Why Your Twenties Aren’t Your Best Decade

Subscribe, Share & Follow

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast

Why Your 20s Are NOT Your Best Decade

In a culture that glorifies youth, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that your 20s are meant to be the pinnacle of life. But the reality is far more nuanced. While your twenties offer exciting moments of growth and exploration, they can also be tough, and believing that you’re “supposed” to be at your happiest and best throughout your 20s only makes them tougher. 

As a therapist and a life coach, I know that many people in their 20s are plagued by high expectations, comparison, and self-doubt. It can keep them from enjoying the parts of young adulthood that actually are worth savoring. Recently I sat down with Jemma Sbeg, host of the “Psychology of your 20s” podcast, for a conversation that got me thinking about the unique stressors and joys that come with this season of life. If you want to check out our full conversation, you can find it in the player on this page, or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

But here’s one takeaway that I want to explore in this blog post: Your 20s are NOT your best decade — not in my book at least. If you’re a 20-something who is not having the best time, I hope you find that thought encouraging. This time is full of self-exploration and growth, but there is much more love, happiness and success ahead of you. It gets better, truly! 

Here’s why: 

  1. Identity Exploration and Uncertainty

This is a period marked by exploring various paths, questioning the expectations handed down by your family and society, and grappling with existential questions about your identity and purpose. Many people in their 20s are just beginning to ask themselves big questions, like “what exactly should I do with my life?” This questioning is essential and it is the path to building a meaningful life, but when you’re sitting in the messy middle without clear answers, it can feel scary on an existential level. 

There’s so much uncertainty and ambiguity that comes your way as you adjust to the complexities of adulthood. From making life-altering choices about your career, to learning difficult lessons in your personal relationships, all of the change can feel overwhelming. 

This process of exploring your identity and grappling with uncertainty is an important part of personal growth — but it can be emotionally difficult. And when you’re constantly comparing yourself to others who appear to be living their best lives if their social media posts are to be believed, it can feel like you’re the only one who’s struggling. But I assure you, the struggle is totally normal. 

2. Financial Pressures and Instability

For many young people, this is a time of financial struggle. People in their 20s today are often hit with the triple whammy of student loan debt, entry-level salaries, and a ballooning cost of living, especially in major cities. 

Getting established financially and professionally is harder than it was in previous generations, and our cultural vision for success hasn’t been updated to account for this new reality. Most people still consider owning a home an important part of the American Dream, for example, at a time when many young people can’t even afford to move out of their parents’ house. Not achieving the milestones you believe you “should” have in your 20s can make you feel bad about yourself, despite all your hard work. 

It doesn’t help when you’re following people on Instagram who seem to be constantly on vacation, participating in expensive hobbies, or dining out at the trendiest spots. It can make you feel like you’re missing out and like you’ll never get ahead.

3. Relationship Dynamics and Growth

Your 20s is a time for navigating the complexities of love, intimacy, and commitment in your romantic relationships. Most young people will experiment, get their hearts broken, and encounter some tricky patterns that they’ll need to grow through in order to eventually build a healthy and sustainable partnership. 

All of this comes with its fair share of challenges and disappointments. Young people are also more likely to use dating apps, which can leave them feeling alienated and disposable. These difficult experiences will teach you a lot about yourself, your relationship patterns, and what you need from a partner, but they can also take a toll on your emotional wellbeing. 

4. Mental and Emotional Health

It is totally normal to spend your 20s getting acquainted with the less-than-ideal patterns that you may have absorbed in your family of origin. I’m not necessarily talking about capital-T trauma or seriously adverse childhood experiences. We all absorb some degree of dysfunction growing up, and you will begin to bump up against that dysfunction as you navigate your 20s. 

This also isn’t something that ends on your 30th birthday. You’ll continue your personal growth journey throughout your life, and the “issues” that you resolve will come up in different forms again and again. But when you’re in your 20s, you don’t have a track record yet of working through things, healing, and coming out the other side stronger than before. It can be difficult to trust the process. With a little more experience under your belt, you can go through hard things while believing in yourself and your ability to ultimately be okay. 

5. Loneliness

Finally, your 20s can be quite lonely. Most people are no longer under the wing of their families of origin, but they haven’t yet started families of their own. Their friends from high school and college are dispersing in different directions, while making new friends as an adult becomes more challenging. It can leave you needing more connection to truly thrive. 

Support for Navigating Your 20s

Of course, your 20s do not have to be all doom and gloom! It’s a time of remarkable growth, and you can have a lot of fun on the way, especially with the right mindset

By managing your expectations, attending to self-care, and most of all, working with a qualified guide as you establish yourself in adulthood, you can find contentment, love, happiness, and success, in your 20s and beyond. 

If you’re interested in working with a therapist, life coach, or dating and relationship expert on my team, I invite you to schedule a free consultation

With love, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby 

P.S. — For more advice on building a life based on your truest values and desires, see my personal growth collection of articles and podcasts. It’s all there for you!


