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28 Hard-Hitting Life Lessons You Need To Learn Sooner Rather Than Later

Reddit user u/ObjectiveWerewolf78 asked: "What's a hard-hitting life lesson you learned way too late in life?" The thread promptly filled with nuggets of wisdom from people who learned these lessons the hard way. Here's what people shared:

1."Sometimes, attaining peace means letting go of people. I always used to fight for every relationship in my life, but I stopped when I couldn't do anything to change my situation with certain people anymore. I was upset about it. I broke down in tears for days, and then I realized that the peace I always prayed for had finally come. All I really needed was to be away from everyone. I needed to find myself first."

u/issydezz

2."Not everyone is thinking bad things about you. Look into the spotlight effect. Chances are, they are not thinking about you nearly as much as you think they are, if at all, and if they are, it is often not negative. I have a real issue with thinking everyone has bad opinions of me when it is often quite the opposite. It takes a lot to keep the mindset that people's word about you is a reflection of them, not you if you are being a genuine and kind person."

u/TheLunarRaptor

Spotlight with a beam of light on a dark background, implying focus or revelation
Drpixel / Getty Images

3."The value of forgiveness. It's so good for you and a key mechanism for overcoming trauma. I will add the caveat that you don't have to forgive others explicitly, but it is good practice to reconcile and move on. Oh, and forgiveness itself is not forgetting about what happened, but openly recognizing the issue or fault, and choosing to move forward with it, either by yourself or with others."

u/Maximum_Tart_5224

4."Single with peace of mind is way better than having a relationship with someone who makes your life miserable."

u/mel9side

Person facing away looking towards a sunlit natural scene, hair visible
Kathrin Ziegler / Getty Images

5."The most important relationship you'll ever have in this world is the one you have with yourself. If you find too much of your happiness to be reliant on things outside your control (other people), it's time to take a step back and work on your relationship with you."

u/Sportkitized

6."The importance of setting boundaries and saying no. People won't love you more for sacrificing your own well-being to please them. I wish I had known that sooner. It would've saved me from a lot of unnecessary stress and burnt-out moments."

u/HappyPenguin112

"How I was raised led me to believe that all relationships were fundamentally transactional and that the stakes being negotiated in those relationships were my right to exist. I thought completely erasing my sense of self was necessary for survival, but I now realize that I can't live without it. At 41, I'm starting to learn who I am and how to live my life."

u/elerner

Person's hand facing forward with "NO" written on the palm, expressing refusal or boundary setting
Carol Yepes / Getty Images

7."Not everyone is down for you like they say they are."

u/sdgdhgdfhsdhfgh

8."Work-life balance is critical, and hustle culture is ridiculous. The only people who notice all those extra hours you put in at work are your family and friends."

u/GigabitISDN

A cap with sticky notes saying "OUT OF OFFICE", "BE BACK!" and "I AM ON VACATION" as a humorous out-of-office message
Jayk7 / Getty Images

9."You can feel alone with a roomful of people around you. That is the biggest lesson I learned in my 30s. The lesson I gleaned from it was to be my own best friend. Enjoy doing things on your own because if you absolutely need someone else just to have a good time, you're going to run out of supply down the road. Also, when you enjoy yourself by yourself, people will gravitate to you. I have a friend who is learning this lesson several years after divorce. She cannot function without someone always entertaining her in her free time after work. It is exhausting for those in her circle without good boundary control. I put the walls up early but gave her all the tools that helped me discover the coolness of my own damn company."

u/anda3rd

10."Choose optimistic friends and interact/communicate with them as much as possible. Great attitudes go a long way in this world, from working to socializing, from good times to the not-so-good times. Having friends that offer the bright side can hugely influence how you carry yourself and respond to adversity."

u/mariospeedragon

Two people in patterned dresses laughing with hair flipping in the air
Flashpop / Getty Images

11."Just because someone is much older than you doesn't mean they are more mature, intellectually or emotionally. In Western culture, growing up is a choice, not a necessity. Many people never choose to emotionally and intellectually mature."

