ifIknew is a health initiative for young adults that uses a multi media approach, including social media and in person programs, to address the contemporary issues that impact the well-being, self-image, careers, and relationships of people in their 20's and 30's.

If I Knew is a prevention education project that raises awareness about risky behaviors that can profoundly impact lives.

Filtering by Tag: self esteem

No one has their life totally together in their 20s - even if their Instagram tells you differently.

Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to have everything together in our 20s? Where does that pressure come from and why do we care so much what other people think? I was talking to my family recently about attending high school reunions and my dad, who graduated high school in the 1960s, commented on how he didn't even bother to go to his 5th or 10th year high school reunion; he had noticed at that point in everyone’s lives that people were still trying to impress each other and it wasn't relaxing or fun. He said that the first reunion he wanted to go to was his 20th high school reunion because by then, when most people were older, they were more open to being honest about where they were and what was going on in their lives. Why was that? How come we feel pressure to live up to an idealized version of ourselves in our 20s and 30s? How come we care less when we are older? Is it because we have a lot more exposed vulnerabilities when we’re younger and are still trying to figure out where we want to live, what work we feel moved do in life, and who we want to spend our time with? While speaking with a fellow millennial, Casey, age 25, said, “I believe that we feel more vulnerable in our 20s about sharing where we are in life. We want to look like we have everything together. I even struggle with going back to high school to visit my teachers. I have this completely unrealistic idea of what I want them to see me doing and I am fearful that they will not be proud of me with anything less than that. I know it is ridiculous. It feels like there is so much pressure we put on ourselves that no one else puts on us.” After talking to a few other millennials, I started to wonder if we put pressure on each other partially because of social media.

Tommy, age 23, said, “Social media is like our new makeup. It’s the greatest way to hide pimples, life struggles, and hardships. Instead of showing people what is really going on, we just post cute pictures on Instagram of ourselves on the beach or at a restaurant eating our favorite meal. When I see other people on social media look like they have their life more together than I do, I feel like I have to compete with them.”

The truth is that we are the ones who put the most pressure on ourselves to live up to our own unrealistic expectations. The only thing that ultimately benefits you is being honest with yourself and others about where you are in life. Unrealistic expectations are a distraction from actually experiencing your life. Leave those expectations with your younger self and accept that, while it’s really great if you’re doing something cool, you don’t have to freak out if you aren’t. Cool stuff will happen as time goes on and you don’t need to make stuff up to be the type of person you want to be.

Unhealthy expectations won’t help you succeed

inner_voice_bubbleThere is a little voice inside of us that loves to torture us. And in many cases, there is a part of us that loves being tortured. The voice loves to tell us how badly we’re doing, how other people are better, richer, smarter, thinner. The voice is a punk. The voice will try to convince you that it is ambition talking, that it is trying to make you better so that you can have all you want in life. The voice is lying. Ambition is not feeling perpetually behind. Ambition is not a constant berating of your current status. Ambition makes you feel good, not terrible. Ambition doesn’t want to make you better than others, it makes you want to be a better version of you.

The voice is a trickster. It will tell you that it’s only trying to help, that it wants to see you succeed by making you feel less than. The voice is manipulative because if we are not careful, the voice inside our heads that tells us we are not good enough will start to come out of our mouths. Then the voice will turn on our friends, our children, our partners.

In order to be the happy and healthy versions of ourselves we deserve, we should have ambition. We should strive for excellence and be wary of complacence. We should also give ourselves room to grow, and to falter. The clearest sign of a person with a future of success is not if they never make a misstep, it’s how they handle the constant missteps and how they treat others. The voice doesn’t know that.

Celebrating the Milestones

Ah, remember being in school when you were little and after every school year there was this feeling of accomplishment and freedom? What happened to that feeling? Can we get it back at other significant moments in our lives? It’s worth a shot. Pat yourself on the back. So you did something great! Yay! You got the degree, the job, the house. Or maybe you made your last car payment or ran a marathon. Congrats! You’ve earned a treat.

Don’t expect everyone to be impressed. It’s not you, it’s them. Literally it’s them. Others are going through their own victories and defeats and it can be hard to poke  their head out and notice everyone. If you are feeling neglected, like maybe your loved ones aren’t acknowledging your accomplishments, it’s okay to give them a gentle reminder. The best way to do it? Throw a party. The worst way? Yelling “Pay attention to me!”

