re an adult. A lot. As adults, we’re suddenly forced to go out and put ourselves on the line to get what we want. Our parents aren’t there anymore to give it to us. And as you’ll probably realise, when you go out to get what you want, people are going to say ‘no’ a lot.

It sucks, but being an adult is understanding that ‘no’ is just part of the process. Some people just aren’t into you. You’re just not qualified for the job. You’re a high risk loan applicant.

But eventhough it’s a ‘no’ now, it won’t be a ‘no’ forever.

Lashing out, refusing the rejection, or begging for someone’s approval and acceptance just shows emotional dependence and insecurity. It’s like watching an adult who still needs a regular diaper change and feeding.

Learn to take ‘no’ for an answer. You’re going to hear it a lot. It’s all just a test to how much you want something. Let it fuel your determination to work towards a ‘yes’.

 

4) LEARN TO BE OKAY WITH BEING ALONE

One of the problems of the 21st century is that we’re never alone anymore. Living in a such a highly socialised and digitalised world means that we’re constantly involved in someone else’s life, even if just as a spectator. We do it so often that we’ve become dependant on it as a way to pass time, to a point that we just don’t know what to do with ourselves once we’re alone.

That’s when you’ll see people flip out their smartphones and start tapping and swiping away on them – we’ve become awkward with ourselves.

That might sound weird, but honestly, once you visualise your inner self as a different person altogether, it kind of makes sense. It’s a persona that you’ve got to get to know and be comfortable around, and just like being with someone else, you can’t do it if you’re constantly glued to your phone and having your attention elsewhere.

Be present with yourself. Listen to your thoughts. Converse with you.

I know that most of us do it because we don’t want to deal with the can of worms that our minds tend to conjure for us, so we look for distractions to help us ignore it. But it’s okay to have scary questions and not have any answers. We ask these questions because we’re meant to look for answers. Doesn’t matter if we don’t have one, the search itself is answer enough. Like right now, off the top of my head, one of the scariest questions I’ve been asking myself is “What am I doing with my life?” and “Will I ever get married?” and “Am I ever going to be financially stable?”

I’ll admit, I don’t have concrete answers for any of these questions at the moment. But when I think about how I’ve been putting myself on the line and asking women out, when I think of this blog that I don’t mind writing on on an idle Sunday afternoon, when I think about how I imposed a house arrest on myself today as a way to save money, suddenly it’s not so scary. Sure, I don’t haven’t got it figured out yet, but I’m working on them as best I can, and that’s as much control as I have over my present circumstances.

The point is, we all have scary questions we tend to avoid when we’re alone, the kind of questions that sends us into a spiral of existential crisis. But these questions are important, and we’ve got to have some guts to be alone with ourselves and face them, and not distract ourselves.

So savor that time when you’re alone with your own company, and don’t be afraid of the thoughts that pop up. Forget the social stigma of being seen alone. It’s okay – and healthy, even – to be by yourself.

Advertisements