*Note: If you’re past your twenties, I invite you to share your thoughts and insights in the comments section about what helped you get through that decade, what you learned, and what wisdom you can import to those still struggling through that difficult decade.
“Recently, I met a women in her early twenties who was deeply depressed. Looking at her, I saw myself fifteen or twenty years ago. I recognized every desperate feeling, every horrified thought. I asked her why she felt so sad. She told me she felt misunderstood by her father, who didn’t’ want to pay for her therapy or for her to move to another city. She said she was trying to make her way through the world but kept falling down. She couldn’t stay with any career for very long; she felt fat; she felt inadequate; she felt embarrassed and kept thinking that other people were laughing at her.
“The reality, in this instance, is that of an exquisitely beautiful young woman, as fat as the Pope is Jewish and as lacking in brains as Susan Sontag. Here is a girl who doesn’t know how to find her glory.
“But that’s what the twenties are for, I told her. They are the time when the maiden turns into a woman, the princess becomes a queen, the child grows up. They are not the time to concentrate on our parents so much as they are the time to concentrate on ourselves and our own abilities.” – Marianne Williamson, A Woman’s Worth, pp. 42-43
As Marianne Williamson writes above, the twenties are the time when the maiden turns into a woman. It’s also the time when the boy turns a man. In essence, this is the decade when we’re asked to become an adult. The problem is that we have no training on what that means! What does it mean exactly to “grow up”? We’re not guided along these pathways by wise elders. We’re not offered rituals that would help us cross these treacherous thresholds. We’re thrust into this decade perhaps with a college degree (which is sometimes useless) but without the emotional, cognitive, or spiritual tools that would help us grow into the next version of ourselves.
Here’s an article I wrote at the end of my twenties about the decade:
Surviving our Twenties: The myth of being an adult
“I found my twenties to be very difficult,” says Lisa Kudrow in an interview with the Sunday Chronicle. “You have all this information on your side, but you don’t have the experience to judge it. I had been crying for two weeks, every day, so I started seeing a therapist.”
The twenties can be one of the most challenging transitions in life. Part of what adds to the challenge is that we are conditioned to believe that once we reach the ripe age of twenty-one, we are supposed to know how to function in the world as fully capable adults. Nothing could be further from the truth. We tend to think of turning thirteen as the age that marks the passage into adulthood, but the reality is that the process of becoming an adult actually begins in the early twenties and continues in stages for the rest of our lives.
What does it mean to be an adult? Adulthood is most simply defined as being a fully responsible human being, one that has learned how to take good care of one’s emotional, physical, and spiritual self. Clearly this is a monumental task, one that cannot be completed in a single decade. Yet we are thrown into our twenties with the expectation of being able to achieve this task, and when we struggle with it, we feel that we’re failing.
Our culture tends to regard adolescence as the time when humans wrestle with the questions of “Who am I?” and “What is my place in the world?”. Perhaps in the past, when people were expected to reach maturity, marry, and be an independent person by the age of eighteen, this time-line of self-growth made sense. But now, with the age of marriage and financial independence becoming increasingly delayed, it is in our twenties when we are handed the task of figuring out who we are–our identity–and what we want to do with our lives–our purpose.
As with any rite of passage–adolescence, adulthood, marriage, the birth of a child, old age–there is a letting go and a rebirth as we release the old identity and welcome in the new way of life. As we move through our twenties it’s helpful to keep in mind not only the fact that these are difficult years as we attempt to find our place in the world, but also that we are finally releasing our last attachments to childhood. If we can hold the awareness that it is completely normal to grieve and struggle, the transition into adulthood will be more fluid.
So here we have the framework for what the twenties are meant to be about. It’s not about rising to the top of your field or getting married and having babies. It certainly can be about those things but the milestones or achievements aren’t what define being an adult. It’s about learning how to take loving care of yourself in all realms, which ultimately means taking full responsibility instead of holding onto the child’s view that someone else is supposed to do it for you.
Another critical aspect of becoming an adult is individuating from one’s parents. This doesn’t mean losing connection with them as much as it means taking them off the inevitable pedestal that every child places their parents on and seeing them as the fallible humans that they are. Until we remove the veils of illusion that shroud our parents we can’t become adults in our own right. We can’t make our own solid decisions and learn to turn to ourselves as our most reliable source of wisdom and comfort if we still see our parents as gods. This quote from May Sarton’s A Reckoning struck me when I was in my twenties:
And later in the book she writes:
It often happens when you’re on a path of inner healing work that you surpass your parents in terms of emotional growth. Quite often I’ll hear my clients say, “I feel like I’m older or wiser than my parents in some way.” As the character shares in this quote, to grow up means to look at oneself, and that’s something many parents never do.
There’s so much more to say about the decade of the tumultuous twenties but hopefully this has given you some context that can help you anchor when you feel like you’re lost at sea. And if you’re here, reading these words in your twenties, I consider you one of the lucky ones. Whatever it was that brought you to my site – relationship anxiety, moving, getting married, becoming a parent, or anything else – was the gift that hopefully has initiated you onto the path of self-discovery, self-love, and healing that will launch you into true adulthood, a stage that many people, regardless of age, never reach.
P.S.: If you’re struggling with the relationship anxiety spike, “What if I’m too young?” please see this post.
I’m a 21 year old girl.With a lot of confusions.First,about my relationship.Second,my career and third about how others control my life which I don’t want to.Is it really necessary to lose everything to find the true purpose of yours life because I don’t want to lose anything,especially my boyfriend whom I love of you of
Experiencing transition loss doesn’t mean “losing everything”. Rather, we let go of what is no longer serving us so that we can grow into new aspects of ourselves, and grow closer to our essential self. If you’re in a healthy, loving relationship there’s no reason to let it go.
This resonates with me on so many levels, I’m a 20 year old student still living at home. I’ve been with my boyfriend for 2 and a bit years. As I still live at home, I tend to get totally consumed with the idea that I should be out travelling, living in a flat with my friends. I have it in my head that everyone I know is doing this, which is not the case. If truth be told I’m a bit of a home bird, I’ve done some travelling (Vietnam being most recent) but I’ve always gravitated to home and to my comforts and that’s just me. I’ve got the opportunity to study abroad for a few months and it’s just not something that I want to do right now, I want to travel but just not at this time and under those circumstances. The problem is that I can’t trust my decisions, everyone is saying “it’ll be the making of me” and “I will regret it”, but I don’t feel this way BUT of course as someone with GAD I’m now totally in my head about it. I’ve started to wonder if I don’t do this will I regret it and resent my boyfriend? Will everyone think I’m boring? will I feel unfulfilled later in life etc etc…
Basically I’m just struggling with accepting myself and trusting that the decision I’m making is right for me
I used to feel exactly the same as you when I was in my twenties. You said you have already tried travelling and still feel it’s not for you. Therefore I don’t think you will regret not doing it again, as you have already experienced it. You may change your mind in the future, there is still plenty of time to travel at any age!
Thanks for ur reply, yeah I went to Vietnam and was basically a bit of a wreck, I feel like I’m maybe more of a holiday person rather than a back packing person lol! It’s just the pressure I feel from society. I’ve just managed to get my life slightly back on track from a year of crippling anxiety and I’m enjoying life much more (not back to normal but better) and I just want to enjoy the life that I have at home
Sheryl, thanks so much for this post!! I was so excited to see you wrote an article about the twenties.
I am 27 and I have been on a conscious healing and growing path for about 5 years. And it still feels so tumultuous! I still have no idea a lot of the time! It feels like this experience will never end, but at the same time I can feel very subtle shifts. I am feeling more empowered a tiny bit at a time, and more like the creator and chooser of my life rather than the passive witness and receiver. I can juuuust barely sense that this is just a very long transition in some ways, and that I will not feel like this my entire life. I’m figuring out myself, what I want to put my energy into, what it means to be ME, what I want, etc. It can be very scary at times, and so groundless. I can feel so alone. And when I was in my early 20s, boy was that one hell of a ride. Being at the beginning of this growth journey was so challenging. And navigating being in relationship at the same time! Phew. Sometimes I’m amazed I got through it! And I’m still with the same partner 🙂
I really would love to read more comments from others in their 20s!! Somehow I feel so alone in this long identity ‘crisis’, even though I know I am far from the only one. Sometimes I feel like it’s shameful in our culture to really own that I have no idea at what I really, really want. And so I don’t connect with other people in their 20s who have the same experience. It would be such a balm to hear from others 🙂
You’re definitely not alone. I am 27 also and have been on a crazy journey in my 20s so far which really amped up when I broke up my engagement 2 years ago (I ended up finding Sheryl’s website through that experience) and I thank God everyday I didn’t get married at that time — I cannot even fanthom being married in my 20s now because I have so much to lean and I know internally I am meant to learn it alone (at least for me). It’s scary to think who I would be now if I didn’t grow and embrace this season even though it can be difficult.
I’d love to chat more if you want to connect by email let me know!
I meant at least for now! LOL my point being I feel like when I do actually (hopefully!!) get married one day I’ll be a more whole, complete and confident person 🙂
Thank you for this post. I’m at the end of my 20s and could not agree more with everything you wrote, especially of seeing our parents as humans. Realizing that my parents did the best that they could with the situation they were in was so liberating for me to discover over the past few years. I definitely feel that I have so much more to learn, but I’m grateful for what my twenties taught me. It is a time of incredible growth and change. In some ways I can’t believe the person I was at 21 compared to now. Thank you for all of your support and I enjoy all of your posts!
Thank you, Cassee ;).
I needed to hear this today. I’m really struggling with moving from adolescence to adulthood and all the uncertainty that comes with it – whether or not I’ll be accepted to my dream graduate school, whether anywhere will ever feel like home as much as my parents’ house does, whether my partner and I will stay together or if we’ll fall apart because of me. My mom was just telling me that the fear and doubt is normal. It’s nice to hear it from someone else, too.
I’m glad it came at the right time.
I am 22 and struggling so much with this. I am in my first serious relationship and my partner wants to get married and for the longest time I was confused about if what I was feeling was love or not and if he is the right one for me. Reading your blog has helped a lot! My other issue now is my career. I feel immense pressure( I put this pressure on myself) to live a life in which I have not settled or in which I have found my right job and my right partner and this stresses me out so much. I overanalyze everything. My parents had it easier, they both choose their fields because they were interested in it and they were stable well paying jobs. They did not think it was their one true calling yet they are pretty happy. My parents got married through a match maker, they dated for less than a month before getting engaged and they were never infatuated or madly in love when they got married but now they are definitely very very very happy and love each other a lot. So yes they did not try finding the right partner for themselves either. I feel like because my parents have given me so many opportunities I would be a fool if I did not use it to my max and find that one true calling and one true partner. I know it’s all a myth but it really stresses me out as lot as I am unable to let go of that idea. Any suggestions?
I am in my mid-twenties and I am unbelievably lucky to have found this work!!! It’s not easy but after a year of walking this path, remembering to smile at fear is becoming a habit 🙂
To learn this in your 20s is a gift that will serve you immeasurably well for the rest of your life!
Thank you so much for writing this. I am 42. My twenties were the worst years of my life. I went from one abusive relationship to another and ended up married to a man who was full blown NPD by the time I was 24. I had no idea who I was or what I wanted to do or was capable of except for knowing that I wanted to have kids as soon as possible. Later I realized that what I really wanted was someone to love me and something to distract me from the pain of never being loved in the first place. It worked as a great distraction. Taking care of two kids and dealing with a disordered spouse doesn’t allow one much time to think about the past or to fully attend to self. I finally got the strength and courage to leave my marriage in my early thirties. I felt like I was 100 years old. However, fast forward a few years and no one could believe I was old enough to have kids. People still say that to me all the time. Most people think I should be flattered and that I should take it as a complement and in a sense I do but I also get such an uneasy feeling about it. I wonder what is wrong with me. My anxiety is only worsened by the fact that I attract men that are way younger than me and have slowly found myself attracted to more and more of the same. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with age gaps per se but I just feel like sometimes I am just pretending to be an adult when everyone else seems to be an adult for real. I am a responsible and ambitious person who has accomplished a lot but no matter what I do I never feel like an adult on the inside. I feel so playful, innocent and naive. People who are really serious and overly adultish bore me to death, make me anxious and/or give me a headache. Please feel free to share any thoughts you may have. Right now I am working on allowing myself to dream big and pursue goals that don’t involve taking care of others. I still have plenty of people to take care of but right now I refuse to focus on others to the detriment of myself.
Thank you for this post Sheryl. Themes for my 20s included a lot of anxiety, worry and tearfulness, pressure, perfection and the need to find my purpose. Life seemed to be a huge struggle. I was so focused on career achievement that I became extremely stressed. I needed to push myself at everything and moved from job to job to do this. I even moved to France to escape a stressful career and have a clean break. I then had a career change which was extremely stressful because I felt a huge responsibility to find my purpose and have a meaningful work life. I also met my now husband in my twenties and suffered huge relationship anxiety. But this showed me that I was living in a very unhealthy, unloving way and taught me so many life lessons for which I’m so grateful for.
I’m now in my early thirties and have just become a mother and I already feel so much more at peace with myself and with life. I can enjoy the slower pace and let life happen as opposed to needing to act on every anxious thought by making drastic changes in my life. Thanks to Sheryl, I can sit with my anxiety and let it pass through me, which allows me to appreciate the blessings I have in life. Good luck to everyone navigating their twenties – you’re doing a great job and take small steps each day to show yourself more self love!
How wonderful to hear, Sarah, and thank you for sharing!
Hello Sheryl and anyone else reading this,
I was happy to see that you’ve written something about the 20s. I’m turning 28 next week and man has it been a crazy crazy ride. It give me hope when people tell me “it gets better” in the 30s, 40s, etc. I’ve tried so many different things career-wise…I went to nursing school for 2 years after deciding it wasn’t for me, I considered therapy and tried for grad school, I wrote a one-woman show and performed it! And just recently I got into an acting MFA program and have decided not to go…I just felt this deep down body feeling that it wasn’t what I wanted. I feel peaceful about the decision but it’s also terrifying because now my identity is so up in the air and being an actor has been “who I am and what I do” since I was 14. I also dated someone in my early 20s and was riddled with relationship anxiety and that’s how I found this site and this work. I did the Trust Yourself and Growing Attraction courses and although I ultimately left my very stable and loving partner (who is married now) I did fall in love again and was able to see the growth and maturity within myself manifested through that relationship. I had never been so “in” and invested before. I wanted to do the work with him and, even though relationship anxiety and projections did come up, I was committed, which is something I had never felt before in relationship. However, he ended it with me because I don’t have this “verbal banter” thing that he has with all his friends. He said that he doesn’t think that (if we weren’t dating) he would pursue a friendship with me. My self esteem has really taken a hit. I’m wondering if anyone can share some stories of what they did to love themselves and rebuild their self esteem after letting someone so far in. I am struggling with shame that I “shouldn’t” take it so personally because they’re shallow reasons, but some part of me still believes I’m defective in some way and wondering if anyone has a recommendation (book or otherwise?) for working with that part of myself. 🙂
I’m in my mid twenties. Lucky to have found a loving, committed relationship of 2 years that is comfortable, safe, and happy. He is everything I ever could have wanted in a partner. But I have this nagging yearning to explore other options romantically because I have never been with anyone else (started dating later in life). How do i know I love him/I’m genuinely happy if it’s all I’ve ever known? On top of career-related stress, and the who-am-i dilema, and mental health issues, we are on a break so to speak…it’s awful and i feel so, so guilty, no matter how supportive he is being. I know I’m being selfish. But it would be worse if I let things progress and then hurt him later…I want this to work but will not let him be dragged down by my doubts. Don’t know if it is relationship anxiety, commitment issues, unhappiness, or something more. I would love to hear if anyone shares similar experiences or doubts and how they handled/are handling them.
I am 32 and I love this post. My twenties were awful. Filled with self-doubt and indecision and a pervasive feeling of inadequateness. I completely identify with how Sheryl’s client at the beginning of the post feels. I felt that way too. Both of my grandmothers, whom I was very close to, passed away within 6 days of each other when I was 21 and reckless. My one grandmother was in the hospital and the other with severe spinal cancer. I borrowed my grandmothers car and went out binge drinking. I got blackout drunk and fully, 100% embarrassed myself. My mother didn’t know where I was and was freaking out. The next day we went to visit my grandmother in the hospital and she learned of my escapades from the night before. She told my mom that I “just needed to grow up”. We talked for a bit, just me and her. I told her that my parents didn’t believe in me and she told me to prove them wrong and that she believed in me. I actually threw up from being hungover while I was visiting her. I was so ashamed. I didn’t like what I was doing. And here she was, believing in me on her deathbed. I was fortunate. I was lucky. These words helped carry me through some tough times. Having both my grandmothers pass in 6 days of each other was extremely intense. It took tremendous loss for me to realize I wanted to do something with my life rather than avoid pain with alcohol. I wanted my life to be my own, the way my grandmothers had carved out their lives. It took years and years of struggle and intense anxiety even though I found a loving, available partner shortly after. I didn’t really realize that’s what I had found at the time. I got to know myself and what I wanted out of life. I worked with a therapist I didn’t like, and two that I loved. I learned about boundaries. I found Sheryl’s blog and started to learn to trust myself (I took her Trust Yourself course). I GOT OFF SOCIAL MEDIA, and stopped caring about what other people were doing and thinking, despite their “perfect” photos. I started to think about what I liked and wanted in life, and cared about what I thought. I regularly practice gratitude journaling, and notice a shift in my attitude towards the negative when I don’t. I started to make decisions for myself and not based on what my parents wanted. I had a rather enmeshed relationship with my mom and started setting boundaries. I did a TON of work on the mother daughter relationship dynamic and my inner child. I learned to parent myself. Though I am still very close to my parents, I now know when the advice they give simply isn’t something that resonates with me due to our simple differences as human beings. And I am able to walk away from what they tell me to do, peacefully and respectfully. I am now able to see our differences without feeling bad about myself, angry at them, or guilty that I wasn’t honoring them. Just this morning, I was able to offer my mom advice as a friend without feeling drained or worried about her and I remarked at how I wouldn’t have been able to do that earlier in my life. I feel that I’ve learned to see my parents as the humans they are, who know me very well, but don’t know EVERYTHING about me. They are my friends and are very special to me. And I’ve let go of so much unnecessary expectation, from my parents and from society, which has made so much room for my loving, available husband, AND most rewardingly, for myself. Thanks Sheryl!!! I love your blog and it served as my sail that helped me through my twenties.
This is incredible to read, Carolyn. What a journey through your twenties and what a beautiful place you’ve landed!
Such a beautiful transition. I am so happy for you.
My journey is similar to yours. You inspire me. I’m proud of you. Thank you for posting. Helps me feel like I can do it too.
Thank you Sheryl,for your valuable insight.Things that seemed too interesting in the past,like social media and other cool things seem to have lost its face value when I became 21 and my relationship being the major catalyst for that.
My twenties werent difficult for me. I was still figuring out what I like or dont like.. I didnt date that much. I felt vulnerable in all aspects of my life. I was living at home with my mum.. so she controlled my finances, she didnt take my wages, but she made sure I saved my money and it went straight into my bank account. I was independant but their were restrictions i had to follow living in my mums house. In terms of relationships my first serious boyfriend was when i was 23. I was so excited to have a boyfriend it didnt what problems or differences were between us, I wanted to have a boyfriend and nothing else mattered. I was naieve and i was just learning about what it meant to keep a relationship going strong. It didnt work out but i was proud of myself for trying. I feel going through that experience, I was able to pick a more potential partner. I found my thirties the worst. Anxiety after anxiety with dating guys, i felt exhausted, lost, depressed. I am now happy so thats what matters to me. ?????
I am so thankful i found you when i was 25 and in the midst of full blown relationship anxiety. You guided me through such a difficult time which forced me to grow in ways i could have never imagined.You and your beauty and compassion make this world a better place. A thousand thank yous is not even enough.
That warms me deeply to hear, Nel. Thank you.
Thank you for this post. I’m 27 soon, and have struggled with the culture around me of your twenties being a time to do this, do that, and to fit into societal expectations of exploring/being “free” (but only the definition from society and the media). I haven’t enjoyed being in my twenties, it’s exhausting! I’ve found it scary, unsettling and like I’m free falling a lot of the time.
Ive struggled painfully, and many of my old posts will show that in quite a raw way. But I feel it’s all been necessary, for my own personal journey. I’m a big advocate of speaking openly and honestly about our experiences and feelings. Sheryl, I think you are a very big reason as to why I’ve been able to find my voice and speak about the things that society says we shouldn’t. To be honest about the good and the bad in relationships and in life. I feel this post was a sign that perhaps I am on the right path, I really do thank you Sheryl!
I am 26 and I have found this process of shedding ‘dead weight’ and reconnecting to my authentic self a profoundly gruelling yet liberating process. The biggest challenge has been in realizing and accepting that spiritual progress is never linear, but reaches out in all directions and often takes you back and forth- almost in a spiral- where you are called to revisit lessons, memories and perspectives. Our logic based society fails to acknowledge that taking two steps backwards is absolutely necessary to collect our energies and gain clarity before we can take that brave step forward. We go through difficult experiences that are crucial and valuable in illuminating our inner doubts and fears. In these moments, we can always CHOOSE to spiral down or follow a thread that takes us upward – sometimes only a slight change in perspective. These choices have led me to your work and works of other teachers such as Thich Naht Hanh and Eckhart Tolle- which are valuable, valuable teachings. I also find that there are teachers all around us in our immediate environments, in our families, amongst friends- if we only open ourselves to them and loving ourselves more 🙂 Hope these insights help others going through difficult transitions in their 20s. We are never alone. And Thank you for your insightful blog posts- I am very glad i found them in my 20s
Wow: clearly you’re walking through this life with your eyes wide open and your heart ready to learn as there’s so much wisdom in these words. Thank you for taking the time to share!
Your work has been a guiding light. I write from India and it is such a comfort knowing that we all go through the same transitions, irrespective of where we come from, upbringing etc…and in essence, are connected as a whole than we allow ourselves to believe – thank you for creating this safe space to illuminate these truths 🙂
At 26, I don’t have my parents on pedestals in any perceivable way, in fact I see them as fallable loving humans, I own a home and am married to my husband whom I have been with for just about 8 years. I have worked through a ton of my relationship anxiety and broke through much of it, yet I still constantly struggle with not feeling adukt, like I am pretending. Perhaps my husband is somewhat of a caretaker and I allow it, and perhaps there are ways in which he sees me as young still becaue he is 32 and is taking on a caretaker role (whether I am asking or needing that or not). I think he is used to having to take care of other people in his life. Perhaps this dynamic is enabling me somehow. All I can say is yes, your 20s are definitely tumultuous! But if you let it you can so much! Still struggling with this adult thing, but it perhaps will take some growing up on both of our parts.
I’m so thankful that I discovered your website this past year. Being in this life transition of adulthood has taken me places I never thought existed. I recently got married a few months ago and navigating my relationship and engagement was terrifying. I spent most of my time in relationship anxiety (a type of anxiety I never knew existed until me and my now husband started discussing getting married) which started off barely eating, sleeping, etc. I had never experienced this type of gripping fear and of course every person surrounding me told me I was making the wrong decision since I wasn’t experiencing full bliss and excitement about getting married. Because of the state I was in, I didn’t want to make any major decisions about life (something we have to learn how to do as adults) so I would cling to my family and friends for decision making. It took me about a year to recognize that what I was experiencing was fear, not truth and ever since I’ve had to learn how to battle anxiety. With the help of God and Sheryl’s blog, I can now happily say that I’m much more on the road of healing. Cheers!
Oh, how this post brings tears of relief, joy, knowing, and compassion for my former-twenty-something-self to my eyes! Your insights reverberate so deeply for me, Sheryl. My hope is that your perspective- the content so simply presented in this post- will one day be a regular part of our culture’s narrative for womanhood/growth/development.
Thank you, Rae. Always a delight to hear from you ;).
I’m 22 and married. I’ve found these last few years of “adulthood” to be eye-opening. I’ve begun to have the wool removed from my eyes. I see my parents as flawed and notice how their behaviour has impacted me directly. I can see more of how difficult life really is. It’s not always difficult for big huge reasons. It’s difficult on a small scale. Processing emotions, changing, growing up. I’m finding it hard. I’ve been struggling with RA since I got engaged. My husband is very supportive and kind, and has learned to be more loving and less judgemental of my anxiety which helps tremendously. I love him very much and fear all the ways I could ever lose him.
I was a little bit spiked by the article you linked because I was very young when I got married, and I wonder if perhaps I should’ve done more work on myself before taking that step. I’ll be honest, before I was engaged I didn’t think there was much to do to improve myself (oh naive me). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had a problem with perfectionism and low self-esteem, but somehow even with that I didn’t think there was much to change. Anyways, I’m married now, and I’m trying to do the work. It’s very difficult when I have so many different spikes at different times, and I worry about all the different ways I might ruin my marriage. I guess what I am trying to ask is, even though I’m married young, can I still heal? Is my marriage going to suffer because I am discovering now that I have so much internal work to do instead of finding this out while single? Is it possible there are some ways I could benefit from discovering this and going through this growth transition in my twenties while married?
Just to clarify, my husband was never very judgemental of me having anxiety. What I meant was that at times he took the intrusive thoughts personally. He’s so much better at realizing that my anxiety is not me, and that the terrible thoughts I can have aren’t real. He’s good at separating the monster from me. It took time for this to happen, and it still takes work and effort sometimes, but he even helps remind me of that which helps me calm down a bit at times.
I turned 26 this year and yes, the twenties so far are hard! My fiance (who is 10 yrs older) reminds me that this is so normal, and it is reassuring to have his guidance as well as these wonderful blog posts. I’m so grateful that I found your site 1.5 years ago. Had I not, I wouldn’t have embarked on this process of self-discovery, growth, and change and I probably wouldn’t have my wonderful fiance. 2016 was an extremely rough year and then 2017 became better and better as I worked through your courses and learned more about myself and how to best handle all that I am feeling. 2018 has been off to a great start so far! I feel like I have gone through several big transitions (loss of friendships, grieving relationships with my parents that aren’t what I want them to be, growing new and deeper adult friendships, and the engagement transition is well underway) and I feel so much better and stronger for it. Now I am beginning to process the eventual marriage transition and transition around career, as I try to learn more about myself and what I would like to do in the future. In the last 1.5 years since finding your site I feel much more confident that I CAN handle what life throws at me, and I find myself increasingly welcoming all feelings. Adulthood feels a lot less scary now thanks to the wisdom you have shared.
Thank you so much for your blog and courses, Sheryl! I don’t think I would have all the great things in my life right now without them.
So beautiful to hear, LovingKindness. Thank you for sharing!
Truly grateful to have God in my life and Sheryl as the cherry on top to help me navigate my twenties. Happy I found you when I needed the most. (turned 25 this year)
Please keep up your beautiful work!
It feels so good to read other people’s journeys, as it makes me feel less alone on my own one. I am approaching the end of my twenties (will be turning 29 in a couple of months), and the last decade has been marked by university, moving to different locations and countries, lots of anxiety, fear, tears and sadness, but also joy and growth. I met the love of my life, got married, overcame severe relationship anxiety. Started a healing process, therapy etc. Grieved friendships, grew more into myself, changed a lot, which in itself was frightening. The last few months it seems more is coming up, but I am making important connections between my past, my attachment to my ill mother and my own pain. I try to be more compassionate to myself than I was before. It is hard to wake up at the witching hour, and feel a sense of loss inside the chest. But I try to view it as yet another transition. Your blog and your work have helped me to make sense of the feelings, and my reactions to them.. Our conditioned behaviour is to resist and ask what is wrong with us, why this again. But perhaps we just have to shed another layer, go back into the darkness to come out. At least that is what I hold onto now. Thank you to this community. May we all attend to our hurting places with love. May we be healthy and whole, and free.
I am almost 28 and becoming an adult is my deepest struggle, especially being independant and responsible for myself. I am so glad I found out your website 1.5 years ago, it feels like I have finally found what I was searching since my teenage years. Thank you! I have evolved so much these past years and now, I really need to work through the resistance to grow up while keeping in mind that it is a process with no finish line.
How beautiful. Thank you so much for this post, Sheryl, as always <3
I'm 21 and moving out with my boyfriend in less then two monthes. I've lived in my family home with my parents up until this point, so letting go of this life is very difficult for me. I've been experiencing so much fear around this; letting go of my childhood, accepting responsibility of myself, saying goodbye to my family home…it's all so painful, but I know that I have to grieve this process in order to move on, i can't live at home forever!
This post is so beautiful. It's really made me feel reassured that it just takes time. It's not going to suddenly all make sense, i'm not suddenly going to be an adult, or suddenly not be homesick, it just takes time. Life comes in stages and this stage is a learning stage.
This post resonates with me so very much. My 20s have been a rollercoaster. I’m 25 now and know I’m not done growing, but feel like I’m making true progress. I grew up with an emotionally and physically abusive father and my mother desperately tried to make things work but couldn’t. The tail end of my teenage years was them splitting and my younger sister and I holding on for dear life. My father moved in with his parents miles away and my mother moved us into an apartment while she was preoccupied finding her next husband and left us with no parental connection. I was horribly depressed, hysterically crying, my hygiene was terrible, my room looked like I was a hoarder. I didn’t contemplate suicide however, instead I just wanted my purpose. I said as much when I threw a rolling pin at my mom in tears, asking why she wasn’t coming home at night. It was in my mind at 17 and still is.
I resented both of them. By the time I was 20 I was moved away from everyone I knew to live with a mysterious man my mom was marrying after dating him 3 months. My father hit rock bottom with his mental illness and was removed from my grandparent’s home because he was becoming violent. I was looking for love in all the wrong places and knew it deep down. College didn’t work for me. I went through a bankruptcy. I went through a terribly stressful job that caused me to pack on weight and have a breakdown of self where I was drinking more than ever. I blacked out drunk and woke up in a mysterious man’s bed with no clothes on and that was when reality hit me that I had to look out for myself.
The light at the end of the tunnel was becoming more confident in myself. I quit that job. I stopped giving rude men the time of day. I’m learning not to people please. I forgave my parents and saw their limitations for what they were. My father was diagnosed as bipolar and schizophrenic and finally got help. He now lives independently and I have a relationship with him. I actually like my stepfather and talk to/see my mother regularly. I just quit a job today, that wasn’t serving me for one that I believe will. I’m living with my SO who I love very much despite my doubts. I stopped asking the internet for advice for things only I can answer for myself. A forum once told me I could not have relationship anxiety, things are just supposed to feel right. I abandoned that forum and know now that they were the ones who are wrong and I am definitely wired differently. I’ve changed so much and I’ve gone through hell and back but I wouldn’t change a thing sitting here at 25. It’s a tough road but I’m living proof you can change and grow when your life seems hopeless. It does get better.
Hats off to you, girlfriend. That is amazing.
I love how you define being an adult “Adulthood is most simply defined as being a fully responsible human being, one that has learned how to take good care of one’s emotional, physical, and spiritual self”.
I spent half of my twenties trying to replace my parents with a relationship – a man who would replace their role and excempt me of becoming an adult. And then the next half trying to fix and find myself…
Your article really helped me make sense of that period in my life.
I am now 37, married with 4 children and sometimes I still don’t feel like an adult. But this article will help me look deeper into that.
( PS: I’d love to hear you’re insights about the phase between twenties and midlife!! )
Such an interesting read Sheryl, I am 26 years old and have only in the last year really started to see the light and be comfortable with this stage of my life. My main anxieties have stemmed from the expectations I feel people in their 20’s face. We are supposed to travel the world, party, work hard, gain experience, further our education, find a successful career path to follow, all while finding that perfect person to spend the rest of our sickeningly happy lives with. I have my own business, which my partner and I started when we were 23. At this time there was great support from our immediate family, but many other people felt we were throwing our youth away, not living our 20’s as they are ‘supposed’ to be lived. Hearing this would always make me second guess myself, and send me into an anxious spiral, that would often take me weeks to break free from. Flash forward to now – Whilst we both work extremely hard and live and breathe our business, we love it! We still get to travel often and are very social. I feel in an age where opportunity is endless, there is an enormous amount of pressure on our shoulders to experience it all and do it without a single hiccup! I’ve come to realize that there is no right or wrong way to live this incredibly fun, challenging and unpredictable decade in my life. You need to do what feels right for you. Thank you for your constant wisdom Sheryl, I am learning everyday.
Good for you for following your soul’s calling and casting off the “shoulds” of the culture, Cait. This is an inspiring story!
Stumbling upon your website a few months ago among the piles of rubbish articles on google has been nothing short of a blessing to me, as at the time I was within the deepest pit of relationship anxiety, which scared me to my core. For that few months, your wise words and regular posts were my lifeline and it helped me get to a place where I was calm and had moments where I could think with a clear head again. However recently I feel like I’ve reversed back to the state that I was in before, but this time with different thoughts in my head which make me question if what I am experiencing is relationship anxiety or just that my partner really isn’t the one for me. Sometimes the thoughts become so dark that I question if I even know who I really am. I’m no longer able to differentiate between the thoughts which are my own, the thoughts which come from my anxiety, the thoughts which I’ve been conditioned to think or believe in, or the thoughts which I may have forced myself to believe in hopes of forcing myself to become someone whom I may or may not be. I often feel like two different people at the same time, one of which is always chiding everything I do, setting up different expectations and goals for me, while the other is just who I am in the moment, and I can’t decide which one is the real ‘me’. After reading this article, I do see now how my age could be a factor in this constant turmoil in my head, but I do wish I had more of your guidance. I do not trust talking about this to anyone else other than my boyfriend because I’m afraid they’ll tell me to leave him. I love him so much, but I am so confused, and often I hear that ‘love is not enough’ so then I am scared as to what should be the foundation of my relationship. I am also afraid that my feelings of love could just be an evolved form of ongoing infatuation towards him. I am so confused with many things I am rambling, but I will continue to follow your website religiously in my journey of change and self help.
It sounds like you would benefit enormously from the Break Free course and I encourage you to consider it. There’s a lot of help to glean from my site but for the deep teachings you would need to take a course.
Thank you Sheryl, for sharing this post. I’m 27, and have been following your site for about four years now. Reading this post made me reflect on how much of me has changed in even four years. My twenties have also been all over the place, and I’ve felt pretty insecure about my nontraditional trajectory. I didn’t finish undergrad till I was 24, and both my partner and I live with our parents due to severe illness and my particular career path in the arts. When I was 24, I thought I was failing because my life didn’t look as smooth or successful as my friends’ lives, and I couldn’t see any way forward. Even though I love my partner and my work, I still questioned whether what I was doing was “right”. I was paranoid about what other people thought of me and my decisions. I went to therapy, but it didn’t help much. It turns out all I needed was time to enter the actual struggle of figuring things out, and time to grieve the life I thought I was supposed to have. Now I’m able to embrace the life I do have. I’m finally gaining some traction in my career, and my partner and I are now in a position to move in together and take the next step, and I just feel really great. A lot of the things I used to be anxious about have resolved themselves either physically or emotionally, I just needed to stop fighting myself so much. Thank you and all of your guidance for being there for me during a dark time.
It’s amazing what happens when we stop fighting ourselves and life so much!
Hai,it is me again. Well, I have been suffering relationship anxiety for like more than 4 month in my 7 seven month relationship with my wonderful boyfriend All the thoughts seems to come when either during my exams or when he is approaching near me. For last 15 days, we were in long distance and couldn’t meet in person. At that time, I felt relaxed, really okay, like calm.
But, tomorrow he is coming back, while I am excited to see him.,Iam also experiencing heartbeat raise,and a sort of tension in my body. I don’t wanna go back to old state of anxiety where my body tells me like I dont love him and all horrible things. Also, i tend to overthink that a male friend of mine with whom I haven’t been in contact, is avoiding me because of my relationship.
Also, I feel that maybe I am not into my boyfriend as much it is supposed to be, or like I am really young for this.I mean, we really have a great relationship. But, I sometimes feel that I want to be alone. Well, no one likes me even tough my boyfriend tells me that he loves me, which I trust 100 percent. Maybe, I feel that Im too dependent
Sorry for my English, I’m from India. Please help me. How do you stop your relationship anxiety affecting your daily life, especially your studies.?(Iam a student) Your blogs are helping me a lot, but I don’t have enough money to subscribe to any of your programs also, I seeing whther I can handle this
Whether I can handle this on my own, of course with your help. Your blog is a source of solace and comfort for me. Thank you. And any advice for me?
I recommend reading through my blog from the beginning. You’ll find many tools and resources to help you through your anxiety.
Thank you so much, Sheryl… Never expected to receive a reply immediately ?.. Well, I am going to to try mediation, and of course read your blog and some exercises. At least, I don’t want to give up on something that gave my life a whole new perspective. I mean, it might take time, but I am gonna make it.Maybe a break up with my best friend right before my relationship happened, has to do something with this. But, it did take a long time for me to accept him as my partner, boyfriend and a huge part of me after that incident. I mean, my boyfriend and I were good friends before we started our relationship. And I did have an initial crazy in love phase before all my anxiety came. I was scared from the beginning itself whether would d this last, is this really love?, will I break up with him and thoughts of that nature had come up in the beginning, but as our relationship progressed, it was calm and comfortable and exciting. I felt I had met the man of my life and dreams. We are sexually compatible which adds as a cherry on top of our relationship. But, my anxiety started at December 2017,during my exam hols, The thought of breaking up was so debilitating that I bad tried to break up with him.,but I was never happy that I had this thought, I mean I love him, I wanna spend my life with him forever. I had dreamt a life of us together. When I finally told him what was going on with me, he was really supportive and caring so much that I felt that I wish I did not have these problems.I wanted to be happy with him(Iam happy with). Googling added to my woes and for 2 months I thought that I had depression, I felt I wanted to die, maybe this relationship is not for me and so lifeless and it affected every part of my life. I couldn’t tell my parents as they would be against this as in India relationship before marriage or during college is seen as a bad thing and arranged marriage is more preferable than love marriage for my people of my parents generation. My friends and my boyfriend kept me alive during those times. Even a point had reached where my boyfriend, despite loving me couldn’t bear me suffer from my own thoughts and decided to break up with me. I was too devastated and we did not break up as we couldn’t bear losing each other. Even he suffers from relationship anxiety as well, but he is handling better I guess. Well now, I am okay like I am calm. But I do have thoughts like what if u get attracted to someone else? What if your male friend who has not been in contact with you for a long time, had a crush on you(I had a small crush on him when I was in high school, but we became friends after school and I had never ever had these thoughts until now) I know these are only my thoughts and fears, but sometimes I feel they are.
Maybe this confusion and inner turbulence is part of being in the twenties… Right?
Anyone please comment on my plight!
Now its too much… Im feeling that this is all a schmuck! I mean… I feel like maybe Im just infatuated towards him. I feel like I don’t love him or even like him. I feel like I don’t know what made me love him at the first place. Am I a wrong a person for him?
I feel like I am too selfish, like im not sure whether I love him, even though I badly want to believe it and also feel that with him. I know somewhere, i love him sincerely, i want that part of meto be dominant and also i want to feel good abput myself in love…. Its too much… Please respond…
I feel so blank… I want to be with my guy, despite all his flaws… But my whole body is telling me that I don’t love him. I know that I have a lot of issues in my mind. I feel more withdrawn and most importantly, so ambivalent. I feel that i have been focusing on myself only. I need help. I feel too ambivalent.
Ambivalent about my life. I often compare my life to others and feel that if my relationship hadn’t been there, maybe I could have been better, which is not true. Maybe I wouldn’t have had this kind of anxiety, but I wouldn’t have known myself or explored what kind of life I led. I feel too disinterested in things around me. Help!
Ammu, I hear how much you’re struggling. This blog isn’t intended to be a place to receive support or advice. I recommend finding a local therapist, if possible, or signing up for one of my courses where you will receive direct support through the forums. Also, as I suggested above, please read through my site from the beginning and most of your questions will be answered.
Hi Ammu, I would also recommend taking the Break Free from Relationship Anxiety. I am 28 and have been through a very similar experience (and am still going through it to some degree) and found that that course helped me immensely. Wishing you the best of luck <3
I’m 23 years old and I love your article. It really is hard but I know I can do this.
Thank you so much for sharing this 🙂 I am 22 years old and I just graduated college in California. I have a blog through which I make an income, so I have decided to move to Hawaii for a few months. I am for the first time in my life financially independent from my parents. I have money saved so I’m not too worried but it is still a bit unsettling. I am proud of myself the job I have created, and for taking the leap to move, but I am absolutely terrified because I am afraid I will somehow fail or fall into a depression. I have an idea of what I can achieve if I am mentally well and work really hard, but because my job is creative it is a lot of pressure. When I am sad I am unable to be creative. I apologize if this seems jumbled. I am finding myself in a very desperate and insecure mindset which is causing me to latch onto others, and seek validation in romantic relationships that I know do not serve me and only bring me temporary joy. I know I am above this behavior, but I am searching for anything that can bring me comfort because this transition is so terrifying. Any advice would be so helpful.
The 20s have been such a wild ride. Well my teen years were really emotionally intense as well but I felt more powerless to do anything about it. I didn’t know that I really could do anything about it. I figured I was just doomed to feel horrible forever. My twenties have been the time where I have realized that I can absolutely change, heal, and grow and I have been incredibly active in that. Sometimes it feels like the waves will never stop crashing though. I am amazed at just how much has gone unprocessed inside of me. So I suppose I feel like this decade so far has been reexperiencing, feeling, and care taking all of the feelings that I was never able to fully feel, care take, or understand. I do wonder when the waves might slow because wowzaz can it be intense! That on top of trying to figure out what your purpose is, how to pay off college debt, have good relationships, etc. Humaning in your 20s is indeed a challenge. I am 27 by the way. Thank you all for sharing your stories and showing us that we are not alone. Thank you, Sheryl, for your beautiful work. Recently, while in the thick of it, I remembered that you never would have been able to show up for your community in the way that you do if you hadn’t have done this work and I keep walking. Keep walking for myself. Keep walking for all of the creatures.
Thank you, Alexa.
I’m 22, diagnosed Asperger’s since I was 5. Anxiety has always been a part of my life, and sometimes I feel like I can’t tell the difference between what other people are suggesting I should do and what I really want to do. By that I mean… my parents will suggest something and since they’re older and have more life experience and they raised me so they know me pretty well… I kind of accept what they want me to do. They mean well, I know they do, they just want the best for me and know I’m anxious so they gently push me forwards but sometimes I wonder if in actuality I want to do something different.
I’m still trying to figure out what I want, but I’ve commented on this site before so I’ll say this: nowadays? My relationship is DEFINITELY something I want to keep.
I’m on anti-depressants and a waiting list for therapy. I just hope I eventually find inner peace.