I never understood what my older sisters meant when they told me that life changes in your thirties. Now, a few years past the three decade mark, I can look back and with a relieved satisfaction, that yes, life does change and for the better for that matter. Here are some of the significant shifts and changes that I’ve experienced in my thirties:
I stop feeling the need to prove yourself.
In my twenties, I felt a pressure to be liked by everyone. I wanted to prove to the world that I was smart, successful and popular. I would post photos or status updates on social media that would validate such themes and even name drop in a passive way of gaining social validation. In your thirties, you stop acting, and just start being. That insecurity that so badly tries to receive approval and validation fades into a quiet confidence.
I stopped putting people on a pedestal.
I remember meeting romantic interests in my twenties and would feel lucky if they gave me attention. I would see a guy for all his positive qualities and put him on a pedestal. He could do no wrong. In a way, I put him at a level above me because at my core I didn’t truly see, know or value my own self-worth. Today, I see others as humans, not idols, and while I can appreciate and admire positive qualities, I don’t worship them.
I stopped being impressed by the superficial.
“So what do you do?”
The opening sentence that so many of us are guilty of asking in order to quickly assess if someone is worthy of our time and attention. Status, money, social standing… all these superficial qualities used to impress me, but now, it just blends into the background. In your thirties, you realize that these things don’t make the human. Rather, the way they give, share, love, create and make an impact does. Instead of evaluating if someone is worth getting to know based on their start-up or social status, I’m drawn to people who are kind and share the same values as I do.
I learned that friendships take time.
As a person who prides herself for living with passion, it’s easy for me to get excited over meeting new friends. I used to assign that label around loosely and have realized in the last decade how many of these ‘friends’ have weaved in and out of my life. Getting to know someone over a few times partying or hanging out doesn’t make them your true friend. I think we too often throw around this term without thinking about the responsibility and investment required for really being someone’s friend. We also refer to certain people who have high social currency as friends as a way of receiving validation, leveraging their name and reputation as a way to boost our own. That, is not rooted in cultivating friendship, rather, in being opportunistic and in some cases, manipulative. The litmus test of a true friend lies in time, consistency and going through ups and downs together.
I stopped caring what other people think.
Something happens when you set a foundation of values and use that as your compass for how you make decisions and behave. First of all, decision making becomes a lot more efficient. Second, you become extremely self-aware. When you act with integrity on a consistent basis, you can easily access the type of human you are being at all times, and how you are showing up in your relationships. You also develop a solid reputation.
In my twenties if I heard someone gossiping about me or saying ill words behind my back, I’d be devastated. Now, I shrug it off. If someone doesn’t like me or approve of what I am doing or saying, that’s their issue and own set of triggers, not me. I am confident in how I conduct myself that the opinions of others have little affect on my certainty. Of course I will make mistakes and I do care about the feedback of the people in my respected circle of friends, peers and family, but everyone else – not so much. Life becomes a lot more fun when you aren’t constantly worried about what others think about you.
I stopped tolerating bad behavior.
This comes with valuing your worth, which is a confidence that comes with experience and age. I know what value I provide – to friends, to peers, to romantic partners – and if someone does not respect or appreciate me, I refuse to tolerate it. The moral is, you allow people to treat you the way you do. In your thirties, you realize that you can and should raise your bar, and the ones that matter will rise up to meet you.
I became comfortable with setting boundaries.
Part of wanting to be liked by everyone during my twenties meant that I would do things out of obligation. That would result in resentment and bitterness. Now, my motto is to not do anything out of obligation. If my heart isn’t in it, I won’t do it. I won’t fake or pretend to do something if the root of that action doesn’t come from a true and genuine place. In my thirties I’ve learned to say no, to clearly articulate my needs and expectations and to communicate when and if a boundary has been breached.
The greatest measure of growth is to look at how you handle situations as you grow older and wiser. It’s empowering to step out of old, immature habits that were formed as a child, and step into a more emotionally evolved way of responding (versus automated reacting). The journey of growth will be eternal, and I look forward to every year that goes by that I can grow up a little more.