u/mpworth

12."Many high-paid executives aren't in that position because they're the most successful ones in the room. They're in that position because they prioritized their career at the expense of everything else. Some people are so poor that all they have is money."

u/TheDadThatGrills

Person in business attire viewed from behind looking out of a large window in an office building
Martin Barraud / Getty Images

13."Trust patterns of people's behavior. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior."

u/Cortical_Depression9

"But, show some grace. People grow and change."

u/jpsc949

14."Sometimes, it's not you, it's genuinely the other person needing to unplug for a bit and reset. Yes, they may be active on social media, but that doesn't mean they have the bandwidth to talk."

u/Rodfather23

Smartphone charging on a red carpet with clothing items in the background
Cappi Thompson / Getty Images

15."I'm almost 27, so maybe I didn't learn it too late compared to most people, but I learned this one later in life: Sacrificing yourself and your happiness for others will not make them love you or value you more. It will only make you resent those people."

u/Unlikely_Couple1590

16."Learn to love reading. Books can take you anywhere, teach you anything, comfort you when you're sad, make you laugh, and open your mind to new things. Just read a book a month."

u/phantasybm

A tall stack of various hardcover and paperback books against a light background
Raimund Koch / Getty Images

17."You don't have to like everyone and everyone doesn't need to like you. Sometimes, it's best for everyone to go their separate ways. Wish them well regardless."

u/Llyotron

18."Learn to allow the anger to pass and not to act in the heat of things. Takes only a few minutes. Then, construct a well-reasoned response, and often, that response is to do nothing at all."

u/DartosMD

Two people communicating using sign language in a room with sheer curtains
Janiecbros / Getty Images

19."Stop looking for the good in people. Start, instead, looking for good people."

u/MissOohAustralia

20."Just because I'd had lots of relationships, it didn't mean I knew how to be emotionally vulnerable or intimate. I threw myself into them, and my partners loved how dedicated and caring I was. Still, it never felt reciprocated to me because I could never accept or be vulnerable with anyone. I am trying now, but it's very difficult and I don't know how. I've had therapy, but I would need some seriously intense stuff (according to my last therapist), which I can't afford right now. So, I'm trying alone, but it's hard when the only people you felt you were vulnerable with hurt you and set you back further."

u/weirwoodheart

Person sitting by a window in a contemplative pose, sunlight casting shadows indoors
Yana Iskayeva / Getty Images

21."You can't help everyone. I wish someone had told me sooner so I wouldn't be as hurt as I am now by the people who abused my kindness."

u/CelebrationHot5209

22."It's okay to say no. You don't need to be a doormat. Don't make yourself miserable to make others comfortable."

u/Vanity-della23

Person holding sign with "NO" in front of their face
Carol Yepes / Getty Images

23."Knowing when to mind your own business and when to speak up is a life lesson that takes time. But, once you know when to react or retract, life flows much more smoothly."

u/roxywalker

24."Overthinking and creating imaginary scenarios in your head causes nothing but problems. Take things as they come and live life in the moment."

u/squishypenguin24

Man sitting on a bed facing away, looking towards a window, with dim lighting and a lamp on the side
Dmp / Getty Images

25."Not all people who are friendly with you are your friend."

u/ryltea

26."Someone can love you and still not be good for you."

u/malackey

Two people sitting on a couch turned away from each other, arms crossed, suggesting a disagreement

Couple having a disagreement at home

Bymuratdeniz / Getty Images

27."Even if you are right, you will not get everyone to agree with you, no matter how hard you try or how much effort you put into explaining it to them."

u/PirLibTao

28.And: "It's okay to be alone for a while. Find happiness being alone and you'll be able to find true happiness with another. But not any sooner. And remember, hurt people hurt people. Please take time to heal. That nice guy/girl doesn't deserve the backlash of the hurt you are feeling."

u/konoe44

What's a life lesson you wish you learned sooner that you want to share with others? Tell us in the comments.

Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.