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It’s OK to Not Be Perfect by 30

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In the last few years, as several of my friends have turned 30 and 31, I have received the same frantic phone call, email, or text. Often times cryptic, always vulnerable, and usually somewhat exaggerated, these pleas for validation remind me that we are living in a strange new world.

I remember a moment four years ago on one of my best friend’s birthday. I called to say happy 30th when she interrupted and, in a whisper that was barely audible, she said, “Please don’t, I don’t want to talk about it.” Her voice muffled and pained, I asked where she was. She admitted to being under the covers, her voice drowned out through her comforter. She was considering going to the movies, and no, she did not want any company. She said that she’d be in touch in a week or two.

Dramatic and true.

For those of us who grew up as the original digital natives, and still recall a time before the internet, approaching 30 is a tempestuous zone of chaos, guilt, shame, and occasionally an ill-fated attempt at graceful maturity. When I was in my early twenties, Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook. He was 23 and was the archetypical arch nemesis my friends and I both revered and abhorred.

Brilliant, capable, shrewd, and determined, we grew up in a moment where success, celebrity, and the internet collided. The explosive growth in wunderkind visibility heightened our collective anxiety. Speaking personally, it made me question my own validity, capacity, and ultimately potential.

On a daily basis, we are all bombarded with social media and the news cycle has become a living, breathing 24/7 behemoth. Everyone owns their name as a domain name, has a custom twitter template, and a vanity LinkedIn page. Everyone and everything looks glossy, shiny, new, and perfect.

How can we compete with this? And the answer is, we can’t, we shouldn’t, and I personally won’t. It’s not real. For those of you who have ever stayed awake for most of the night, pondering how to make it on a 30 under 30 list, gripped with fear that if you aren’t on the list, you’ll spend your 50s in a motel, surrounded by cats with a flip phone that doesn’t text, this is for you. For anyone who has ever met a smart teenager and looked at them with disdain or envy, and then immediately felt guilty and embarrassed, this is for you. For anyone who purchased anti-aging creams from a fancy department store or even a local pharmacy at the age of 23, this is for you.


First, some facts.

  1. The average age of the 10 most powerful women in the world (according to Forbes) is 59.5.
  2. Bloomberg Businessweek states that your peak earning years are between 40 and 55.
  3. Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State when she was 61.
  4. The oldest super model in the world, Daphne Self, who still models for Dolce & Gabbana, is 83.
  5. The 10-year rule states that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of work (or 10 years) to become an expert.

I know that facts alone don’t assuage the ever-existent tension to hurry up and become something, and that is why practical tools and suggestions are needed as well. So if you have pre-30 or early-30 anxiety, I suggest the following:

  1. Call your mother, father, guardian, or mentor, and ask him or her to help you calm down.
  2. Call your best friend and remind her that she’s brilliant and beautiful now, and that you can’t wait to see how gorgeous and influential she is when she’s 75.
  3. Take a selfie of yourself today and remember that in 20 years, you’ll look at that picture and remark “I had no idea I was so amazing.” Save your energy and instead remember it right now.

Lastly, please don’t forget that this is your journey. This is your path. This is your practice. This is your life, and there is enough success and love in the world to go around. Take your time, build a life that you love and one that delights you. Engage in your work with intention. Make sure to laugh enough, and don’t forget to be silly. And if all else fails, remember it’s OK to have a Nutella and Netflix night every once in a while.

Where do you think you’ll be in your life when you turn 30?

Ask Carly Heitlinger what she hopes to accomplish by the time she is 30.

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Topics:

Career Path Personal Life Turning 30 Lifestyle
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"Everyone owns their name as a domain name, has a custom twitter template, and a vanity LinkedIn page. Everyone and everything looks glossy, shiny, new, and perfect." - this, and this entire article, is so TRUE. I really love this... thank you Simone!!!

I ABSOLUTELY love this article...

Thank you for this incredibly insightful article. At 25 and working my way through the "Quarterlife Crisis" books, I can't help but feel like the timing of your article was a kismet!

I just turned 27 and I'm struggling with why I haven't accomplished more up to this point. After reading this I'm reminded that success comes at different times in everyone's life. Thank you for the reminder!

After wiping away tears as to why am I here and where am I going... I then read "Take a selfie of yourself today and remember that in 20 years, you’ll look at that picture and remark “I had no idea I was so amazing.” Save your energy and instead remember it right now...Thank You!

Thank you so much for this reminder! I just turned 25 and after also reading my fair share of quarter-life crisis books, I was still feeling a litlle left behind by an impossibly high achieving group of friends. But this is my journey and it's nowhere near done yet. "...there is enough success and love to go around." Thank you.

Thank you Lauri! Honesty is my best policy.

Jam - I appreciate the support! What resonated most with you?

I read that book when I was also 25 - it was incredibly helpful. Keep up the self awareness Kaitlin, it will take you far.

You're welcome Amanda, take your time, you're just building towards something brilliant.

::hugs:: You're welcome! :)

Hi Simone,
Really liked your article....I have always looked at this a bit differently...To me 30 is not a number but state of mind. I tell all my young pals that life doesn't even begin until you turn 30...which can be 27 for some people and 33 or even later for others...You just will know it when you feel it....And as life is a journey you will never actually achieve perfection and will continue on your own perfect path.

Most people's 20's are terrible no matter what...filled with anxiety and self doubt...I think one's 20's should be spent trying to set yourself up for the rest of your life....You hit 30 when you realize you are on your own personal path....

This is pretty much EVERYTHING I needed to hear right now. Whew! Thank you so much :).

Thank you for this article! Considering that tomorrow is my birthday and I've been relentlessly comparing myself to friends, it is very timely indeed. I loved when you said, "this is your practice." I hear it during yoga often and the words remind me that I am where I should be.

This is my story - I can relate!

This is so stupid. People are only afraid of turning 30 because of what society has been saying. 30 is not the end of the world, and there is no proper age for success. Mark Zuckerberg was successful at 23. Don't tell your best friend you can't wait until she's 75. Simone Sneed, why are you giving into the boundaries of feminism? Success comes at any age. Get over yourself ladies.

Love this article so much. Definitely feeling the quarter life anxiety and that last paragraph was spot on. I'll be re-reading it the next time I need some perspective. Thank you!

Last week I had a new headshot made and when it came back I was surprised to see my face had all of the signs of a 43 year old. My reaction to this even surprised me! I studied it with gratitude, thinking of the years I spent as a writer and now as a creative entrepreneur, the smiles I've smiled to make these new wrinkles. I've worked to take care of myself and supported my share of stress too. All of the joys, the risks, the long nights, there they were, in that face looking back at me and I was proud.

Hi Gail - I love the way you make 30 sound completely liberating - and I agree that the 20's are a place where most of us muddle through until we understand how much power we really have.

You're welcome Krystal!

I hope your birthday went well Tasha!

So glad that the Levo community is a safe and useful space for you Jenna.

Favorite comment ever. I'm proud of you too Amy!

What a refreshing piece, I can't believe I am just now finding it. I, like many other women, had an, "Oh dear" moment turning 30 a few months ago. I constantly find that I am comparing myself to "30 Under 30" winners and thinking I don't measure up. It is refreshing to read an honest piece that puts the "wunderkinds" in perspective.


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