How To Be An Adult
When I was selected to speak at BostonSpeaks on the topic of, "How to be an adult," I didn't realize how simple, yet tricky the answer would be. My top 3 most powerful parts of being an adult is being able to:
1. Change the stories of your life
2. Conquer your mindset
3. Feel and face the uncomfortable feelings
Some of us start answering this question as a child. We take on responsibilities we’re not ready to be confronted with and begin to build the stories of our lives about who we are and what we can do.
As a child, we ask ourselves endless questions such as how we fit in, how our bodies look and feel, we compare ourselves to others, we wonder what we’re going to be when we grow up, and how smart we are. Our answers may follow us throughout life to adulthood, which isn’t great for the stories that don’t benefit us.
Change the stories of your life
One of my stories is never feeling comfortable in my body. I was always curvy and played sports but never looked like the girls around me or in the media. I started to grow a negative perception of my body, comparing myself to others, hearing comments, even a parent calling me out when I would gain weight. At 29 years old, those negative voices are still there.
We all have those voices. What’s the first thing you do when you see yourself in the mirror? It is our default to notice the perceived flaws, the extra weight, the wrinkles, and blemishes. We have to change that script.
A few years ago I started my weight loss journey and lost 40 pounds. I feel great, I look great, but that story of not feeling good about my body as a child continues to creep in. It’s not uncommon for this to happen. Our emotions give power to these stories, whether they are true anymore or not.
What’s remarkable about being an adult is you can have your past and your stories, but you can change your mindset about them. You get to choose what you want your narrative to be. I don’t want my story to be feeling uncomfortable in my body. I want to feel powerful and confident about myself more often than not.
If you’re wondering if it’s worth the effort to build your self-love, I promise you it is. We spend a lifetime with our minds and bodies. Life is much more fulfilling and enjoyable when you can learn to love who you are, regardless of the opinions of those around you.
As an adult, you can change your story every day. You have to want to do it. You have to put in the work and time. Start to understand where that moment came from, allow yourself to unravel and feel those uncomfortable feelings.
Conquer your mindset
When I thought about the things I’ve told myself good I’m not good at, I traced another story back to childhood. I always struggled with math – ask my Mom. I barely made it through class every day my entire education. I often fell asleep in class in high school. It never came easy to me, and I just labeled myself as not being good at it.
As an adult, I’ve learned about a fixed vs. growth mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck. I realized I had a fixed mindset about math. Instead of trying harder and devote more effort to math, I felt defeated and spent less time. I saw it as a challenge I couldn’t overcome, that I just “wasn’t good at math.” Now I see it as, maybe I’m not good at it, but I have to try twice as hard.
You get to choose to say, “I’m not good at this right now, but I can be.” When you stop putting labels on yourself, it opens up all these doors of things you can do.
Feel and face the uncomfortable feelings
Over the past year, I’ve adapted this to public speaking. Last year you wouldn’t have ever seen me raise my hand to speak in front of people, or even be the first to give my opinion in a meeting. Since I'm often labeled as an extrovert, this might be surprising. But the fear of judgment and not being sure of myself ate me alive.
I had to admit it was a fear. Then, instead of avoiding it at all costs, I had to confront it. I decided to put myself in situations where I’d have to speak in front of people, I’d force myself to speak up at meetings, I joined Toastmasters and committed to going every single week, I signed up to speak at conferences, recording vlogs, and so many other situations.
It won’t get better in an hour or a workshop, but the more you allow yourself to feel the discomfort, the less power it has over you. Let your heart beat fast, the sweat drip down your face, your body shakes, your worries run wild, and your stomach twist and turn. These reactions are your body reacting. Once you realize this, you start to train your mindset not to let this get the best of you.
I admitted to myself it’s okay to feel awkward. You have to allow yourself to experience it all. We are just scared of the fear of judgment. Our filter to decision-making is often through how others will see us, which can dictate whether we pursue something or not. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of you or if they like you. You will never please everyone. So stop trying!!
It all comes back to you. YOU are the only one who needs to have your back. What matters most is how you think about yourself. As an adult, you get to choose your mindset. You can say, “I’m going to look at myself every day in the mirror until I feel like I love myself.” It’s underrated how important this process is!
I don’t think being an adult has anything to do with finances, though that’s what the common perception of adulthood depicts. As I told friends about this topic, many referenced being an adult is managing your budget and finances. I thought to myself, “Is that what being an adult is?”
Even the other day on the bus I overheard a conversation between two friends catching up where one girl said she had been just, “living the adult life – being broke, going to work every day.” But this is our life. How do you want to tell your story?
Being an adult is deciding what story you want to tell and working on the stories that may not benefit you from the past. It’s feeling things you don’t want to endure to work towards a better you. It all comes back to your mindset. I ask you this: Do you want to see every day as an opportunity to be a better and stronger person? Then I suggest starting doing the inner work towards being a more complete and whole person.
That is being an adult in my eyes.