My 30s life: why I’ve stopped looking for perfection

Jenni Shaw

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Every week, Flash Pack operations director and resident columnist Jenni Shaw discusses a different aspect of her life as a 30-something Londoner. This week: how and why her priorities have changed, for a more carefree, spontaneous life.

I am the eldest of three sisters and currently the only one of the three of us who has reached that 30’s milestone.  We are all so similar. Having been brought up identically in a super-close family, our morals, values and opinions are more often than not, pretty much aligned.

I have, however, noticed in the past couple of years that there are a few things that we maybe agree slightly less on.

Having thought about this more, I realise that this is mainly down to the fact that my priorities, and perhaps my whole ethos on life, have shifted slightly, and the other two are yet to catch up.

I definitely spent my formative years jollying around like I was in some way invincible, I never really gave a second thought to the future, (always just assuming that there would be one) and whilst I had lots of fun and did some pretty awesome things, there was no sense of urgency about anything; the phrases ‘not yet’ and ‘maybe tomorrow’ were often spoken.

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I don’t want this to sound morbid in any way, I am, after all, only just entering this new and exciting phase of life and have plenty of time ahead to tick off all those bucket list items on the old To Do list.  I just feel like now, I approach things with a more realistic mind set; life is about living and getting the most out of every day and experience.

Why not do it today?  Why ‘not yet’?  I feel like it is a common behaviour in our teenage years and 20’s that we are all waiting to reach this ideal of the perfect life with everything sorted and together before we can then start really living and having the best time.

Well, for those of you who are still waiting, I have some liberating and possibly slightly disappointing news for you: the ideal life DOES NOT EXIST!

There will always be something you are not quite happy with; whether that be your job, your relationship, your weight or your hairstyle. Waiting for all of these things to reach perfection is sadly a fruitless exercise.  How disappointing would it be to reach your 90’s and only realise this then?

A big birthday is often a time for reflection and planning, and I think that 30 can freak some people out as it maybe comes along with more expectations than some of the other big’n’s.

I therefore believe that this is often the catalyst for a slight change in life priorities.  For me, it was the decision that selling my soul to a corporate job with long hours and a distinct lack of appreciation was no longer the dream.

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Don’t get me wrong, it was great at the time and I wouldn’t be where I am now without having done that but the arrival of my 30th birthday made realise that I wanted something else, something more!

Quitting said job, and taking some time out gave me the time and space to re-evaluate what was important to me; friends, family, a job with a purpose, work-life balance and thrilling experiences.

It also made me realise that I was ready to tackle life with a new-found vigour, to start saying yes and to stop waiting for that ‘perfect’ moment.

When I think about this more, I feel like there are some key mindset shifts that have contributed to how I think and live my life…

1. No more pretending

I remember saying to my old boss once, ‘if you described the person you think I am to my Mum, she wouldn’t recognise who you were talking about.’  As I said it, it made me really sad, I realised I was expending so much energy trying to conform to the corporate standards that were being imposed on me and actually, this meant that I was in no way being myself.

Apart from anything else, it was exhausting never being able to give my true opinion for fear of some sort of backlash.

I think we are conditioned to join the rat race, and to see this as success. I always just went along with this but getting slightly older and shifting my priority from impressing other people to actually being happy meant that I was able to actually find something that I love, am passionate about and that offers an environment where I am completely confident in being just me.

2. An appreciation for the here and now

I do think that as we get older, a slow realisation that we are not in fact invincible starts to creep in.

For me, this has just meant that I have started to actively appreciate what I have right now, and I’ve stop trying to look for something more or different.

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I think this has resulted in really enjoying life and getting the most out of every experience, even if that is just having a cup of tea with a friend.

3. Accepting that perfection doesn’t exist

brunch ideas

This is one that I think is almost the most life changing and one that I sometimes have to ‘check’ myself on but, when I remember, it really makes everything just so much easier.  I was chatting to my youngest sister the other day and we were saying how we literally walk around admiring everyone else’s hair/clothes/make-up/boyfriend and think that they are perfect and have it all.

I think its always important to remember that on the face of it, people can appear to have everything but usually, there are things going on beneath the surface that mean their life is most definitely not perfect.

Reminding yourself of this and then taking stock of your own situation can really take off that self-imposed pressure to be perfect. And ultimately, this makes life that little bit easier and more relaxed.

4. Just saying yes

In the past, I would always have thought twice about saying yes to things as I would have had a million silly worries; will I be any good at what we are going to do? Will the people like me?  Will I be ‘fun’ enough?  I am sure that this is how everyone feels when invited to do something, and I definitely would have said no to things when I was younger because of these worries.

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Having grown up a bit, I realise that these fears are a bit ridiculous, if you are doing something with friends then there will be no judgement, if you are meeting new people you will probably get on with most of them. Also, you can’t win them all and if someone thinks that you aren’t ‘fun’ enough then that is probably their problem, rather than yours.

Knowing this, makes it so much easier to just say yes and to truly enjoy yourself.

5. Not caring about what other people think

I think this one stems from the fact that I am inherently a bit selfish and lazy and I was getting bored of worrying about what other people think and that it is really not important.

I am not saying that you should just run riot and do whatever you want without any thought for others, I just mean that if I want to wear a bright pink jumper then I will do without caring if people think it is too bright/young/disgusting.  Equally, if I want to go to bed at 9pm, I am not worried about doing so and about people knowing, it is my decision and it really doesn’t matter what other people think about it.

The result of these small mindset shifts have been nothing but positive.  I didn’t actively decide to switch up my ways of thinking and living, it was a natural, organic thing that has just happened over the last couple of years.  It has meant that I am most definitely all about living for today, seizing opportunities and forging a life for myself that won’t bring regrets later down the line.

Now I just need to wait for the sisters to catch me up and before we know it, I’m sure we’ll be doing something crazy like jumping out of a plane or scaling Mount Everest.

Images: Jenni Shaw and Shutterstock

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