  1. Demir, M. Close Relationships and Happiness Among Emerging Adults. J Happiness Stud 11, 293–313 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-009-9141-x
  2. McMillan, N., Laughland-Booÿ, J., Roberts, S. et al. Happy Times: an Exploration of How Australian Young Adults Define Happiness. JAYS 5, 37–53 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s43151-021-00060-6

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast

Subscribe Share & Follow

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast

Music in this episode is by Bronski Beat with their song “Smalltown Boy.” You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: https://bronskibeat.bandcamp.com/music. Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to copyright.gov if further questions are prompted.

Life unfolds itself in chapters and like a good novel, each one sets us up for the next. So your early adult years, your twenties, and really even your early thirties are especially important because the decisions that you make during this period will shape your trajectory. And while it’s never too late to change your direction in life, getting to know yourself, working on yourself, and making some solid values based And intentional choices earlier in your life will set you up for love, happiness, and success in your future.

How to do that is what we’re talking about on today’s show. And I’m so pleased because joining me today is a very special guest, Gemma Sbeg, who is the host of the top charting self help podcast called the psychology of your twenties. And she’s going to be doing a deep dive with us into how to navigate the complexities of this golden decade.

Um, she does this every week on her show. And today she’s here to share her perspective with us. So welcome Gemma. Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here. Yay! Well, this is really a treat. I am a fan of your work and, um, I’m so excited to talk with you about this because, you know, in my role as a therapist, as a coach.

I do often work with people who are in their super early twenties, typically, but like later twenties, early thirties, who are really trying to figure out some of these pieces. Or I am working with people who are further down the line, maybe in their thirties, in their forties, who are now in marriages or careers or in life spaces that they created.

But without a lot of intention, right? And so now they’re, they’re sitting in circumstances that they actually don’t love, and they would have really benefited from doing some of the self exploration work earlier in their lives. And certainly there’s so much that can be done to like heal and grow and change your trajectory.

But sometimes I sit and think, wow, I wish I’d had the opportunity to talk with you when you were 27. And a 47.

So. I honestly, I think that is such a huge factor, right? Where it’s, and we see this a lot. I see this a lot, even in my twenties, whereby it’s kind of almost like a rush to the finish line in so many different ways that we neglect, um, actually truly thinking about the decisions that are going to be lifelong.

And I think that’s both negative and positive. I guess that none of them are ever completely. One or the other, but like decisions that are made in, in both directions that we kind of just walk into, um, or don’t really think about that put us in a position later in life where we’re wishing we could kind of go back.

I’m sure you’ve seen so many people expressing that kind of sentiment later on. Yeah, sometimes and sometimes it’s just, it’s, it can be sad and again, I don’t want to paint too bleak of a picture, but I mean, I’m a huge believer in, in growth and you know, like feeling even things like regret can open the door for a lot of really important growth work.

But, um, yeah, that’s just, it’s why I’m just such a huge fan of the work that you’re doing, which is really trying to serve people in that lifestyle. And actually, you know, before we jump into this, can I just, can I ask a curiosity question? Like, okay, so you have this podcast, Psychology of Your Twenties, how did you even get started with that?

Like what I’m curious about, how did this become a mission for you to amplify the voice and the life experience of people who are in this space? I feel like there’s a story here. There is a story. I don’t know how good of a story it is, but I’m going to tell it anyway. So I started the podcast maybe, Oh my God, like two and a half years ago now, it was, if you’ve ever seen this Ted talk by Elizabeth Gilbert called your elusive creative genius, she talks about this experience of like an idea floating above you.

And it’s an idea that wants a home and it’s kind of like, it’s, it’s found you, but you really only have like a few days, a few hours, a few minutes to like grab it and to like reach out and grasp it and make it yours. And I feel like that’s what happened to me with the podcast where. I was going through a series of huge life changes that I talk about on the podcast.

I was going through a huge breakup. I was graduating university. I was like doing all of these things. Um, we were going through a pandemic. I was about to move to a new state. Like it was just all of these changes. And I was like, you know what? And I, I also studied psychology at uni, um, and was like working in the mental health space and social research space at the time.

And I was like, I would bet some really good money that a lot of what I’m going through, I could find theories and like an academic explanation for this. And I, and I was like, you know, I just had this sense of like, I really need to make this show because I’m sure that other people want these answers as well.

And so I had never made a podcast before I was an, I was an avid podcast listener and like a radio stand. My mom used to always make me listen to this American life from NPR. Yeah, me too. I, I remember listening to like with Sean Carr. Pardon? Do you listen to the Hidden Brain Podcast? Oh, yeah. I love that show.

I just missed the first part. Yeah. Also so good. And there was another one like, I remember listening to this, it was called Dying for Sex and it came out like maybe like eight years ago. Um, and it was so good and anyhow, so I’ve always like been really, really engaged and captured by like this, this kind of medium.

And so I literally was like, all right, let’s do it. And I started recording on my phone. And for like the first. year and a half, I got like no traction, but I think I just loved it so much that I was like, I don’t really mind if it’s just my, my grandma and my best friend. And my grandma does listen to every episode.

So sweet. Like, I don’t really mind. Like. I just want to do this because it’s a hobby and then suddenly it was like a job and suddenly it was like a career and and then more people found the show and it was just mind blowing. That’s amazing Gemma, congratulations. Well and I think that that just really speaks to what a good job you’ve been doing and really speaking into the hearts and minds of a lot of people who can relate and so.

