Before diving into a long-term relationship or contemplating marriage, every girl must take a few hits. She must fall down a few times and learn life’s lessons the hard way. It goes without saying that a little bit of grace goes a long way and I’m confident every girl has the power to land on her feet every single time. The bottom line is that love can be tricky and it’s important to know what you could be getting yourself into before you start. Learning about yourself and embracing who you are is essential to building a future you’ll be happy with.

Making big life decisions can be tough as it is, so we simplified the task by coming up with these important lessons to learn about yourself along the way.

1. Know yourself first 

To forgo sounding like a broken record, I’ll skip over the whole “love yourself first” speech and simply say this: Know what you want out of life. Do you want a big career in the city? To live in the most glamourous penthouse possible? Do you want the space of the suburbs? A family? Or do you want it all, the career and a family? Outline your own dreams, your own passions, and always come back to them in every facet. You’ll be most happy when you come to realize that many of these dreams will be your reality someday. When it comes time to settle down, your man will want to know these things about you too. Learn to squeeze every little thing you can out of life.

2. Make best girlfriends

Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte proved to women everywhere that the relationships we have with our girlfriends are some of the most important relationships we will ever make. When Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome stands you up, these are the girls who let you cry on their shoulders. They spoon-feed you Ben and Jerry’s and point out all the horrible flaws you failed to realize the first time. Whether they are your sorority sisters, best friends from high school, or coworkers, steal quick coffee breaks to gossip about who’s sleeping with who and dedicate yourself to these ladies for life, They were there for you first.

3. Learn to laugh out loud

Don’t take things too seriously, including yourself. So what if you spilled your burning hot mocha frappuccino down the front of your favorite white t-shirt on the way to work this morning. Find the humor in as many situations as possible and make it a point to smile every day. You’d be amazed by how much happier and stress-free you will feel when you let go and don’t sweat the small stuff.

4. Let him chase you

Don’t be that girl waiting by the phone all night. We all pitied Ginnifer Goodwin in He’s Just Not That Into You and swore we would never, ever analyze every single detail like she did. Keep that promise to yourself because it’s those times when you aren’t even looking that something perfect seems to come along. When it does, don’t chase after him. If he really likes you he’ll call, he’ll ask you out, he’ll do everything in his power to make you his and it will seem all the more romantic to you. Put down the phone, stop texting every guy on your contact list, and enjoy the mystery of it all.

5. Define and redefine sexy

My own personal motto is look good, feel good. Vivienne Westwood defines sexy as “looking powerful and important.” I couldn’t agree more. Find what makes you feel sexy. It might be the LBD you bought back in college that still fits like a glove, the new stilettos you just bought, styling your hair a certain way, or a pair of slouchy weekend jeans. Feeling sexy has nothing to do with looking easy. It’s all about empowerment. Try defining the term for yourself and take your self-confidence to a whole new level.

6. Know your deal breakers

Take it from the 6 marry murderesses of death row, if you can’t stand it when a man pops his gum, you’re never going to get over it. Even if he seems perfect in every other way except one minor– err, major– flaw you have to know when to move on. If it’s something you think you can get over eventually when the right man comes along make sure the two of you can come to an agreement. Relationships are about balance and compromise and being happy with one another.

7. Know how to support yourself financially

Silently hum Kanye West’s Gold Digger to yourself for 30 seconds and then snap back into reality. While I don’t think any of us would complain if the man we fell in love with was secretly a millionaire, we owe it to ourselves to have the means to take care of ourselves. Whether you’re a personal chef or a top executive, make it a point to have an education and a career. Glance back at the ladies from Sex and the City once more and take note that all of them were successful in their field of choice. I’m not saying I fully understand how Carrie managed to afford Manolo Blahniks on a freelance writer’s paycheck but the point is she did.

8. Choose you

This is easily my most important piece of advice. Always, always, always put you and your own happiness first.

What piece of advice always resonates with you?