I learned to love my curly hair
It was always brushed out as a kid and it was only when I was 12 and started doing my hair myself that I realised how curly my hair actually was. Prior to this I hated my hair and complained about how frizzy it was. When I saw for my own eyes how curly my hair was I was upset at how the curls were brushed out and plaited away like they didn't exist. I had my hair curly for a year or so before as a teen I felt the pressure to straighten or curl my hair with tongs. I then fried it for years including bleaching it and it kinda ruined it. Now that I'm in my late twenties I'm really trying to fix my hair and appreciate it. I'm trying to buy the best products for it and buy from black-owned businesses as they make the best products hands down. 

It's good to self-reflect 
As a teen, I was often on the defensive and I had a lot of hurt and anger inside of me. I said to myself whilst I was in University that I had to be true to myself, be an honest person and be kind. Now that does not mean I am perfect in any way. I try to reflect back on conversations and see what I'd change 
about them if they happened in the future. I make sure I apologise to people and explain why I think I've hurt them. I have done a lot of reading and I make sure that I protect myself by sticking with my boundaries but I'm also living the most honest life that is true to myself. I think it's a great thing to be able to critique yourself and try to be a better person.

I'm not responsible for other people's feelings
I am an empath and I often try to help people out. With that comes other people's emotions and I often carry them when I shouldn't. I have worried a lot about how other people feel when I should put myself first. I can live my life the way I want to and I am not responsible for how other people feel about it and I shouldn't carry the weight of their emotions.

Setting boundaries is key
It's important that everyone has boundaries in different kinds of settings; work, school, relationships, family, friends etc. Boundaries are invisible barriers that we put up to protect ourselves and you can decide how strong a boundary is depending on the situation and whether people respect you and your boundaries or not. These boundaries help protect your mental health and can reduce the stress in your life. They can be rigid or flexible depending on the situation. I think it's one of the most important things you can do in life. One example for me is I've set a boundary in place with friends and family that I won't say yes to going out somewhere or doing something if I don't think my body (with chronic illnesses) can handle it, and they mustn't try to convince me things will be fine because I know my body best. One thing I've learned is that you should be consistent with your boundaries as it reinforces the original statement so it's clear what it is. Learning how to say no is great too. I have enjoyed reading this article about how to set up boundaries and this one about preserving boundaries.

You don't have to drink alcohol 
I thought when I was a teen that alcohol would be a really big thing in my life, but once I'd stopped partying during University I realised that I don't actually like it that much. I stopped going on nights out and only had the odd glass of wine or a cider in the pub or at Christmas. As time has gone on I've completely cut alcohol out of my life. It really urked me when people have joked about using drinks like wine as a coping mechanism or people making fun of those who don't drink as if they are 'boring'. I think a lot of Millenials like myself have come to similar conclusions. I don't have alcohol as part of my personality, I don't need it and in fact, it really messes up my medications too. You don't need alcohol to have fun. Don't give into peer pressure, and if your friends will only see you if you drink, you need to find some new friends. 

Actions speak louder than words, but words can tell you who a person really is 
I have learned over time that having people promise to do things doesn't always mean they will do it. I prefer people doing things then I can see it for myself. I prefer someone being a better person than promising to be a better person. But aside from actions, words can really show you who a person actually is. How someone treats a waiter or service staff is a prime example of what they're really like. If I had ever gone on a first date with someone I would go for a meal just for this reason. If they treat someone in retail really bad it shows you what they're like. If they volunteer to help someone in need it shows you what they're like. You can learn a lot about someone just from observing them. 

Listen to your body
You know if your body isn't feeling right, and advocating for yourself is really important. For me, getting diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses took me speaking to myself and telling myself that I know my own body and if I don't fight for answers then I'll never get them. For some people, it's taken decades to get a diagnosis of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and I had to fight to get answers for myself. I've seen five medical professionals before I got my diagnosis. If you know that something with your body isn't right, I urge you to listen to it and try to get seen again if things still aren't right. 