You know, congratulations. Thank you. It’s been overwhelming. Good deal. Well, I am so interested to hear more about the research that you’ve done. And, and I hope that we can talk about some different facets of it for the benefits of our listeners, because, you know, from, from my perspective, there are Developmental stages in life and it’s like you, you have to do the work of one phase before you can move on to the next.

And I think about your twenties and even early thirties from working with my clients and also from my own life experience, having been a 20 something long ago, um, you know, the work is really like. Getting to know yourself and, and having life experiences that give you opportunities to grow with.

Relationships, your relationship with yourself, like trying to figure out a career, right? And so I guess what I’m curious to know is if we even just tackled these one at a time, I mean, starting with just that happiness piece, when it comes to figuring yourself out, working on yourself. I don’t, I don’t know, getting to know yourself, well, be able to make informed choices.

What are some of the things that you’ve learned through your work and through your research that have been the most helpful ideas at helping people in this life space get some of that? Yeah, it’s such a good question. I think a lot of us approach our 20s with two major kind of cognitive delusions or distortions.

Misconceptions, I’ll call them. The first is that we should be happy all the time and that we need to constantly be having positive experiences in order to make the most out of this decade. And the second is that we should have some idea of, like, what we’re working towards. We have, should have some kind of life plan.

And I think both of these are huge misconceptions that actually keep us in a place of stagnation rather than in a place of growth. Because challenging that idea that you can’t be happy all the time, or challenging that idea that You don’t need to have a plan. It’s going to come with a lot of fear, right?

It’s going to come with a lot of discomfort. And we know that as humans, we really like to avoid any form of negative emotions. So I think it’s challenging those things that actually really puts us in a better. position for growth. The way, the best way to challenge them, I think, is to I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.

Something happened and our internet cut out. Oh, no, that’s okay. About the last thing I heard, you were talking about, um, the myths around, you know, feeling like you need to be happy and know what, you know, have a clarity about your life plan and how that can create negative emotion. Yes. Okay, beautiful.

I’ll go from there. No, it’s okay. It happens to me all the time. I’ll just clear my throat. Well, I’ll take the opportunity to do that. Um, and I think obviously challenging those two misconceptions brings about a lot of fear and a lot of discomfort and humans naturally really want, you know, naturally want to avoid negative emotions.

It’s just A real primal part of us that we don’t want to be in those negative spaces. The thing is, is that you actually need some of that discomfort and sometimes you need some of that, um, I don’t want to say like sadness, but like, I guess some of those emotions that we don’t see is like particularly bright.

In order to grow. That’s something I’ve really learned in my own life, where it’s like, the greatest growth doesn’t just come out of experiences that were hard, because I think we all know that. But it’s also this sense of, like, the things that have been most impactful, the things that I missed out on, are the things that, like, didn’t go according to plan, because my plan was probably not great, because I’m someone in my twenties, with limited You know, information limited, like life experience, like the plan that I’m trying to create for myself is probably not going to be great and it’s probably not going to be actually what’s going to make me happy in like five or 10 years.

So I think like the biggest way to address both of those misconceptions is when it comes to the first one, I think kind of embrace. The growing power of failure and of negative emotions, see those experiences, you know, you can grieve and you can feel upset and you can feel a little bit of self pity. I think that’s important, but also see them as like for what they are, which is at the end of the day.

All part of the journey, all part of the growth experience, all part of, you know, the factors that make you, you are, and also just a huge learning experience. Um, and I know that’s so cheesy, but like when you really actually sit there and be like, I’m going to treat this as a learning experience, I’m going to be deliberate about this.

It also changes your attitude towards the problem. And I think when it comes to like the second aspect of the misconceptions that really keep us a little bit trapped in our 20s of needing to have a plan. The best thing. the antidote for that is to like start really treating risk as like your best friend.

Like risk is like one of the most important things of your 20s. And I think you were saying it before, where it’s like, you’re, you kind of have a duty to have as many new and different experiences as possible. And part of that is going to be stepping outside of. A, what society really expects from you in terms of a life plan.

And B, what you thought your life was going to turn out like. And I um, speaking of like studies and research, I, one of my favorite studies of all time, it is. I, I refer to it probably on a weekly basis was a study looking into regret and what they found was that across thousands and thousands of participants, they sat them down and they said, were you basically, are you more likely to regret the decisions that you didn’t make or the decisions that you did?

And they did this across 15 years and a lot of them were like, Oh, yeah, we’re more likely to regret the decisions that I did make. Like, you know, I’m more likely to really feel a lot of remorse or guilt. But 15 years later, the ones that were happiest were like, No, I totally regret, like, I don’t regret anything because I made the decision.

Whereas the people who express the most, yeah, I would say regret and most dissatisfaction with life were the people who never made. a choice, who never made a decision, who never took the risk because they were dealing with the what ifs and I feel like those what ifs of what if I had just done that thing, what if I had gone back to uni, what if I had moved to that new country, what if I had asked that person out, those are the things that I think really kind of haunt us a little bit.

I love that and that’s so empowering and I think so liberating too because what you’re saying is that you don’t have to know exactly what you’re doing, just do something. You know, that, uh, make the best decision in the moment, but take the action, have the experience that is actually the work as opposed to all of this like time and energy and angst and coming up with like the perfect decision.

