5 Lies Twentysomethings Need to Stop Believing


Picture by Designm.ag – Creative Commons. Design by Paul Angone

Too many twentysomethings are driving through the twists and turns of their 20s with windshields covered in mud, lies, and half-truths. And then we wonder why so many of us have crashed?

We need to hose these lies off right now or spend our 20’s stuck on the side of the road.

If we’re going to walk forward with the answers to the major questions we should be asking, successfully navigating our twenties, then we need to stop believing the following lies right now:

5 Lies Twenty-Somethings Need to Stop Believing. Right! Now!

1. I’m the Only One Struggling

If you’ve read much on All Groan Up, you know that I’d love to lock this lie away in a Siberian prison and give the key to a pack of Arctic wolves to defend. You are not alone in your struggle, questions, wondering what’s next?, now what?, or do I have what it takes?

Our 20s are tough. That’s the truth. Too many twenty-somethings are struggling through a quarter-life crisis all alone.

We all need help. We all need support. We all need nudges, prompts, advice, and encouragement.

No one has it all figured out.

The twenty-somethings who think they do are the ones in for the biggest shock of them all.

2. I Should Be Successful by Now! Like Right Now!

I fully expected to walk straight into a crazy-successful twenty-something life with accolades,  salaries, bonuses, a big-ol-fat-book-deal, and a plethora of people who wanted to learn my secrets to success, all by 23 years old. Maybe 25 if I really hit some serious setbacks.

I didn’t realize that success takes time — loads of time.

Success is not an Egg McMuffin, delivered to us for a $3, three minute investment.

No, success is the Sistine Chapel — it takes years, pain, frustration, thousands of brushes, colors, and crumpled up sketches before you have your masterpiece.

Countless famed figures we idolize, like Abraham Lincoln, failed drastically in their 20’s. Success is not a sprint, it’s an Ironman marathon and our 20’s aren’t really about running the actual race. No, our 20’s are simply about building our endurance so that we can run the race in the future.

If you take one step towards your dream today, you are a success.

Success happens in the details.

3. Life is Not Turning Out Like it Was Supposed To

Well, kind of. Yes, life is not turning out like it was supposed to, but what the heck is supposed to? There is no supposed to. Supposed to is a lie. Supposed to is built on the perception of someone else’s perceived success. Live your life right now exactly as it is and do your best to keep moving forward into where you want to go. That’s what you’re supposed to do.

4. I Don’t Have What it Takes

I 100% guarantee you have what it takes. I triple-stamp a double-stamp, 100% money-back guarantee you have what it takes.

It’s just going to take some time to figure out what exactly “it” is.

Our twenties are a process not a surprise party. You don’t just walk into the door and all of the sudden your calling jumps out from behind the couch.

You’re extremely talented at something. We just need to start pulling off the layers to get a glimpse of what that something is.

5. I am a Failure

The only failure of our 20s would be if we never had any.

The only failure of our 20s is if we fail and then call ourselves failures.

Our 2os are going to be riddled with failure. Anyone that tells you otherwise is a liar.

Failure is not a period, it’s a comma. And only if you stop trying will you really fail.

There’s only one way to be successful in our twenties — fail, tweak, then try again.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below:

What lie is holding you back?


  1. Stephanie

    Oh my gosh, thank you Paul!

    I’m 26, and last year was one of the bets years of my life! I was completely and utterly failing at my job – I took a step back and really had to decide if it was what I wanted. It turns out, it wasn’t. I took a boring P/T job whilst I desperately searched for something permanent in my field. It took a lot of pavement-pounding, tearful nights, wine binges and 8 long months before I landed a job that I love! While I don’t make millions, I’m happy and working towards my goals!

    Thanks for making me feel better about my own failings (that turned out to be a success!).

    • admin

      Awesome Stephanie!

      “While I don’t make millions, I’m happy and working towards my goals!

      Thanks for making me feel better about my own failings (that turned out to be a success!).”

      Love those lines. Well said!

  2. Aaron G

    Hey there. Now that I am 31, I realize how so much
    of what you say is true. I have known some successful 20-somethings, but it seems they are more like an endangered species; rare and hard to find. I find that many people in their early 30s like myself are still facing many of these things. Do you find that to be true from readers as well? It’s not as if all of the questions magically have answers the day one ends their 20s.

    Thanks for making what happened in my 20s make sense and my early 30s a little easier to understand what is happening today

    Aaron G

    • admin

      Well said Aaron.

      “I have known some successful 20-somethings, but it seems they are more like an endangered species; rare and hard to find.”

