Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say that this past year has been one of the toughest of my life.
No real “resolutions” here per se, just bringing the important lessons with me, leaving behind the past, and moving forward with personal growth and self discovery in the upcoming year (and whatever those entail). For once, I’m not going to try and over-analyze it, instead I’ll leave you with some of the main take-aways from 2018 that I’ve come to accept (or am still trying to learn) to segue into the new year.
1. Authenticity > perfection.
Honestly, no one cares if you’re perfect. Perfection is a lie you could spend your whole life chasing and never reaching only to leave yourself tired and disappointed.
“Being our messy, imperfect, authentic selves helps create a space where others feel safe to be themselves, too. Your vulnerability can be a gift to others, how badass is that?” – b.oakman.
2. There’s no rush.
Seriously, where are you trying to go so fast? Personally, it took me some time to realize that getting “There” quickly doesn’t make me any more successful and if I hate the process of the journey, chances are it won’t matter how fast I go cause I likely won’t like the destination either.
Where am I trying to go? Graduation? A job? Family? Retirement? The nursing home? The bottom-line I’ve noticed is that I don’t really know where I’m going (nor do I really mind) so long as I’m happy and I have loved ones around me, and both of these are achievable in the present moment.
It’s okay to take your time. Happiness and life itself are both journeys, not destinations.
I remember my kindergarten-self being incredibly embarrassed when my French teacher called me out for racing through a work sheet – saying loudly “WHERE’S THE FIRE?!”. It has been hard to challenge the beliefs I seem to have held most of my life and to realize that Miley Cyrus might have been right:
“It ain’t about how fast (we) get there. Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side. It’s the climb.”
3. Doing is better than buying, and being is better than doing.
In terms of my relationships with others and celebrating special occasions, I’m happy to have shifted towards things with more intrinsic value this year. I may not have a lot to spend but I do have a lot to give. Showing up, being kind, and being present can be immensely more meaningful than any external gift.
In personal ways, I am starting to embrace the fact that the omnipresent message in our society of “do more, do more, do more” may in fact be harmful. I am historically pressured by the dangerous feeling that I’m not doing enough or “paying my dues” or “pulling my weight” etc. to justify my worth as a person. Largely because of anxiety and my temperament, I’m always eager to keep moving, tackle too much, and consequently burn out. Almost like a shark that can’t stop swimming, I’m really no good at stopping, relaxing and just “being”, which I know is common in our modern, fast-paced meritocracy we live in nowadays.
4. Uncertainty is certain.
I’ve spent so long investing time and energy tying to impose order on my world in attempt to reduce my anxiety when it really does just the opposite. What I’ve been struggling to try and accept is that there is power in uncertainty. There is wonder in not knowing. It’s a scary but powerful place to be, and much like chasing perfection, trying to shape life with cookie cutters of predictability is a futile endeavour. What I have been erroneously doing to try and reassure myself really just creates more anxiety, so embracing unpredictability seems to be the healthier alternative.
“Perhaps this is what this season is all about: Trusting in the unknowns, finding gold in the little things, trading fear of what’s uncertain for freedom to thrive within it” – Morgan Harper Nichols.
5. Connection is important
I’ve always avoided letting people in. I shy away from intimacy, I’m reluctant to trust anyone, and I push people away when they get too close. Thanks to a couple incredibly wonderful, and equally stubborn people in my life, I’ve started to see that in assuming that nothing about myself is worth sharing, I pre-judge myself on others’ behalf and rob them of the opportunity to get to know me before they even get the chance. While it’s uncomfortable as hell to let my walls down, I’m beginning to realize that what I assumed were protective defences in my desire to remain independent really just contribute to a vicious, self-fulfilling cycle of isolation. Much to my chagrin, I have to admit that some of the best parts of my life I currently owe to my few true connections with others. In addition, those relationships that I wouldn’t necessarily have considered “the best” have provided me with equally valuable life lessons.
I know not everyone is going to like me and not every relationship is going to be good for me, but if I don’t try I’ll never know – because you can’t close the door on the bad without simultaneously closing the door to all the good.
6. There are at least 2 types of discomfort – that which promotes growth and that which prevents it.
Healing for me has been trying to find that elusive balance between “patience and giving myself the push I need to grow” – (Yung Pueblo).
Sometimes you have to choose – the pain of growth or the pain of staying where you are.
The difference between pain and suffering involves the necessary radical acceptance of what is and the harmful tendency to hold onto it.
Learning when to push forward and when to ease up on the throttle is a trial and error process, but a necessary one.