Just do something. I love that. Just do something. Exactly. That’s it. I’m going to see if Nike wants that way. Maybe they’re marketing people. Yeah. Get in touch. But truly, because that, that takes off so much of the pressure, I think emotionally, because that’s, that’s actually something I see in my clients is this pressure that they.

They have to make the right decision. Like there’s a lot of fraughtness around, is it the correct decision, where the reality is that there are lots of right decisions, right? I mean, any path you go in has pros and cons. And so, you know, that to, to just release some of that pressure of having to choose the one and only right.

for yourself. I think I love that in your message. Thank you so much. Well, it’s interesting like to talk on that a little bit more. Maybe we can jump, do you want to talk a bit about career, like the career anxiety? Right. Because I feel like that’s another huge component, right? Where, and it’s really interesting what you just said about people wanting to choose like the right decision, like the one decision.

I’m going to bring up another study that I love. And I think you properly know the study and it was the Stanford Jam experiment. So, back in the 60s, 70s, I don’t know the date, back a while ago, um, before the 2000s, they there was this series of experimenters and they wanted to see how people made decisions.

So they thought the best way to do that is to go to a farmer’s market and they set up One stall on one day that had 24 jams, all of these jams, all of these different options. And then they set up a stall the next week with only six jams. And they, what they found was that they had made this hypothesis that more people were going to buy jam when they had more options because it meant that like it was more likely to suit their taste.

Actually, what they found was that their sales, when they only offered people six jams, Went up like 600%, which was like absolutely, you know, completely unexpected. And it like goes to apply to what you were saying where it’s like, we actually have so many options that when we have so many options, it like paralyzes us and we’re unable to make a decision.

Whereas when we have, when we say just do something like here’s only six jams, here’s only six things that you really want to do. Just pick one of those. It’s actually a lot easier for us to make choices. It’s kind of like the curse of the modern, of the modern day where we are. So we do have so many more options and so many different pathways that actually it’s having the opposite effect of making it harder for us to actually decide what’s going to make us happy.

Yeah. Absolutely. The, the overwhelm. Um, I’m just thinking, and so this is why when I sit down to watch TV, I spend two hours watching, picking something. I mean, that’s like, but that’s so valid. And I think what you’re talking about, especially with things like career or some of these other life choices, isn’t.

Many of the options are pretty good options. Do you know? I mean, like they’re all legitimate. They all have positive outcomes potentially. And so it’s trying to narrow it down to the right one. Uh, and so, I mean, just with that and even coming to career, cause I think that that’s. You know, in my practice at Growing Self, we do a lot of career counseling and so many people, especially in this life space, that is their goal.

Just getting clarity that like, what should I do with my life? And the reality is that these are intelligent, capable, gifted people who could really do so many different things with their talents. That would all, could all turn into plausible careers, but this paralysis of, but how do I know? Right? One. And I mean, can spend a lot, like years in the space because of that indecision.

And so I’m curious to know if, if you’ve come across any ideas or mindsets that have helped The people that you talk to feel more free to choose one and see how it goes. Absolutely. I think about this all of the time. I talk about this all the time. I think when it comes to our twenties, everyone thinks that we worry about love, but really I think what we’re worrying about is the future, like more so than anything else.

Um, so I have this idea and it’s called the myth of the dream job. And I really truly believe that there is not one perfect career for anybody and that what makes us unhappy or makes us feel a lot of pressure or stress is this myth sold to us of the dream job. Um, and it’s actually really interesting because when I was like researching this.

A few people were like, where did this term come from? Like, where did this come from? It’s used all the time in conversation. It’s used all the time in like career counseling. It’s like, okay, well, what’s your dream job? Like, what could you do if money wasn’t an option? And a lot of it actually came from, um, like back in the day when, uh, there were huge corporations who were trying to sell the idea of the dream life.

And with that, the dream job and the dream job was often something that was Low paying, in a factory, and would work you a lot of hours. But they said it was like, the dream job was to unlock the dream life. Whereas nowadays, so it was a marketing, it was a marketing term, basically. But now we buy into it so much, where we expect that, like, we see, here’s so many people talk about how, Oh, I love what I do, I would never do anything else.

And we’re like, Okay, well, then why can’t I have that? How do I have that? That looks great. Like, I want to feel that way when I go into work. But I think it’s like, you can actually be happy doing a lot of different things. As long as what you’re doing allows you to challenge yourself, aligns with your values and also aligns with like your skill set.

Right. And then I think that those are like the three major things where it’s like, obviously if you’re, there are certain jobs that you can count out straight away. Like I’m never going to be a doctor because I’m so squirmish when it comes to blood. And I also. Don’t want to, don’t want to work at nights.

Like there’s a, you can kind of just count some, sorry, chemistry. I mean, Oh yeah, yes. Yeah. I’m not even, that wasn’t even on top of my list. Um, it’s a good point, but, uh, but the thing is, it’s like, you can kind of do it, like eliminate through a process, like it’s a process of elimination that comes from understanding your values.