      I definitely talk to lots of thirty-somethings (and beyond) who are working through the same questions, ambiguity, etc. Just as we don’t have things magically figured out when we’re married, have a kid, etc.. I definitely don’t think when the clock tolls for 30, that it all just makes sense.

  3. Jess

    Could these be anymore true! I had a lot of face-plant-in-the-mud type failures in my twenties, some were humiliating, some straight stupid, like what the hell was I thinking (mostly because of trying something new, like a toddler on a bike for the first time). But thankfully, got back up and kept going. Wish someone would have told me….That’s OKAY. It’s normal! when becoming an adult. I would have spent less time sulking about the self-injury and more time preparing for the inevitable next big fall, like wearing knee pads and a helmet.

    • admin

      Wow, well said Jess. Love the imagery of “a toddler on a bike for the first time.” A great metaphor for what it feels like for so many of us. Well, well said.

  4. Beth Anne

    These are sooo true! I’m 27…still live at home and I basically was forced to go back to school for lack of employment opportunities. By the time I was 27 I thought I’d have a decent job that I loved with benefits. I haven’t even had health insurance since college. We live and learn. I think there are too many helicopter parents out there still supporting 20 somethings so they don’t know what heartache is and it’s gonna catch up to them eventually.

    • admin

      Thanks Beth Anne for sharing your story. Yep, sounds like you’re smack dab in the middle of what so many others are experiencing as well. The process is long, but I promise it’s good. (at some point…most likely…pretty sure about this:).

  5. Kristi Miller

    Another great post! I’m turning 29 next month, and I can identify with all 5 of these lies — especially 2, 3, 4. I’m stuck on the fact that I have two basically useless degrees, $25K LEFT in student loan debt, and I’m at a job that bores me to tears (AND doesn’t pay great). I feel like I’m moving through mud. I thought I would have it ALL figured out by now, but I’m still at Square 1 in many respects. Living and Learning every single day — thanks again for continuing to post content that is so relatable.

    • admin

      Great comment Kristi!

      “I feel like I’m moving through mud.”

      Man, oh man, have I felt the exact same way. But the best thing about sledging through the mud is that is makes your legs way stronger than if you were walking without it.

      When you get to solid ground you’ll be able to run!

  6. A. Share

    Again, another awesome post. I kept telling myself #5 the 6 months after graduating from college because I wasn’t going anywhere. I kept getting rejected and all my networking seemed to be for nothing. Then, its like I woke up and realized why I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t really working towards what I wanted.
    I will be going to graduate school in the fall towards an MPA with a concentration in nonprofits and I can’t be more excited!

    • admin

      Awesome! Pumped to hear you let that frustration prod you towards productive change and taking steps forward. Congrats on the MPA program

  7. Heather Stubbs

    I wish I had read words like these when I was in my twenties! I’m turning 65, and I can assure you, these lies are around for every age. They need to be combatted with the same good sense and compassion you show in this post. Bravo! And thank you.

    • admin

      Thanks Heather for these kind, wise words!

  8. NyssaJay

    Lies #2 and #3 are holding me back the most. At my age, my parents and most of their friends were married with two kids. Many of my friends are married, engaged, have children, families, and home… and I have an apartment and bunch of castles in the sky.

  9. Cramalama

    #2,4 and 5 are holding me back. I dont give myself enough credit to all that has happend to me in my twenties. I graduate college with my bachelors soon after bought a house and now engage Life is good and going to get better. I just need to keep taking steps towards the future and seems that is a pretty good direction. I need to find my passion in order to know what “it” takes . As for with 5 I am not in my field yet that I have my bachelors in and so it seems like I am never going to be able to have my career and my current job doesnt see my potential even though I have been with them 3 years ! I feel like a failure in that aspect.

  10. Nick

    I really like this article. So blunt it is spot on. At age 26 I haven’t held a real salaried job for more then 3 months and I’ll explain what this means. I left Boston, MA after school, got in my car and drove to South Carolina, Charleston to be precise and moved in with my brother. Five days later we flew to Germany and went to October Fest. That was fun haha. When I got back I struggled to find work and finally found a photography assistant position shooting commercial and advertising photography, but after four months I decided I wanted some more structure and took a sales job selling radio ads to hone my social skills gain some tough skin. I hated it and that might have been the best thing ever. I quite that job, got in my car and drove across the country after i saved some money. My brother and saw the whole southern part of the US all the way to San Diego, CA where I am now, which i would recommend to do a road trip once in your life. It is a must do.

