I’ve always thought of myself as someone who struggles to learn from their accomplishments and mistakes. And as far as mistakes go, I certainly have been guilty of making the same ones over and over again.

But sitting here at age 25, reflecting on my life, I’ve realized that I, in fact, have learned some valuable lessons based on my experiences so far. And these lessons have shaped who I’ve become, and continue to do so as I grow and encounter more critical truths about the life I want to lead.

So, here are five lessons I’ve learned in my 25 years of life that have made the most impact on my growth as an individual. 

1. Your friends may not stay the same, and that’s okay.

It happens. Friends that you had in college all move back home and you all have different things going on in your lives. But this doesn’t mean your friendship ends, it just means that everyone is at different points in their lives.

Some friends that you thought you’d have forever, show their true colors. And some of the best friendships appear when you least expect it.

The one thing I’ve learned is that although friend groups may change, those who truly care for you will always be there when you need them. I know I can call on any of my friends from college to be there for me even if we don’t see each other or talk every day. 

2. Your self-worth is measured by YOU and no one else.

I spent a really long time thinking that someone else’s acceptance of me measured what I was worth. There were times I fed off of the opinions and comments of others to tell me whether I was smart, pretty, funny, etc. And when these comments weren’t positive, I hated everything about myself.

Since then, I’ve learned that you and ONLY YOU are allowed to measure how much you are worth.

No one knows you better than you. Stop letting other people’s opinions of you decide your self-worth. Trust me. It won’t get you anywhere. You have to wake up every day with a bad bitch attitude, love yourself, and live your life for YOU. 

3. Finding out what you want and don’t want from a partner is an iterative but completely worthwhile pursuit.

The older you get, the better you understand yourself, and therefore the better you understand what you’re looking for in another person.

You raise your standards and don’t feel ashamed for it.

No more accepting guy’s commitment issues thinking they’ll change. No more letting certain unbecoming traits slide because of their attractiveness.

You also grow to accept and appreciate what didn’t work out. I used to reflect on past relationships and wonder where I would be today if things had been different, but that’s not real.

The reality is if it’s not meant to be, it’s meant to teach you something instead.

You’ll discover what you really want from your partner and which qualities you believe are the most important to your happiness in a relationship. I spent a long time discovering myself before I knew what I really wanted in a man. And I can honestly say that by 25, I have a MUCH better idea of what I want and especially what I don’t want (and thank God I dodged a few bullets with some relationships here and there).

4. You are the only one responsible for your own happiness.

YOU and only you are in charge of how happy you are. It isn’t the responsibility of your job, family, friends or romantic partner to build the life that. you want for yourself. Only you can do that.

And only you can BELIEVE you’re doing that. I found that once I stopped letting other people validate my feelings about my choices and priorities, I became a much happier person.

Because all I needed to really be happy was to trust and depend on myself.

The old me really needed personal gratification from others on everything I believed in. And when I wasn’t getting it from others, I second-guessed my choices. I felt sad and pathetic. But I’ve learned that to truly be happy, all you need is to believe in yourself. Look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are damn well worth your own time.

5. You are right where you need to be.

I’ve learned that it’s okay to feel as if you don’t have your life COMPLETELY together by the time you are 25. You are on your own timeline and you are right where you need to be. There is no agenda that says you have to do anything at all by a certain age, we craft that journey ourselves.

Wherever you are right now is where you need to be. You don’t need to compare your successes to those of others. Because the truth is, we’re all at different places in our lives.

You need to believe that whatever you’re doing now is along the path that you’ve created yourself. Each milestone and achievement is a stepping stone toward the future. And guess what. It’s okay if that future changes.

We are not committed to our futures, be adaptable and flexible, but always listen to where your gut wants to take you.

You’ll go far, kid. But for now, take in each moment and know you’re on the path to success whether you see it or not. 

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