I’m sure you know, like the value exercise where you get the big list of values and you just have to choose your top 20 and then your top 10 and then your top 5, understanding like your skills, what are the things that people compliment you that, that compliments you kind of ignore, you know, people being like, Oh, you’re actually really great to talk to, like, Oh, I always look forward to, to coming to you with my problems, or are you the first person they call when they’re like, um, needing travel recommendations or needing someone to like help them design their apartment.

Like look out for the things that you are secretly good at that you might not give yourself credit for.

That’s great advice. And, and then I, you know, then maybe once you have that narrowed down, pretty much anything that fits the description of that intersection between your values, what you’re good at, what you. What brings value to the market. Even if you do have five or ten career options, you’d probably be pretty happy with any of them.

But what happens, what gets in the way, I think I’m hearing you say is it’s like this head game, you know, people believe that they should have their dream job, this perfect thing. And it actually reminds me of what you were saying when we first began talking. There’s this like tying into the expectation that I should always be happy.

be having a good time. I should always be having positive experiences. And you know, what’s interesting, and I don’t know if you can speak to this or not, but what was actually coming up for me is a curiosity about generational differences when it comes. To that, that expectation. So I mean, my, my listeners know, but, uh, I mean, I identify as a Gen Xer and I tell you what, the expectation of having a good time, not part of the, oh no, I honestly, I mean, there was sort of a fetishization of like broodiness and moodiness.

And I think the expectation is that life was hard. Like, I don’t know. I just sort of felt. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. What that says about me and my generation, but, but just this contrast that, that there’s this sort of like sparkly, sunshiny, like everybody should be happy all the time kind of thing. I wonder if that’s almost a generational thing to a degree.

And I don’t know, I mean, can you speak to that at all? Yeah, absolutely. Well, I feel like it’s a huge thing as well in Australia. Oh, I like to bring in like the few cultural differences as well. Um, and maybe also another in America as well. So tell me if this is this is true for you guys, where it’s like a lot of us.

I think we’re raised in this environment of like, you’ve got to give everything like a tough go, like life isn’t going to be fair, but we’re going to get like, you know, you’re going to get a fair go if you put in all the work. And a lot of it was around like, What do you mean you want a job that makes you happy?

No, you should have, you should just take any job that pays the bills. And you should be aiming for like the nice suburban sprawl house and free kids and beach holidays to Queensland when you can get away. Like it was very formulaic, um, in my childhood. I remember very distinctly being like, Oh, like that’s all that is out there.

Like people were very much like, yeah, you just have a job and you work it for the rest of your life. And I, I see it a lot in like my mom’s in my mom. Um, and then also in my grandparents as well, even though they were lucky enough that they have all somehow found careers that they’re incredibly like fulfilled by, but it is still the sense of like, Your main duty is to the family, your main duty is to, um, the kind of corporate ladder or like career success.

The main duty is to doing things the right way. Whereas I think people in their 20s nowadays, like your main duty kind of nowadays is to just have a lot of fun and that’s like totally socially accepted. Like I have so many friends who, you know, 27, 28 and they’re like, one of them, one of my best friends is in like Kathmandu right now.

Yeah. Right. And she’s amazing. And like, you know, she’s traveling the world. Another friend is, is in Paris, like going to acting school just because he felt like it. And I think that that is so much more tolerated. And I think, yeah, I think that’s a beautiful thing. But sometimes if you actually, you know how we were saying, like, sometimes you just need to just do something.

I think sometimes people are like, I don’t really have any of those big dreams. Um, like, does that mean that I’m missing out? On my twenties, if I just want to do things a different way, like there’s always a grass is greener situation. Got it. Got it. But I see though, how, you know, just generationally, well, I’m first of all, I mean, just how wonderful to be breaking away from these.

being like, actually, no, I am in no rush to buy a producing mom. So stop. But also I think I could see how that then turns into a different kind of pressure because if you have people in your life who are, you know, in an ashram in, And going to Kathmandu and like doing all these interesting, meaningful things, then that also turns into a different kind of pressure if you’re not, or if you’re feeling like your life experience, your lived experience is actually not that much fun when it comes to a cooker or comes to what you’re doing that it kind of makes you feel like something might be wrong or that you’re making the wrong choice, maybe even when you’re not.

I mean, it’s all, it’s all a mixed bag. I like to, I have this like idea of instead of viewing your life as like just this big chunk of time, um, that you just have to fill and like you, you’re born and then you die. And it’s whatever you do with that big chunk of time in the middle. See life instead is like chapters.

Right? And see your 20s in particular as just one chapter with like a lot of different, maybe just one book with a lot of different chapters within it. Like 20 to 22 is like chapter one, 23 to 25 is like chapter two, 26 to 28 is chapter three. And then 28 to 30 is like chapter four. Like instead of viewing it as like, Oh my God, it’s just going on and on and on.

And like you view. This season of life as different chapters that you can feel with a different story. So you finish uni in chapter one, like chapter two, you might go solo traveling chapter three, you try out the career chapter four, you do something else. Like there’s so much space in there to make different decisions.

Um, but I think when we just view life as this big continuous thing, we don’t. Feels as if we have as much freedom to do. Completely. Yeah, like you have to have everything all figured out. All. Yeah. Can I, can I ask you a personal question? And you can ask personal questions too, if you would like. Go for it.