    In Southern California I built up my own photography and graphic design clients and was doing great, but my clients hit some financial problems and I thought I could network and knock on some doors to get the flow going again, but I couldn’t and now I’m at a breaking point and low point.

    On the positive side, I learned so much from running and managing my own clients. Also I have seen the world and different cultures.

    I was really down on myself, but this is just a part of my path and the next journey will be new and exciting. I’m throwing a dart for LA or NYC wish me luck. Culture shock can’t phase me anymore and this time with all my knowledge, success, failures and new ambition, I will be just fine!

  11. James

    I thought I had it all together when I graduated. I thought I was going to get some banging job that would allow me to go and start my own investment gig. Well, I really havent started my own investment career yet in real estate and the job I have is sucking the life out of me and will likely end in divorce, all at 28! I ended up in a state I had no interest in in the first place, always spinning my wheels trying to get moving in the right direction, and finding myself in dispare. My 20’s is for the birds! Luckily I have a film playing in my head over and over of what I really want to experience I just dont have the road map yet……..hopefully it will come.

  12. Shani

    Thanks for this post and this website. I have definitely believed all of the above statements and I’m still struggling to realize that they are not true. It’s just really hard not to believe them right now.

    Thanks again for the encouragement; this blog gives me hope.

    • admin

      Awesome Shani! Thank you!

  13. Julianna

    Thanks very much for sharing genuine straight-forward thoughts about 20 somethings.

    Number 4 and 5 held me back the most. “I 100% guarantee you have what it takes. I triple-stamp a double-stamp, 100% money-back guarantee you have what it takes”… I wish I have that much confidence in myself and would pay top dollar to get it back…

    For the first 2 years of my university, I was determined to get into a highly competitive business program. While my boyfriend at the time said “I’ll try to get into med school”, I said “I WILL get into this business school”. Thinking back, there was never a doubt in my mind that I would not get in, I had so much confidence that I knew in my heart that I’ll get in. I didn’t have any extraordinary hard skills, just a strong will. In fact, I wasn’t very good with accounting and stats, but I still figured out a way.

    After I got into the highly competitive program, things started to change for the first time in my life. I realized I wasn’t one of the top students in class anymore, I realized there are lots of people out there who are better than me… before I realized what was happening, I lost my confidence. Ever since then, for the past 2 years, I have been trying to get my confidence back – the kind of confidence where I just know in my heart I can do it. I would pay top dollar to get that kind of confidence I had back, I miss the old me, who never worries in hard times, just tried and thrived harder; who is never doubtful, had plenty of faith.

    “I 100% guarantee you have what it takes. I triple-stamp a double-stamp, 100% money-back guarantee you have what it takes”… I wish I can program that in my mind permanently. I really miss my old fully confident self, I want her back.

    • Paul

      Thanks Julianna for sharing your story!

  14. Devani Anjali Alderson

    I disagree about number 2 … while you don’t ‘walk in’ to being successful at 20, you can certainly work towards it and there are many successful people out there 20 and younger …. so it’s not a generalized rule… I think a tweak to that one would be “Don’t expect to be successful at any age, unless you’ve put in the hours and dedicated yourself…”

    Just my opinion but I agree with the rest…

  15. Karen

    One of the lies I perceive to be the biggest is that I have to go to university right after high school, or the one year break, otherwise I will never get back into my studies and/or I will not be as good at it because I am older.

    BS! I know someone who went right to university and now has a degree they never use because they hate the job they thought they’d want. And you never get bad at learning, it just gets harder to remember things, and takes more time. True, no one likes being that clearly older person in an intro class full of 19 year olds, but now that you’re older, do you really care much about what a 19 year old who is facebooking during class thinks?

  16. Ness

    When I was 18 I just knew where in would be in my life, especially since I graduated at 16. I just thought I had the secret to life and was ready to finish college and take the world by storm. Now let’s fastword 10 years, 2 kids and one bad college breakup later and I am stuck trying to remember that secret that I just knew I knew. Lie number three is definitely true for me. Life is not turning out how it’s supposedme to be. Ironically, I am hopefully that a brighter day will come but in the mean time these dark hallways keep making me crash into life’s unrecognizable obstacles. Thanks for the motivation to know I am not alone.

    • Paul Angone - All Groan Up

      Thanks Ness for sharing your story and you’re definitely not alone.

      Life in our twenties can feel like death by unmet expectations, that’s for sure. But remember the hero always experiences an “all is lot” moment before the dramatic rise. Who knows what the next season of life holds for you.


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