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End of The Year Food For Thought life Self Love and Personal Growth

2021 lessons

In 2021, I celebrated my 2020 wins. I really graduated from college. I really gave birth. I really moved states, back into my childhood home. I really started a new phase of my life.

I spent 2021 raising a newborn for the first time. In 2021, I recovered from childbirth and surgery. I can admit now that I went in and out of postpartum depression. I watched my baby grow and celebrated her first birthday. I started working again for the first time in a year, going back to a company I was working for for years. I then quit said company months later. Then, I started a new full time position elsewhere and was recently told that I am getting promoted. I was hesitant about getting vaccinated, then got vaccinated, then helped out with covid vaccination clinics. I recently got my booster shot. I saw movies in the theater for the first time in a year. I saw family and friends for the first time in (a) year(s).

2021, like every year, had its own ups and downs. I managed to meet some of the goals I set and that is worth celebrating. Every year, I have takeaways. In the last days and beginning of the year, I always reflect. These are the lessons I learned or relearned in 2021.

Be flexible

It’s beneficial to have a plan but some things happen out of the blue, regardless of prior planning. It’s just as important to be able to adjust to what life brings as it is to stick to your plans. Also, some deadlines or goals are unrealistic from the start. Sometimes we need more time. Sometimes a goal that was once achievable suddenly won’t be because of new information or life events. Release tight control on how you want things to go. Sometimes those unplanned moments can lead to something bigger and better.

Be realistic

You can do almost anything you set your mind to. Go after what you want. But also, figure out if what you want is realistic for your life. Make sure your desires are workable and not a fantasy. If they are out of reach, make adjustments to make it realistic if it is actually what you are willing to work for. Please note: it is easier to stick to a goal when you are specific, hold yourself accountable daily, and qualify it. In a way, this goes hand in hand with being flexible. It wasn’t until halfway through the year that I realized some of my goals weren’t realistic. Some of this was due to my recovery from surgery, or because of covid and my desire to be extra careful for my daughter, or because of work, or because I simply didn’t want it anymore. Coming to terms with the fact that not all of our goals are realistic is a part of life. It can actually encourage our growth and steer us in the direction of something that is actually attainable.

To do lists are helpful

Writing things down not only can remind you a task needs completing. For me, it seals the desire to do it. It’s a tangible list of what my plans are. Whether it is for a day, a week, a month, to do lists help me manage my time and encourage me to complete what I have in mind. Crossing of an item, no matter how simple, releases some serotonin.

The US is systematically flawed

If you know you know. If you don’t, I won’t be the person to convince you otherwise.

Parenting is a whirlwind

Parenting is different than I thought it would be-not in a bad way. I’ve talked about motherhood in different posts. My biggest takeaway so far is that there is no right way to parent. And as parents, no matter how much we research, we make it all up as we go along. Parenting is a different type of unconditional love. Parenting provides a new perspective for everything.

Forgiveness doesn’t have to lead to anything more

Forgiving a person for harming you is not even necessary or realistic all of the time. I believe you can heal and move on without forgiveness. Maybe one day I’ll feel differently. That being said, you can also forgive someone for what they’ve done to you, without rebuilding or reconnecting with them. People can apologize and you can accept it, but it doesn’t change what has happened. Trust doesn’t automatically restore forgiveness. You can forgive and still be done with them. I did.

All relationships take mutual effort

Relationships are give and take. And when a problem arises, it is not up to only one person to fix it, no matter who is at fault. The effort may not always be equal because our lives demand different things. However, both people should be trying to some extent.

Every relationship is different

I mention this in a separate post too. It touches on the fact that we can know the same people, but have a different view or relationship with them than the with another person, and that is okay. It also means someone being kind to you doesn’t mean they aren’t horrible to someone else.

Meet people where they are

People are who they are. Sometimes they change. Sometimes they don’t. We can’t rely on who we want them to be. We can’t rely on who we think they will be. They are who they are. If we want more out of them, it is up to us to confront them. If they don’t change, it is up to us to accept them and the relationship for what it is, or to move on. We can only control ourselves.

Balance is hard

Being a full time parent and a full time employee has taught me that balance is hard and time moves fast. It’s difficult to find the balance between commuting and working, spending time with my kid and my family, making time for friends, making time for myself and my hobbies, eating, exercising, cleaning, and relaxing. Balance is important. It is also hard. I hope to get a better handle on it in 2022.

Not everything is an excuse

Balancing is hard. Time moves quickly when there is a lot going on. Someone saying they don’t have time is not always an “excuse.” Just because you “have time” or “make the time” doesn’t mean someone else has to as well. I’ve always hated the word excuse anyways, because the word excuse is subjective in nature. A reason to me can be an excuse to you and vice versa. The difference between a reason and an excuse, in a broad sense, is someone validating whether it is a good or bad reason. When it solely involves ourselves, we are the only ones who can truly decide, if our justification is a reason or an excuse.

Overworking (grinding) is not always good

Please rest. Please plan to take a break and to sleep and reset if you can. It’s important. There are health benefits.