How, how old are you? I’m 24. I’m 24. So like. You’re 24? Yeah. So I’m young. Sure. I thought in your later 20s, for sure, not that you, you look old, but you know, wisdom Gemma. Well, so I guess the, the question is, um, you know, the, the story of your 20s is still very much unfolding, you know, compared to where you started.

started as a cute little 20 year old and now you’re a more mature, worldly 24 year old. What have been the biggest life lessons for you so far? Things, things you’ve figured out on the journey? Can I ask? Yeah. Um, I’m really trying to think here. Yeah, obviously I’m not like in my late 20s. People are often surprised when I say that.

I think it’s because I’m the eldest daughter, so, you know, uh, yeah, I’ve had to grow up a bit faster, but I think my biggest lesson is that sometimes the best thing in life is not getting what you wanted. Um, there are so many times where I remember, I just think about all these times where like, I really, really, really wanted something and I thought it was going to make my life so happy.

And I realized that if I had actually gotten it. My life would not be as good as it is now, like I would be on a completely different path. I think about one, two instances in particular. The first is to do with an internship. And it was an internship that I went for when I was 20. And I was like, This is going to make my life feel meaningful.

Everyone else is getting internships. I need to get ahead of the boat. Like I need to get, I need to get into my career. I’m not going to get a job if I don’t have this internship. And it was for like a really, it was for like a big four consulting firm. Very different to what I’m doing now. Um, and I didn’t get it and I was devastated.

I was so, so sad and everyone around me got their like little internships and not little. That sounds like I’ve. You know, everyone around me got their internships, and I obviously was like, I’m so happy for you guys, but then also I was like, a bit crushed, um, and then another example was like this, this person that I was dating when I was 19, um, and I remember being like, Oh, I really like this guy, and then he broke up with me, and I was like, Oh, he could have been the one, and I was like, he wasn’t the one, and I like wanted him in my life so badly for, I don’t really understand what reason, but it’s like, it’s, Sometimes you just got to realize that like the, I think the things that you see is like letdowns and failures and setbacks are so, so important for helping you actually find what’s really meant for you out there.

Yeah. Yeah. It’s like kind of casting a vision further out. Like there’s this point, but that idea of, okay, so what else might this make possible for me that kind of. Yeah. Realizes it and to be able to look back and have compassion I’m hearing for yourself because of being so sad and rightly so but like um almost gratitude that you had those experiences that Yeah hard in the moment Do you have experiences like that as well?

Because I’m wondering if that, if that is something that’s common. Like, an experience maybe in your 20s or 30s where Oh my goodness. You know, well, I mean, yeah. There have been so many different things that I’ve tried to do or had hopes for. But I think And, and learned so much through the failures and, and of things being difficult, but I think my life experience was probably different than a lot of people’s because, um, you know, I met my husband when I was 19.

Oh, I didn’t know that. I was married by the time that I was 22 and that did not come out of some, you know, major like soul searching or rational decisions. It was like, okay, you know, then wound up like growing together. And so I think because of that, my life story was probably somewhat different because there was this like, I mean, I was married, so we were doing this thing and, um, But I think when it has come to different chapters of my life, like, you know, with career stuff and experimenting with different things, um, I’ve always been business minded.

So I only ever had one job that was actually like an internship, honestly, my doctoral internship when I was on the way to becoming a psychologist, you know, I had to show up to work every day with my little things and, um, But other than that, like I’ve always been self employed in some form or another and going through those different chapters and like trying to get things work to work that didn’t work has taught me so much about life and myself and business, but also people.

And so. And where some of my biggest life lessons have come from. And then certainly, you know, working with my clients over the years, though I didn’t really even get out of school until I was well into my thirties. Um, yeah, but, but in my twenties, like having to have life experiences to help me figure out what it was that I really wanted to do with my life and where.

Um, you know, being of service to other people and launching a career as a therapist that came directly out of having other experiences earlier in my twenties where I was maybe doing stuff, but it wasn’t meaningful. It didn’t feel really great for me. And then, um, You know, a big formative experience for me was 9 11 when that happened, I was in my twenties and my cousin actually was killed in the World Trade Center.

Um, he worked at counter Fitzgerald at the top of one of the towers. And so when that happened, that was a huge wake up call for me because it was like, You know, I could actually die at any moment, like my cousin under some random circumstances. And what do I want my life have been about? And that’s when I started getting more in touch with my values around helping people and being part of other people’s growth journeys.

Um, but that also I experienced that in contrast to having done things that didn’t have a lot of meaning for me. I don’t want to do that anymore. But I had to do it in order to know that. So I don’t know if that answers your question or not, but that’s part of my story. No, it really does. I feel like that’s so upsetting and devastating.

I’m sure you’ve done the work to heal from that, but that’s so devastating that that happened. And also that it probably completely, yeah. Oh yeah. I know. I can imagine. Um, it actually, it’s so interesting to hear you say that because I feel like obviously I’m in my Early 20s, mid, I don’t know what, I would say early 20s and sometimes I wish that I just had someone who was me in 10 years to be able to tell me what, what happens and how it all worked out.