Let praise be a motivator and an ego boost, but not nourishment. Praise is great! But it’s not everything. Sometimes it can feel like we get a million high-fives  for an everyday task, when the most grinding accomplishments warrant little attention. It’s frustrating, but that’s just the way of the world. If you’ve just kicked butt at something and you feel like you are hearing crickets chirp when you tell the world, try to brush it off and let your own pride be enough.

When you get the praise, be gracious and graceful (BUT TAKE THE COMPLIMENT!) It’s a tough line to walk between “Thank you so much for the compliment” and “I know, I’m awesome, you don’t need to tell me.” If a friend goes out of their way to acknowledge your accomplishments, make sure you’ve noticed how perceptive they are and return the favor.

Learning to be Alone Makes us Better Partners

We’ve all been there:  basking in the glow of sharing a life, an intimate moment, a new experience. The googly eyes we get when someone has left us enchanted is all a part of what makes us human. Meeting someone new, or a change in a trusted relationship (like engagement, cohabitation, or marriage) can lead us to slip into what’s commonly referred to as “the honeymoon phase”.  But then in time something else happens. Suddenly the house, the apartment, the bed (heck, even the city) feel small. The charming nuggets about your partner can now feel like intolerable ticks. Being alone isn’t always easy, but neither is being with someone. The expression “the grass is always greener” was invented specifically for this type of conundrum. We want a partner, but we don’t want to lose ourselves in the process of finding a special someone. How can we adapt?

Maintaining some semblance of life separate from your partner may help. A social group, a class, a job, or a hobby that your mate could really care less about may not be a bad thing. If kids are in the picture, that may mean that a biweekly book club without your partner is not in the cards, and that’s okay. Start small. It can be helpful to have different tastes in books and movies and if possible allowing a little private time for yourself to enjoy your romcoms (romantic comedies)or war novels without the love of your life looking over your shoulder.

If you are wracking your brain to think of the last time you’ve been alone for a night, a meal, or even a few hours, it may be time to devote a little time to the other person in your relationship: you. An activity meant just for yourself will not automatically lead to separate bedrooms, so don’t hesitate to tell your partner if you need some time for yourself. The happier you are, the happier they are. Besides, of course you should hang out with yourself; who wouldn’t want to hang out with you?

Beating the Stigma of Being the “Odd One Out”

Can we be frank? Young adulthood can suck. It can be wonderful and perhaps the best years of our life, but that doesn’t make them easy. This is the age we can so easily be trapped between the rules of childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood. It’s easy to get excited when school is a thing you look back on, but without the safety and structure of the institution of a high school or college, playing by society’s rules can be tricky. We live in a world where statistics play an incredibly important role in assessing our self-image. We hear about them all the time. An article recently hit the media stating that the amount of money a person should be making per year is equal to their age in years, and if you are “good” at what you do, you should make double your age. Is that what we measure ourselves against?

Another recent study says that the average age of marriage continues to rise for young men and women. Another notes the rise in couples who cohabitate before marrying. Again, are we pressured to conform to the “average.”

The problem with these statistics is that it’s incredibly easy to read them and feel out of place.

Perhaps you are unmarried in your mid-twenties, and are feeling like the only single person in your peer group. Perhaps at 27 you are making $25,000 per year.  Perhaps you and your spouse did not live together before tying the knot. Statistics are meant to help us better understand our society, and the needs and characteristics of the people in it. But when you pin down an “average,” statistics do a funny thing: they make anyone outside that small bubble feel like an outsider, and anyone inside the bubble feel ordinary.

So how do we go about our lives and think of statistics as what they were intended to be? It starts with the way we view others. Freeing ourselves from negative judgment when encountering peers who don’t fit into a box designated as “average” helps us connect and be more considerate. If most of your friends don’t have kids, but a close friend is a new mom, consider her feelings before planning a last-minute trip for all your friends.  If you’re getting married as a friend is divorcing, recognize the challenges he may face at your wedding. The kindnesses will be remembered when you are the odd one out.

Perhaps when that newly divorced friend makes twice as much money as his age, he’ll pick up the next dinner check.

30 things you should (or shouldn’t) do before you turn 30. They’re not what you think.