7. You won’t regret cutting back on social media.
You just won’t.
8. You were loved equally when you were 30 pounds heavier and when you were 30 pounds lighter. You just couldn’t appreciate it during the latter.
Being thin does not make you more worthy of love. Being sick does not make you more worthy of care. No matter what your mind might tell you to believe. People didn’t care for you more when you were at your lowest, they simply feared for your life.
People can promise all they want that they will accept you at X weight and you can choose to believe it or not (evidence would suggest they’re being honest), but in the end it doesn’t matter, as long as you accept yourself.
Heal the inside first and the outside will fall into place.
9. Meditation is good.
Do more of it. Especially before bed, and when you think you “don’t have time”.
There’s no wrong way to do it.
10. Don’t be too external. The “validation” you seek from others should come from within.
There’s a part you, somewhere buried beneath what society has taught you to think and distinct from the ways you’ve been conditioned to behave. Separate from your destructive habits and your negative emotions, the True You that knows what makes you happy and where you feel at peace – your guiding sense that directs you towards happiness. Listen to it.
Cultivate an environment where you feel safe to express your true self, or to slowly uncover who your true self is. The discovery process might be messy, and it certainly won’t follow a straight trajectory, but all of it is important. Every aspect of your twisty, turnery, topsy-turvy journey is a chance to learn about yourself to bring you closer to home.
Learn to recognize when your behaviours exist primarily in the external world and conflict with your internal sense of self and well-being. The outcome doesn’t really matter as much as it feels like it does because nothing is final. The lessons learned and the process of getting there are the most important.
No amount of self-improvement can make up for any lack of self-acceptance.
11. Do your journaling and therapy exercises.
Even though they might seem silly. There’s no way to know if they’ll help unless you try and although the task of re-defining your brain seems daunting, giving up before you start is a sure-fire way to get nowhere. Your destructive patterns exist beyond who you are (they don’t define you), you’re not trying to re-construct your personality, you’re simply trying to nurture habits that better serve your health and happiness.
In the spirit of good athletes, good students, or good musicians – you won’t get anywhere unless you practice. It’s like regularly training a muscle group so you can use it when you need to – optimal performance requires consistent effort.
12a). Creative pursuits are not a waste of time so blog, read, photograph, write, bake, whatever!.
“Time you enjoy wasting isn’t time wasted.”
Creativity doesn’t have to look a certain way. I can’t paint, sing or dance in the traditional sense (where the product might be deemed socially-desirable) but I can still do all of the above. Sometimes it’s good not to focus on the outcome but rather the chance to freely express of the self. For me I realize that I tend to express myself by organizing the apartment, blogging, taking photos, writing, colouring, or cracking silly puns and these seemingly small things are actually very important.
12b). Baking is fun. Don’t be ashamed about enjoying it!
Life’s too short to deny yourself what makes you happy, especially if it’s covered in icing and full of sweetness.
13. “Strength”, “success”, and “your best” aren’t always going to look the same.
With a temperament like my own, I never considered anything less than perfection to be satisfactorily “my best”. If 100% is attainable, no excuses are acceptable for not getting there. Except many are, and should be. Maybe I wanted to watch tv instead of studying that one extra hour. Yes I could do more (to the detriment of my mental health) but it won’t be constructive.
Not doing it all isn’t a bad thing. Not doing it perfectly isn’t bad. You are no less worthy for choosing to do no work one day than any other. Your productivity doesn’t define you.
You will have ups and downs but things aren’t as black and white as mental illness can make them seem. Some days you have more to give, some days you’re asked to give more than you have, both are okay, both are human.
Not all success feels positive at first. Change is scary.
14. Plan your own birthday party and do not feel selfish for it.
It’s an excuse to get to see your favourite people and plan an event, what could be better?!
15. Go outside as often as you can.
Open the drapes and let the sunlight in. It will help. Truly.
16. Don’t underestimate the power of good music.
It’s a good way to feel your feelings in a controlled way. Plus a distraction and a mood-lifter.
17. You have survived incredibly tough times. You are stronger and smarter than you give yourself credit for.
“But… As bad as it was, I learned something about myself. That I could go through something like that and survive”. – Nicholas Sparks
18. Don’t be afraid to open up – Share more about yourself.
[See #5]. You have a good feeling about the important people in your life. Allow yourself to get close to them. Open up your heart to let them in and show them around a little. Invest in these important relationships.
Our ability to feel things deeply is what makes us human. When we share our story and our struggles we open up the safe space for others to share theirs too. Be the outstretched palm that allows someone to be seen, heard and not so alone today.