And so I think it’s nice hearing from people like you, who I’m like, Oh, like, it’s all. Like you had the same insecurities and doubts that I did, like you had to do that value exploration. That actually is so comforting because I think that like the thing about our 20s is that everything feels like it’s in such isolation, in such solitude, and it’s just you.

Yeah, so. It’s really valuable to hear that. Well, that’s wonderful. Well, and I think, you know, that’s part of the, the service of your wonderful podcast is just to be giving, giving things like this, a voice so that people who are also in this space really know that they’re not alone because I think you’re totally right when you’re, when you’re going through this in isolation and you need to look at other people.

I think particularly in this era of social media, you know, when people are posting about their, about. Nepal and all the things and and thinking like, what’s wrong with me? Right? Yeah, that’s wonderful. Yeah, I feel like the social media we didn’t even talk about that. But it’s a social comparison. What do you have to say about that?

Because I mean, in previous generations? Yeah, well, it’s just created this like constant spotlight. I feel like I can’t believe I haven’t spoken about it because You know how you were talking about generational differences? That’s like a huge one, like probably one of the biggest ones other than like a pandemic, um, is that, and I guess also as in like it, it carved out our early 20 experiences was a pandemic and the rise of social media.

I honestly think that social media is, like, the biggest thief of joy in this current generation. I, I really dislike it. Obviously, it’s one of those things, I’m sure you understand this, it’s like, you kind of need it for work nowadays. Like, it’s kind of become part of the job title, which is frustrating. If you think about it, Humans are not meant to be able to constantly compare themselves to any person on the planet.

We grew up in these very small communities and social comparison emerged as a way of almost policing behavior to keep people in line with the group norms. That was like the whole purpose of like, that’s kind of the evolutionary basis of comparison, but nowadays it’s become warped and it’s become this instrument for like.

Self shame and it’s become this instrument for feeling really terrible, I think feeling really terrible about ourselves where we can go online and see anybody anywhere in the world doing something better than what we’re doing, earning more money than we’re earning, wearing better clothes than we’re wearing, looking better, looking a way that we would like to look.

And when you’re constantly in that environment, I think it really does steal a lot of your joy from life. And I. I honestly did a bit of like a social media detox recently where I was like, this isn’t helping me to constantly see this and it’s making me really doubt, um, my value and my mission and my purpose.

And it’s making me kind of doubt like my, what I want from my life. Um, so I honestly think that that’s like a huge thing that you have to be aware of in your twenties. How much of your version, like vision of happiness is derived from what someone else is doing online. Wow. Thank you for sharing that, but and good for you that you gave that a big shove back to put it in its place and just to have the self awareness to say, this is not bringing value to my life and I don’t actually have to participate in it if I don’t want to.

But what was the outcome of your detox? Oh, I feel great now. I think I feel amazing. The outcome was more so just that it was like, um, it kind of just made me feel A bit more like in my power and in like my, my mission. Do you know what I mean? Um, and I went back to social media, like with a, with less of like, I would say like a dependency mindset where I was a bit more like conscious and curious around how I was using social media.

And how I was probably also playing into the narrative that I myself despised. And yeah, I just consciously use it a lot less now. And I’m better able to kind of put up a magnifying, like a clarity mask, like a clarity glass and be like, Oh, this probably isn’t real. Like this probably isn’t all the story here.

Like there’s a lot going on behind the scenes the same way. There’s a lot, you know, going on behind the scenes in my life as well. Yeah, that’s awesome. It helped you reconnect with more of the reality based way of, of, uh, looking at it and just like the critical thinking there around. It’s easy to make a pretty picture, not the whole story.

That’s good. Well, and thank you for being just such a wonderful role model to other people in this space. I mean, just probably hearing you share these stories helps other people feel like they maybe have permission to do the same. Oh, that’s so nice. Thank you so much. Super cool. Well, we, I had always hoped that we could talk a little bit about relationships and love.

And I know that we have been talking for a while. Do you have a few more minutes to hang out with me or do you have a stop? Absolutely. I’ve got a hard stop at nine. I’m just going to, I’ve got to jump on another call, but I can ask them to move it to like 905 or something. I don’t know. Well, I just, so really briefly, one of the things that I know is part of oftentimes the work of the twenties is going through different relationships or learning about yourself well enough to.

Choose a life partner or learn how to be successful in a long term relationship. And I’ll share, even though I met my husband when I was very young, was married when I was 22, spent the rest of my twenties figuring out how to have a good relationship with somebody that I cared about. So we, we spent a lot of the nineties knocking the corners off each other for sure.

I’m curious to know if you’ve come across any research or ideas that are helpful to people in this stage of life who are thinking about, you know, I, I would like to be partnered someday. What, what do I need to be working on or thinking about now in order to later? I think the absolute number one thing that you need to be aware of is.

Or at least unpack is, how has your relationship with your family and your parents influenced how you see love? And more so, how is the relationship between your parents or between your parental figures or your caregivers, how has that maybe implicitly altered how you unconsciously see affection and compassion and intimacy.

I think that when we really start looking at that, firstly, a lot of us don’t think about it that much. We think about like, I think a lot of us don’t want to think about our parents love stories, um, or the fact that they were our age once, or we don’t want to think about perhaps some of the trauma that was done to us as children, that.

