There’s nothing magical or supernatural about age 35; it’s not the age at which you suddenly turn around and realize you have yourself perfectly together, nor the age at which you should. Ideally, it’s an age at which you’ll feel significantly wiser than you did 15 years ago, but still, believe you have a lot to learn. It’s both normal and healthy to think of yourself as still in-process! But nevertheless, each year should be one in which you come to know yourself better, and 35 is a great goal to have in mind for having yourself figured out in the following 6 very important ways.
1. Your limits
First and foremost, by the time you’re 35, you should learn what you can and can’t do and what you’re willing and unwilling to do. Not that you should limit yourself to new experiences, but you should know what boundaries are important to establish in your life. How much alone time do you need? How many responsibilities can you handle at once, and what kind of responsibilities do you handle best? What sorts of things do you do for good reasons and what sorts of things do you do purely because you think that others expect it from you or that you need to impress someone? Could you cut back on the second kind? These are the kinds of questions you can ask yourself to help jumpstart the process of knowing and setting your limits.
2. The values you can’t compromise on
As we grow up, most of the values we hold are a result of our parents: either we have good relationships with our parents and end up adopting their values, or we have bad relationships with our parents and end up adopting the complete opposite of their values. Either way, values, therefore, become a result of the nature of your parental relationship, not necessarily your own well-thought-out opinions. Many people move past this throughout the 20s and 30s, but some never really do. You may very well end up finding that you completely agree with your parents, but your values should be a result of hours and hours of soul-searching, of considering viewpoints from a wide range of voices, not just a default setting inherited from how you feel about your parents or caregiver.
Once you’ve figured these values out, you need to decide which issues you absolutely will not compromise on. For instance, what if you meet a partner you get along with but who has completely different political opinions from you? Or a completely different religious orientation? Would these values be dealbreakers for you? What if a boss asked you to do something that compromised your value system? Would that be a strong enough reason to quit? These are the kinds of things that you should know firmly before such issues arise.
3. Your faults
No one likes facing their own faults, but if you aren’t aware of them then they’ll continue to cause problems in your relationships (and not just your romantic relationships). If you’re aware of them, then you can start looking out for them before they start causing those problems. For instance, if you know that you can be kind of a pushover, then you can read up on how to say “no” so that you have more strategies in your pocket. If you know that you tend to push people away, then you can talk to a therapist about how you might make yourself more receptive to intimacy. Also, the more in touch you are with your own faults, the more you can be forgiving of others’, which is a big part of full-on adult maturity.
4. Your attachment style
If you’ve never heard of attachment theory and attachment styles before, then check out this previous post on attachment styles.The basic idea is that all people have ways of attaching to others, mostly formed by their past experiences with caregivers or previous romantic partners, and some of those ways are healthy while others are not. If your attachment style is unhealthy, you inevitably will struggle in your relationships and cause both yourself and your partner some amount of pain and frustration. Recognizing an unhealthy attachment style is the most important step in overcoming one – most people who attach unhealthily never really understand just how much of a problem their pattern causes.
5. The kind of relationship you want to have with your family
One of the joys of adult life is realizing that you get to have some control over the nature of your relationship with your family. In an ideal world, you’ll develop a relationship of friendship with siblings, caregivers, and any other close family members you have, and everyone will be in agreement about how often family members are expected to communicate with and see each other. But this a world so ideal that few adult children experience it with their families. As you get older, though, you are absolutely within your rights to set whatever boundaries are appropriate with your family. Maybe your mom is an over-communicator and expects to talk to you on the phone every day when you get home from work. You’re not a monster for telling her you just can’t do that and would love to talk to her once or twice a week. Maybe you’re dealing with a worse situation in which your family is abusive and toxic. You can flat out sever ties with them if they are causing you harm. The idea “he/she is my family” is not a good enough reason for keeping someone in your life who actively hurts you.
6. What kind of environment drains/energizes you
Lots of people have dreams jobs in mind as teenagers or young adults but realize only after trying them out that the job environment just isn’t right for them. A person might love computer science but become depressed by sitting at a desk alone for most of the day. Or he might love teaching but constantly feel exhausted from the pressure of speaking to groups all day. By the time you’re 35, you need to understand that sometimes your passions don’t align perfectly with the environment in which you thrive. This doesn’t mean you have to give up on them, though; you just have to get creative about figuring out how you can use those passions in another setting that will be better for your mental health.
If you’re over 35 and feel like you still don’t know some of these things about yourself, there’s no time like the present to start thinking more seriously about them! If you do, you’ll see a big difference in happiness, mental health, and daily satisfaction levels. Truly knowing yourself isn’t easy for anybody and therapy isn’t necessary.
If you’d like to learn more about how you to start, check out our latest offering: Daring Greatly™ – 4-week e-course based on the book and research by Dr. Brené Brown.
Got questions? Call us at (305) 501-0133 or click here to schedule a free 15-minute Clarity Consult.