Respect is earned, not given 
I really have never liked the saying 'respect your elders' as if anyone older than you can do no wrong and that you must never speak out against them. It's such a toxic thing, even if the original statement was never meant to be conceived that way. Respect for everyone must be earned, and if it isn't then you don't have to speak to them or even keep them in your life. If people do apologise for things they've done wrong, you can choose whether to accept it or not, but don't think that just because someone may apologise that you have to reconcile with them. This comes with respecting yourself and this is where setting boundaries comes into play. When someone shows you their true colours, believe them.

You can stop supporting people who upset you
You may think that this is just on a personal level, but it applies to anyone. A prime example of this is Sia, the singer. She made a movie about an autistic child and instead of hiring an autistic actor, she chose a creative person she is close to who she has chosen to do pretty much every project she's made since she met her. Included in the movie was a ton of autistic tropes, dangerous ways to manage meltdowns and much more. Instead of apologising, she set her fans onto autistic people on Twitter. She made a lot of comments about a mystery autistic actor she 'originally hired' was 'too hard to work with' and for help with her movie, she used an organisation that regularly really hurts autistic people. She doubled down, no, she tripled down. She refused to back down and upset a lot of people. Now I originally supported her as I liked her music, and when I found out that she had Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome I thought it was great that she was speaking about it to the public. Now I refused to listen to her music as it gives her royalties and don't recommend her to anyone. Also, the movie flopped.

I've learned a lot about the meat and dairy industry
Two years ago I went vegetarian, for a multitude of reasons. Now, I would like to go vegan, but medically it isn't possible for me right now. I have been told what I need to consume to keep my body as healthy as it can be and with a lot of intolerances there are some things I simply cannot swap out. When I can limit my animal by-products such as honey, milk, cheese etc I do so. Anyway, I have learned a lot about the meat and dairy industries that I find absolutely appalling. I went to watch Supersize Me 2 as when the first one came out I thought it was interesting, but I was not expecting to find out what I saw about baby chicks. I have learned about what farmers do with little calves and it hurts me to my core. When I was younger I was forced to eat things like turkey and lamb, and I'd try and get rid of it in any possible way as I hated it. I think I've always wanted to go vegetarian, I just had to wait until the time was right. I would urge anyone to consider reducing their meat and dairy intake even by just a little to help save animals and reduce the effect of climate change on our planet.

I've discovered who I am
A while ago I did one of those Myers-Briggs personality tests to see what it said about me as a person. Surprise surprise I am what they called a Mediator. It said I was empathetic, open-minded, creative and passionate, but I'm also emotionally vulnerable, desperate to please and self-critical. Once seeing this for myself, I'm learning to balance these strengths and weaknesses out. I'm not trying to please people and I'm living my life for me, and I'm trying not to think just from the heart either. I've also had a bit of self-discovery when it comes to religion. I was christened and I wish I wasn't because although people say 'you can choose when you're older' I don't believe that originally christening them is giving them 100% of that choice. Anyway, I'm not a Christian or anything from that denomination and this has come from getting chronically ill. I really don't like the idea that prayer will make me get better. Why would a God give me an incurable set of illnesses? What did I do to deserve that? I just am done with religion. I've realised I am a Humanist which means I go with what science says and I go with ethics and empathy. I base my life choices on what I believe is good for me, what medically I should do and how my actions affect others.

Self-care is a must
To reduce stress, love yourself and stay balanced, practising self-care is a must. This could be taking time out of your day to sit and listen to music, eat nutritious food or alternatively indulge in a treat. It could be to take a walk with a friend or to go to bed early. Importantly, this includes setting boundaries as I mentioned earlier. This also includes reducing the amount of negativity in your life. Unfollow negative people from social media, don't hang out with people who bring you down, turn down social events if people there hurt you. The more positivity you put into your life, hopefully, the more positive and happy you'll be.

