Advertising
Advertising

I Wish I Knew These Sooner: 15 Mistakes 20-Somethings Make

I Wish I Knew These Sooner: 15 Mistakes 20-Somethings Make

Twenty-somethings get a lot of condemnation on the internet and this list below isn’t meant to demoralize you. Rather, it’s an acknowledgment that life is hard, especially when you only have about 20 years of experience (most of which was spent on Pokemon cards and bike riding). Here are 15 common mistakes 20-somethings make — and how to avoid some of them.

1. Poor living arrangements

Wouldn’t it be awesome to live with my best buds, or my new, amazing girlfriend? Nope, probably not. Moving in with a partner too early, or with certain friends, could mean unpleasant surprises. There are courteous people, and there are those who blast Biggie Smalls at 6 a.m. Unfortunately, you may not know the difference until it’s 6 a.m. Know their flaws before you live with them. This way, you’ll at least be prepared to work around them.

2. Taking on too much

Today’s schedule reads: cleaning the house, work, volunteering, going on a date, visiting a friend, grocery shopping, and then the gym. Sounds great. In theory. Unfortunately, you’re confined to this human body that needs sleep and stuff. If you’re an introvert, this is an even more insane schedule. We may have the freedom to “do it all,” but that doesn’t mean we have to do it all right this second.

3. Lack of direction

College is a time for discovery and trying new things, right? I guess, but at what expense? College doesn’t have to be a time for wasting all of your (or your parents’) money. It doesn’t have to mean skipping classes, losing focus, and trying to please everyone with your “coolness.” While all of this may be a learning experience, it’s also a big time waster. Let’s face it, people who chase the “college experience” usually just end up peeing their pants.

Advertising

4. Dating catastrophes

I’m a firm believer in everyone not dating until they’re 40. Anything before that just gets in the way of your development. Alright, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but 20-somethings who drain all their energy in a bad relationship are wasting precious time. If you are settling in at college or a new career, a bad relationship is something that will just hold up your personal progress. Fights, sadness, confusion, jealousy, etc. All of it is an unnecessary distraction.

5. Debt

Loans are a bummer, so let’s just get them out of the way early on this list. Loans are not always a mistake. However, if you take out a loan only to realize later that it did not benefit you (and you’re now stuck with meaningless debt) — that was a 20-something move. In our defense, ever-expanding tuition costs and the complex uncertainties of the job market make investing in education a game of musical chairs. You don’t know if you’ll end up in a cozy salaried seat or standing out in the cold. So just keep in mind that your aspirations may change.

6. Heat-of-the-moment tattoos

“Wow, wouldn’t it be awesome to have a penguin riding a shark on my leg forever?” No, absolutely not. But when you’re a 20-something, an “absolutely not” can look like a “hell, yes.” I have plenty of friends with random, not-so-flattering tattoos that they got for free, at a convention, from a friend, while drunk, or all of those combined. Maybe you even got your girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s name tattooed, only to curse them out and break up a week later. It happens to the best of us. Just look up a tattoo removal specialist, stop with the self-induced shame, and move on, 20-somethings.

7. Caring what others think (a lot)

This is always a mistake, no matter what age you are. It seems like as we age, we’re a little more equipped to deflect other’s judgments and discouragements. But when we’re fresh out of our Sociology 101 class, we may not deal with unintentionally hurtful people well — people who are nursing their own wounds while judging us under false pretenses. This is not your problem, and it is not about you. You will never stop caring what others think until you truly believe that.

Advertising

8. Drinking too much

Some people will never have this problem. They are sure of themselves, responsible, and emotionally mature. For the rest of us 20-somethings, there will be those nights. For a fraction of us, a lot of them. Know this: drinking does not solve problems. It does not fix relationships. It does not make you happier, more fun, or more attractive. If you use alcohol to boost your self-esteem, you’re going to be disappointed eventually. You shouldn’t be drinking your courage; you should be earning it.

9. Marrying too quickly

Divorce has become quite common ever since we stopped condemning divorcées to hell a few decades ago. But that doesn’t mean you should collect divorces just because you can. Sure, you may be in love with someone while in your 20s, but that doesn’t necessitate marriage. If you have different values or can’t live comfortably with someone now, marriage will only intensify those problems.

10. Your youth: would you like fries with that?

I know it feels harmless to eat nothing but Arby’s cajun fries until you’re about 28, but there are plenty of reasons not to. For one, many illnesses nowadays are chronic and degenerative, meaning you could work up to a disease after several years of neglected health. It’s also a bad habit to develop early in life, meaning it will be tougher to break when you get old and have to.

11. Relocating for the wrong reasons

Twenty-somethings are all about relocating, and it works great for many. However, if your reasons for relocating are anywhere along the lines of bettering yourself, changing your relationships, “finding your passion,” or “making a clean start,” be careful. A lot of these things are entirely internal processes. You may regretfully realize upon arriving at your new “mecca,” that things (aka you) are exactly the same.

Advertising

12. Extensive planning

Remember that girl from high school who had her wedding day planned out right down to the last detail? Remember how nuts you thought she was? Right. So what makes you think that your extensive planning is any less nutty? It’s great to plan out your day tomorrow, or plan a general career trajectory if you know what you want. It’s just not good to get bogged down in details that probably won’t even matter when the time comes. Trust your future self. He or she is totally awesome, and knows more than you possibly could right now.

13. Going against your gut

Maybe you believe in intuition, conscience, instincts, etc. Regardless of what you call it, your guidance system shouldn’t be ignored. Your gut is on your side; it’s not trying to screw you over. Listening to my gut would’ve saved 22-year-old me hundreds of dollars in scam money — too bad I had told it to shut up that day.

14. Being selfish

Isn’t it funny how volunteer positions are often targeted at older, retired people or stay-at-home moms? What is it about being young that makes us think our time is too valuable to help others? Yes, it’s a time when we are not financially stable, but selfless endeavors don’t have to take up your whole week. Helping others always makes people happy. It’s in our bones. Just ask every successful person ever.

15. Beating yourself up

On the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s sometimes hard for 20-somethings to give themselves credit. Most of your time during this decade will probably be spent in a “working towards” mindset, instead of an “enjoying being” mindset. Try to counter that by taking note of how far you’ve come and what you’ve already achieved. (Not going to Arby’s today totally counts.)

Advertising

Conclusion

Don’t worry, this doesn’t cover them all. There are plenty more mistakes you can make as a 20-something! But in all seriousness, you can survive all these and more — and you’ll be wiser for it.

Featured photo credit: Nemo via pixabay.com

More by this author

tackling self esteem One Solid Practice for Tackling Low Self-Esteem banksy street art 15 Life Lessons From Banksy Street Art That Will Leave You Lost For Words self-improvement books 25 Self-Improvement Books That Will Make You A Better Person stick new habit 4 Reasons You Just Can’t Stick With A New Habit 8 Fall-Themed Wedding Favors to Delight Your Guests

Trending in Communication

1 5 Real Relationship Goals You Should Actually Strive Toward 2 When You Learn A Second Language, These 7 Amazing Things Will Happen To You 3 15 Things To Stop Doing If You Want To Be Truly Happy 4 7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language 5 How to Apologize When You Have Made a Mistake

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

Advertising

1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

Advertising

3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

Advertising

It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

Advertising

Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next