I don’t know if it was just me but 2017 dealt a lot of hard lessons. Looking back, what changed my life for the better weren’t the resolutions I made but the lessons I learned well. Here are the big ones.
1. I decided to always be clear about my WHY
This one change defined my 2017 because it helped me become more financially responsible, emotionally mature and mentally stable.
If you read last week’s post, 7 Habits for Good Mental Health, I talked about rethinking what is important. A conversation I had with my partner about careers made me realize that: 1) few things in life actually matter; 2) essentially, we all want to be loved and happy; 3) social media has made us desire approval and admiration like never before and it dictates a lot of what we do, say, buy and feel that it’s easy to forget what is authentically You; and, finally, 4) the approval of very few play a part in bringing true love and happiness in your life–and that includes your approval of yourself.
After that conversation, I found myself asking “why?” before every decision. I asked why before buying (Is it beautiful/useful or do I just want people to know that I own it?). I asked why before posting (Will this bring joy, help others or just project an “image” of my life to others?). I asked why before speaking/acting (Is speaking/acting in this manner called for in this situation? Am I being considerate in the way I speak/act?).
Asking why and answering honestly helped me honor my authentic self.
Making a habit of asking why before making decisions saved me from a lot of choices that would have not contributed to my/others’ growth and happiness.
2. I stopped equating buying stuff with self-care
Self-care means taking care of your mind, heart and body–and no amount of stuff can change what I’m not willing to work on on the inside. I didn’t stop buying things; I just stopped buying with the mindset that it’s going to make me feel better. (It won’t. It will just drain my savings and make me feel twice as shitty after the initial retail rush.)
I buy something if I LOVE it and makes me feel fantastic. Anything less than that, I let go (the same can be said for relationships haha). Instead, I use all my unspent money on peace of mind (savings), self-development, experiences, exercise, healthy food and therapy. Now THAT is self-care.
3. I sulked less and talked more
Oh man, I used to be a sulker. I’ve been there–wanting the other person to just get me or woo me because I was upset. What good did that do? In essence, behavior like that is just me wanting to be proven right (hence I expect the person to just know why I’m upset) or wanting to get away with being wrong by being bitchy (woo me because I’m throwing a tantrum like a child). That is selfishness. No one likes sulkers. NO ONE.
Sulking is a waste of time, energy and mental space.
If you don’t want to talk, don’t. Instead of being all huffy, use the time to figure out why you’re upset and how to explain it. Sulking brings joy to no one and hijacks communication, which can otherwise improve understanding and better your relationships. Plus people will actually enjoy your company.
This is the number one rule I apply to my relationship with my partner. We don’t always agree on things but, because we’ve learned to calmly explain where we are coming from, we walk away from arguments understanding and respecting each other more.
4. I defined progress and success based on my values and realities, not others’
Story time. Over a year ago, I realized that, despite rising above so much hardship, my life was very (if not below) average. I spent almost my entire life digging myself out of a hole only to be on even ground with most of my peers. I was 26, smart, educated, not ugly, well-travelled and employed. I, however, didn’t have savings, investments, any sort of safety net, talents/specializations or a flourishing career. I was just getting by.
Let me be honest and say the literature lover in me, for the longest time, probably dispensed comfort to my brain in the form of “when the struggle is over, you will be extraordinary”–just like many a protagonist. Yet here I was, the worst was over and I was average.
It’s a strange leap to make, but an epiphany came to me after watching La La Land, which (unpopular opinion) I didn’t like very much except for that song at the end about dreamers. Anyway, the epiphany was this: I have been put in danger, forced to raise myself, confronted with one tough decision after another all my life, yet I still came out of it a kind and compassionate person.
If I measure my life based on others’ achievements, I will never be enough.
I am enough.
Measuring myself against my own values and realities made it clear how far I’ve truly come and how hard I fought to get here. This increased my self-esteem and worth. It also made me more forgiving of myself, which, interestingly, made me work harder because I was happier and believed in myself more.
5. I finally took myself seriously
I’ve talked about this in previous posts so I won’t take too long here. If you are reading this, I want you to know that your experiences and feelings are valid, regardless of what other people (especially those you love) may say. If you feel the need to seek professional help or at least just talk/express, do it. You are not wrong for needing that and there is NOTHING to be ashamed of.
I’d been quietly entertaining suicidal thoughts since I was 14 but only decided to seek help last year, at 26 years old. Loved ones used to say I was too cheerful/strong/functional to be mentally ill.
All things can break. I am allowed. You are allowed.
6. Every day is a no zero day
I have lived long enough to know that productivity goals that don’t account for humanity–mood, energy, health, Real Life–are unsustainable, and so I told myself this: just make every day a no zero day. Every day, I have to do at least one small thing towards any of my goals.
Don’t underestimate this mindset. Little things build up and feeling like I achieved something everyday was enough to keep my brain hooked on doing more.
It was worlds away better than days I beat myself over not finishing 3 million things. Low morale equals low productivity.
It’s honestly so satisfying to feel how much my mental health and emotional intelligence have improved in the past year. Just when I thought I’d seen it all!
As we settle into 2018, I hope you embrace change that truly betters your life. Looking forward to hearing from you! And thanks for stopping by 🙂 Happy 2018 again, friends. I have a good feeling about this one!
Thumbnail photo: Own; taken in Bucharest, Romania, 2015
Romania is my favorite European country to travel in. More of my photos from Romania here. : )