A healthy relationship with your partner is key
I had a toxic relationship as a teen, with both parties going through the stress of family life, school and more. We were both toxic to each other. As an adult, I have learned from those mistakes and communicate openly with my partner. We take time to listen to each other, we help each other out and we make compromises. You need to find a partner with who you can have a healthy relationship with in order for it to blossom and last long.
Consider who you share things with
I can be way too trusting and it has come back to bite me before. I wouldn't trust every person you have close to you that they will keep a secret or personal information to themselves. I try not to tell too many people what is going on in my personal life, whether that's medical problems, interactions with family or friends, any disagreements etc. I keep things closer to my chest now and I'm less trusting. Things can be misconstrued and I've had people discussing my disability behind my back and it finding its way to me and I just don't need that negativity in my life.

Express yourself the way you truly want to
For years I have been dressing really boring so that I'm not too 'expressive' as it tends to get comments from people. I've had comments about dying my hair in different colours, but in reality, I was just having fun and expressing the creative part of my personality. My partner encouraged me to get my nostril and septum pierced because I'd wanted to for ages but I was concerned that people would make comments. What was surprising to me was that my Nan really liked them and said I suited them. I've been into tattoos and piercing ever since my Emo days from 2006 onwards. I'm now dressing how I want to and living my life that is true to who I am inside.

Live on your own timeline
Just because there is a societal expectation to be married before 30 and start having kids doesn't mean you need to live by that timeline. You don't need to have found your dream job by 30, you don't need to have gotten married or thought about kids yet. Live by your own rules and take your time. Don't rush into things because other people say you should. I'm not working and I'm unsure about having kids and I've made my peace with that. Me and Andy only decided to get engaged because we were ready to, not because others expected us to.

You don't have to agree with people's beliefs
Often I find that there are two main camps when it comes to beliefs. You have politics where there is the main party on the left and the main on the right. There is eating meat and not eating meat. There is being religious and not being religious. Often these topics have more than 2 opinions but there are often 2 main sides. I've learned that you don't have to agree with people's beliefs and you shouldn't try to convert people either. I am a strong left-leaner on politics who is vegetarian and non-religious. I don't try to convince people to leave what they believe in and believe in what I do. I expect the same from others too, but my main point is that you don't have to agree whether what they believe in is right or wrong. If a belief is too toxic to be around, say like someone believes in Eugenics, then it is perfectly reasonable for you to not be around the people who believe in it. You should be able to have conversations with people without these topics coming up...

Don't let people's mistakes dictate your own life
I have been told before not to do things because someone older than me did that thing and they regretted it and it was a mistake. It can be perfectly reasonable things like going for a type of job, getting engaged, buying a car etc. Don't let other people's life choices dictate your own life. Just because you regretted getting married does not mean I will either. Every big decision you make is a chapter in your life story and everything you do you can learn from whether it's positive or negative.

Life is better when you don't care about what others think
This is possibly the hardest thing I have had to learn but boy is it the most gratifying thing once you've understood it. Life is so less stressful when you stop considering what people think of your choices whether it's outfits, holidays, where you live or what car you drive. I think this also comes with confidence too and I've had to learn that too. Obviously, there are some exceptions, like for say in a wedding. You should wear an outfit that matches the dress code and not wear white or whatever colour the bride may have forbidden. Honestly, don't ever wear white to a wedding, that is a huge exception to this rule. Aside from exceptions, make choices how you want to and stop considering how other people may perceive them. Live your authentic life.

Follow your gut instinct
I truly believe that your gut can keep you safe. Like if you meet someone and get a weird vibe from them and go away from the situation then later learn that they are dangerous. Or you take a different road home and get a weird feeling in your stomach and turn round then later find out it was flooded. I think red flags can give us strange feelings and I don't know how to explain it but I now trust in my gut. I don't try to explain away something or ignore things that don't sit right with me.