  1. Don’t shower every day, but do shower frequently.
  2. Take charge of your finances, but in a way that works for you and your income and needs. Listen to an expert, but only one who that knows your current financial situation.
  3. Eat a vegetable, for heavens sake.
  4. Try not to listen too much to people who think they know exactly how much you should sleep. Some people need 6 hours a night, some need 9 -- listen to yourself.
  5. Take a stand for something, and do it with energy, fervor, and kindness.
  6. Visit a dentist regularly
  7. Watch the movies you loved as a child and decide which ones hold up, which are silly, and which are oddly creepy.
  8. Go to a concert and listen to the whole show, sober.
  9. Talk to your parents about their childhoods. Ask the questions you’ve always wanted to.
  10. If you are single and a kind person, truly kind, and someone that you are not attracted to asks you on a date, just go and enjoy yourself.
  11. Vote in non-presidential elections.
  12. Take a class totally separate from school or work.
  13. Find the kind of exercise you like: dance, volleyball, yoga, running.  And do it.
  14. Have a quiet birthday.
  15. Do something grand for your parents.
  16. Do something wildly outside your comfort zone: rock-climb, eat a snake’s heart, ask for a raise, perform at an open mic.
  17. Read a book you never thought you’d like, cover to cover. Love novels? Try historical non-fiction. Love war stories? Try a beach book. Can’t get enough biographies? Dig into a YA saga.
  18. Put effort into your friendships. Just like romantic relationships, they can take work.
  19. Ask yourself what kind of person you want to be. Write down your answer.
  20. Expand your definition of love.
  21. Try to fix a mistake you’ve made, big or small. Know that it might not work.
  22. Ask for the kind of sex you want.
  23. Lecture a teenager, but do it kindly.
  24. Befriend someone at least a decade older.
  25. Re-examine your table manners.
  26. Decide for yourself whether buying a house is a good idea. If it is, start asking banks and realtors questions. If it isn’t, don’t listen to the pressure of your peers.
  27. Changing careers, getting married, having children, etc. are all amazing,  and individual experiences. No one person has all of the answers. Accept a myriad of advice.
  28. Put someone else first in a difficult situation.
  29. Choose someone you admire. Try everything (within reason and legal limitations) to have lunch with that person. Buy the lunch.
  30. Dance like no one is watching. Just kidding. Everyone’s watching, silly.


Dr. King and Big Ideas

What makes some men and women legends? Why do certain people rise from the crowd and create (or inspire) movements? One theory is that, at its core, it’s about big ideas. All of us have them: something that stirs you awake at night, a thought that distracts you from a conversation, something that compels you to call a trusted friend or family member because you just thought of something amazing. Why do so few of us follow through with these epiphanies? “Big Ideas” are what legends have in common. Those, and an extra ingredient: follow-through. Inventors, scientists, philosophers, musicians, athletes, politicians. They may not all be geniuses, but there is something in them that makes them believe that they can, and will make a difference. The thoughts that stir them are not only valid, but they may be revolutionary.

Perhaps one of the many lessons we can take this year from Dr. King, as we reflect on his tragically short life, is to have faith in ourselves. The next Big Idea we have could be the one that changes everything. Going back to school, a change in career, a new relationship, a new invention, a “dream deferred.” These may not be Big Ideas for the world, but they could be for you. We could all stand to follow Dr. King’s example in countless ways, but maybe a good way to start is to acknowledge the little voice in the back of your head urging you to go forth and DO SOMETHING.   Maybe this time we’ll all say, Today I will.

Bullies at work

If you thought bullying stopped in high school, think again.  If you haven’t already experienced bullying in the workplace or in a relationship, you most likely will at some time.  Bullies don’t automatically outgrow their patterns of behavior.  It’s easy to laugh at the television show The Office or the movies Horrible Bosses and Office Space as extreme cases.  But bullying does exist at work, and more often than not it happens when no one is watching.  The difference between a boss who is having a bad day and one who is a bully is that a bully repeats the behavior.  This can include yelling insults, gossip, taking credit or sabotage. Here are Dr. Michelle Callahan’s top ten suggestions on dealing with workplace bullies:

1. Don't get emotional.

2. Don't blame yourself.

3. Do your best work.

4. Build a support network.

5. Document everything.

6. Seek help.

7. Get counseling.

8. Stay healthy.

9. Educate yourself.

10. Don't expect to change the bully.

No matter how old you are or whether it is in social circles, relationships, at school or at work, you don’t have to put up with being bullied.