1. Wanting to look pretty — as pretty as you can reasonably be — is a totally natural, human impulse. Putting on lipstick doesn’t make you a bad (or even shallow) person. But ultimately your worth is not defined by what you look like, and it is not the value that you bring to the world. Your body is the house in which you live, and while decorating that house can make life more pleasant, it doesn’t change the person that lives within it.
2. Money doesn’t make you happy, but it does make you comfortable, which is one (of many) building blocks of happiness. If you are not stable and independent, everything else will be difficult. Working to achieve financial success is an important goal, if you use it to live a good, fulfilled life, and to help others. But no individual item that you buy — even that purse that you have been coveting for months — will make you feel any better for more than the few minutes after you leave the store. Money itself isn’t the goal, freedom is.
3. Other people’s perceptions of you can be important. In work, especially, it’s important to convey an air of confidence and trustworthiness. But it’s easy to overestimate just how important the opinions of others are, or whose opinions should be taken into consideration. Most of the time you have spent unnecessary money or time on something, it has been in an effort to appear a certain way to the outside world, even if it doesn’t mean anything to you. Keeping up with the Joneses becomes futile when you realize that there are no Joneses, and even if there were, they are too busy caring about themselves to worry about you.
4. If someone is not making you happy, let them go. You can spend years struggling to untangle yourself from a toxic personal relationship, and feeling emotionally in debt to people who bring you no joy, or you can simply stop reaching out to them. Delete them from your news feeds, and your phone, and realize how quickly they stop mattering when you are not confronted with their updates every day.
5. Figure out who your tribe is — the family, friends, mentors, loves, or colleagues who shape your life — and keep them close. It will probably be a limited number, but that’s for the best, because it is hard to sustain a truly powerful relationship with many people at a time. But if someone makes you a better person, and is made a better person in your presence, they should be part of your tribe. These people are the ones who should be called, written to, and seen on a regular basis — they deserve your emotional effort.
6. Work hard every day. Put your head down, be humble, and keep working. Take on projects, build things you are proud of, and try every day to feel accomplished. When you think the universe owes you something, you are bound to be disappointed, but when you take every opportunity as a gift and a challenge, you only stand to be pleasantly surprised. Work to gain the discretion of doing the work you choose, but remember that no work, if it’s honest and fair, is beneath you.
7. Not everyone will like you, and you won’t like everyone. The sooner that stops feeling like a personal slight from the universe, and starts feeling like a handy way of weeding out your social media (and social calendar), the better. Becoming desperate for someone’s approval simply because they won’t give it to you only makes you sad, and takes away the energy you should be giving to people who actually care about you. Life is too short to try and please everyone.