It’s maybe a little bit hidden or a little bit shameful for our parents or shameful for us when it shouldn’t be. Um, and once you really start to unpack that, you start to see a lot of ways in which perhaps you’re self sabotaging relationships. Perhaps you are approaching relationships in a way that isn’t going to lead to a successful outcome.

Um, the biggest one, of course, we can talk about attachment styles, but I feel like everyone kind of understands that. You know, there, there is like a certain way that each of us relates to other people, um, and a lot of the difficulties I think we have when it comes to, you know, pursuing the wrong people, settling, ignoring red flags, pushing away the right people, comes down to.

How the environment, the love environment, the relationship environment that we were raised in. That is wonderful advice. I mean, I’m hearing, you know, there, I think there’s that, that tendency to be very other focused, right? person and, and dating and, and doing that. But what you’re saying, and I completely agree is that the real work is on yourself and figuring out old messages, the core beliefs you have about relationships, the things that you inherited from your family of origin experience, and then being able to work through some of those things within yourself so that you’re in, in a more clear, self aware place before.

getting into a relationship with somebody else. Is that it? Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And I’m, I’m sure you would say this as well. Like the other big learning that I’m, I think we all have to figure out ourselves is that like a relationship alone cannot sustain you. I think a lot of us in our twenties are like, Oh my gosh, like my big, I want to be in love and I want to find like my soulmate.

I want to find this big love and I want to be with them. And sometimes it’s this thing of like, actually, when you’re searching for answers in someone else, like they can elevate the picture a hundred percent. Like they can make your life so much better, but they cannot sustain you. So if you’re looking at a relationship as a point of like, for therapy, or as a way of like self soothing, or as a, to kind of feel something in your life.

Like, I also think that. That’s never going to be successful either. I don’t know if you, if you necessarily agree with that. Oh, absolutely. That, you know, I mean, one of actually the biggest life lessons that I have learned and, and I’m still, you know, in the process of evaluating, but. Um, big thing for me is, and this goes back to research around happiness and like the positive psychology research, is that you are as happy right now as you are going to feel when you achieve whatever circumstance you think will make you feel differently that, and, and I think that when people attach this.

I’ll be happy when, or put a lot of dependence on a relationship to make them feel a certain way. They’re really setting themselves up for failure and putting unreasonable pressures on the relationship in the process. I’m really glad that you brought that up because I think that’s super important and, and that people really do need to figure out who they are and how to feel happy ish, you know, okay and content.

themselves so that they can then bring that kind of energy into a partnership. Um, you have so much amazing wisdom and advice to share, and I’m just so grateful that you took the time to come and visit with us and the love, happiness, and success community. This conversation has been fascinating. Oh my gosh, thank you so much.

Therapy Questions, Answered.

Our expert therapists have generously created an entire library of articles, activities, and podcasts to support you on your journey of growth. Please visit our “Happiness Collections” to browse our content collections, and take advantage of all the free resources we have for you. Or, if you’d like to educate yourself about the process and logistics of therapy, please help yourself to our “therapy questions” knowledge base below. It’s all for you!

Wondering if your issues going to work themselves out, or is it time to talk to a professional? Here’s how to tell when it’s time for therapy.

Great therapy can feel like magic, but it’s actually not. Learn how meaningful and effective therapy works.

What is therapy like? Learn what happens in therapy in order to feel empowered and confident.

There are many different kinds of therapists and many different types of therapy. What kind of therapist do you need? Find out!

Not sure what to talk about in therapy? Here are some tips to ensure you get the most out of your therapy sessions.

How to prepare for your first therapy appointment, and learn what to expect in therapy sessions.

What’s the difference between coaching and therapy? Find out which approach is right for you.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the “gold-standard” of effective, evidence-based therapy. Learn about CBT.

How does talking about something help you make changes? Or… does it? Learn the pros and cons of traditional talk therapy.

Effective therapy is life-changing, but some therapy is a waste of time and money. Evidence-based therapy makes the difference.

Not all therapists are the same. Learn how to find a good therapist (and spot the warning signs of a bad one).

Therapy For Healthy Relationships

Working with a true relationship expert helps you learn, grow, love, and be loved.
Learn about our approach to helping you build healthy relationships.

Online therapy is just as effective but even easier than in person therapy. Here’s what to expect from good online therapy.

Explore your options for a Denver therapist who specializes in personal growth and healthy relationships.

Ready to try therapy? Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to get a therapist who is competent to help you.

Curious to know more about what working with us is really like? Browse Growing Self reviews / “best online therapy reviews” from our clients.

Good therapy is priceless, but not all therapy is valuable. Learn the cost of therapy that’s affordable and effective.

Yes, insurance covers therapy… but only sometimes. Learn when (and how) health insurance covers therapy, and when it doesn’t.

If you have a loved one who is struggling in their relationship, you can help them get help by “gifting” therapy. Here’s how…

Losing a relationship is uniquely painful and challenging. With the right support, you can heal, grow, and move forward. Learn about our divorce and breakup recovery services.

We’re available by phone, email and chat, and happy to answer any of your questions personally. Get in touch, anytime.

Start your journey of growth today. Get personalized recommendations, and have a free consultation meeting with the therapist of your choice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *