By Age 20 You Should Realize These 8 Things

By Age 20 You Should Realize These 8 Things

When one turns 20, societal pressure builds to have adulthood already mapped out. Clear visions regarding career direction, relationship status, passions, and overall certainties about life seem expected by this young age of just exiting the teenage years. However, the reality is that one’s 20s span the primary period of emerging adulthood – of continuing to uncover who you are becoming, what matters most, and who to walk through life with. There is still much self-discovery left ahead in the second decade of life.

If, in your 20-something years, you recognize that you do not need to have every aspect of identity, purpose, and relationship cemented. Your interests, beliefs, goals, and preferences will likely look very different by 30 than at 20. And that fluid, ongoing evolution of self-knowledge is perfectly alright. Let’s explore principles that anyone traversing their 20s should grasp about this pivotal phase, which is oriented around unfolding clarity rather than having all the answers already mapped out.

1. You Have More Self-Discovery Ahead

At 20, one may think they know who they are and what they want. But so much changes throughout your 20s. As you have new experiences – in love, education, and career – you realize how little you grasped at 20. Stay open and curious rather than locking yourself into rigid assumptions about your identity or preferences. They will likely look very different in your late 20s.

2. Relationships Should Enhance Your Life, Not Define It

Romantic relationships can feel all-encompassing in your early 20s. But this dependence on a partner for your self-worth and happiness can become problematic. In your 20s, you realize healthy relationships should integrate into a fulfilled life, not be the primary source of esteem. Take time to nurture confidence and interests outside relationships, too.

3. Passion and Purpose Matter More Than Money and Status

Many 20-somethings cave to pressure and chase jobs for money or status rather than meaning. But recognize that passion and purpose ultimately provide greater fulfillment. The prestige and comfort of a well-paying job you dislike often ring hollow after a while. Discover work aligned with what energizes you intrinsically.

4. It’s Okay Not to Have All the Answers Yet

Pop culture makes it appear that everyone, except you, has their life neatly mapped out by 20. Social media reinforces this pressure. But in truth, no one in their 20s has everything figured out. Give yourself the freedom not to have all the answers or your path set. Wandering, making mistakes, and feeling uncertain is normal as you continue discovering yourself.

5. Growth Comes From Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

Venturing beyond what feels familiar accelerates personal growth considerably in your 20s. It’s easy to avoid uncertainty out of fear of failure. But saying yes to new challenges and experiences that initially feel uncomfortable will expand your self-understanding tremendously. Keep inching outside your comfort zone.

6. Your Choices Shape Your Reality More Than You Think

In your early 20s, it’s easy to feel life happens to you without much control. Relationships, opportunities, and circumstances feel dictated by chance. However, realizations about personal agency emerge as one reflects on patterns that emerge over time. Your choices and perspectives manifest specific outcomes over others more than they may seem.

Cultivating an empowering narrative where you see yourself as capable of growth, view people’s intentions as positive, and believe possibilities await around each corner unlocks an upward spiral. The opposite victim mentality morphs into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Recognize the immense influence you wield in authoring your life story amidst uncertainty.

7. Time Becomes More Valuable Than You Realized

In youth, time feels abundant. But as 20-somethings begin establishing careers, financial stability, and adult responsibilities, realizations dawn about prioritizing time selectively. Hours get accounted for rigidly each day. One sees time as intrinsically linked to goals, relationships, and fulfillment.

By 20, acknowledge that while time felt endless previously, how you invest your hours, days, and weeks matters significantly. Be judicious regarding obligations taken on, be present during meaningful experiences, and assess activities by their ROI on your time. Each moment becomes much more scarce and precious.

8. Mistakes Lead to Growth If You Learn From Them

Making mistakes can feel debilitating in your 20s, given societal assumptions that this period involves having adulthood mastered. However, realizing errors and perceived blunders is pivotal to self-discovery and forging resilience. None of us learn complex life skills without some stumbling.

Rather than rebuke yourself, crystallize lessons from each misstep, disappointment, or choice you later question. Own this as simply the process of shedding naivety and building wisdom. Permit yourself grace, knowing that if you learn something, progress still marches forward. Reframe mistakes as growth springboards.

Case Study: Overcoming Overwhelm

Chris is a 23-year-old recent college graduate feeling overwhelmed entering the “real world” of adulthood. He feels pressured to have his career, relationships, confidence, and path to fulfillment already solidified after earning his diploma.

Chris compares himself to peers and influencers on social media who seem to have their perfect dream jobs and relationships locked down. Meanwhile, Chris had a difficult breakup after his long-term college relationship ended. He is unsure of his career direction and is bouncing between service jobs temporarily.

Chris Has Barely Begun His Self-Discovery Journey

While Chris feels behind at 23, he must realize he still has immense personal growth. His interests, goals, and preferences will likely look very different by 30. Rather than cling to rigid assumptions about who he is or what matters based on his limited life experience, Chris should stay open and curious.

Relationships Should Be Part of a Fulfilling Life

Chris allowing his self-worth to rely solely on having a girlfriend is problematic. He feels empty without that external validation. With maturity, Chris will realize that healthy relationships integrate into a life where one already feels confident and purposeful. He has more discoveries regarding internal fulfillment.

Passions Will Lead to More Fulfillment Than Status

Chris feels pressure from his parents to pursue a stable corporate job that earns approval but may not energize him. He will likely realize in time that while prestige and money provide some comfort, pursuing his innate passions will unlock more excellent drive and creativity. He needs to explore more to find work by which he’s intrinsically motivated.

It’s Normal To Feel Unsure in Your 20s

When Chris compares his uncertainty to old classmates’ curated social media lives, he feels ashamed, like everyone has mastered adulthood except him. By 25, he will realize no one has figured it out in their 20s. Twists and turns are part of self-discovery at this age. He needs more life experience.

Key Takeaways

  • One’s interests, beliefs, and preferences continue developing well into adulthood.
  • Romantic partnerships should integrate into a fulfilled life, not replace individual fulfillment.
  • Pursuing meaning trumps chasing money in terms of long-term contentment.
  • Self-doubt and life uncertainty in your 20s are standard – don’t compare yourself to curated social media personas.
  • Personal mindset and choices influence outcomes more than one may assume.
  • Pushing past comfort zones creates optimal conditions for identity growth.


Turning 20 sparks societal assumptions that one should have adulthood figured out – a clear career path, relationships, passions, and certainties about life. In reality, one’s 20s center around ongoing self-discovery and growth. Rather than rush to define oneself or meet external milestones, embrace this decade to explore purpose, interests, and beliefs organically. Be wary of comparison. Say yes to challenges that accelerate self-knowledge. Recognize your agency in authoring your life story amidst uncertainty and not having all the answers mapped out. This period of emerging adulthood is about continuing to unfold who you are becoming.