People project a lot

I’m pretty sure I mentioned this in last year’s end of the year post too, but people project more than I thought. A singular sentence can be thrown out there and people will come up with different conclusions because they are projecting their life experience on it. Please note: some of those experiences are rooted in objective truths- because of things like racism and misogyny and how that impacts every system put into place. Sometimes though, their projection has no merit in the reality because everyone lives different lives. I don’t have to put up with something just because you do and vice versa. You don’t have to approve of some else’s life choices for them to live the life they do. Not referring to politics or laws, not everyone will feel the same way about topics that you do, and it is unfair to project your values and thoughts on to them.

Mindset affects reality

I kind of hate this saying, but it’s true. Your thoughts can shape your reality. Life is hard and it can be hard to control your thoughts. Intrusive thoughts exist. However being negative all the time, even if the situation is negative, will make things worse. This isn’t to say you should always see the brighter side of things either. But again, balance and moderation is important.

Be intentional with your time

Even if what you’re trying to do is waste time, that is still intentional. Life speeds by and you never know what’s going to happen and when. It was a 2021 goal of mine and it led to me being more present.

There is nuance to everything

Most subjects are multidimensional. There are layers to things and in order to have a full understanding, you have to acknowledge and understand each layer. The easiest way for me to explain this would be to compare it to intersectionality. As women, life is different than men’s. But as a black woman, it’s really different than a man’s experience. Different factors influence people’s choices and realities. That’s why some situations may not always be as it is seen on the surface.

2022 is here!

2021 went by so fast; it didn’t even feel like holiday season. 2022 has started and it has already been interesting to say the least. Here’s to hoping that this year will be an improvement from the last. Here’s to the future!

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Self Love and Personal Growth

Self-Discovery & Self-Love

If you haven’t noticed by now, I blog about my fears and insecurities. I feel like these aren’t normalized enough in our society. Most of us agree that no one’s perfect. Most people know everyone has at least one thing that they’re scared of; and at least one thing that they’d change about themselves. But when it comes down to openly sharing, few do. Internet access and social media have their negative effects, but I also feel like people don’t give it enough credit. Yes, people show off their seemingly wonderful lives, that from the outside looking in, appear to be perfect. But don’t forget when people are willing to share, large social media platforms can remind people they aren’t alone in feeling a certain way, or experiencing something that they thought no one would understand. Our fears and insecurities are closely tied to our mental health and by explaining and normalizing these ideas there is a possibility we can have a better understanding of mental health.

People underestimate the power of mental health. Any sort of nondestructive release of our pent-up emotions is beneficial. Mental health is stigmatized in such a way that some people are scared to admit when their mind seems to be working against them. You can’t move passed any mental health blocks without addressing your problems. Once you know the issues are there, finding ways to compensate and cope are the only ways to keep you sane. I share some of my fears and insecurities, because I know others can relate, have related, or will relate to them. No one should ever feel alone, especially when it comes to their deep or personal thoughts and feelings. My hope is that what I have to say will spark some motivation, hope, courage, self-love, and the like within yourself. So first I will talk about something I noticed within myself, and how it pushed me to enter a self-discovery and self-love journey, and then I’ll go over some tips to help guide you on your own journey.

Ever since I can remember, I have hated being alone. I didn’t want to stay home by myself. I rarely went out anyplace I wasn’t planning on meeting up with someone else, not even to the grocery store. I was a “pact” person. No matter if I was at summer camp, school, or volunteering, I always needed to have a friend there with me. And if I didn’t start with a friend, I would have made one by the end of the week. Within the last year or two, I realized that I had this subconscious, underlying fear of being alone. It wasn’t until recently that I recognized that I didn’t like to be alone because I wasn’t comfortable or content with myself. I didn’t know who I was without the people in my life. I was using the relationships to make me whole, without knowing that was what I was doing. I let the people around me dictate who I was. This is not to say that those relationships weren’t genuine; I’m blessed enough to have had, both in my past and present, influential and caring people. However, a lesson I learned was that, by always being herded with others and always needing someone to lean on, it meant that I would be lost when they flocked. I didn’t love or believe in myself enough to think or trust that I could stand on my own. I was wrong. If you feel this way, I guarantee that you’re wrong too.

Self-love was something that I saw being preached on my social media timelines, but I never really grasped. I saw things like, “do it because it’s fun,” “love yourself,” “learn to say no,” along with seeing people who were just so confident and sure of themselves. Nothing anyone said could phase them. Though I agreed with the messages, I couldn’t figure out how they applied to my life. I can’t explain how, I don’t know if it has to do with the challenges of the last six months, but suddenly the light clicked on and every inspirational, “cliche” self-love quote that I read, started to really resonate with me. It’s a lot like when you’re in love and all the songs start making sense, you know? I became self-aware of my past and present actions, how they were similar, and how they made me who I am. I took note of how I handled situations and why I did things the way that I did. Compliments given to me by others I finally began to see within in myself. There’s nothing like a hardship to push your limits and test you to see how much you can handle. “You learn a lot about yourself through your struggles,” is now a phrase that I completely understand and agree with. Knowing who you are as a person, without materialistic things or other people to define you, is something that seems obvious and self-explanatory, but it isn’t.  It’s something a lot of people haven’t figure out yet. Trust me.

To be honest, self-discovery and self-love wasn’t something I thought too much about until recently. Yet, I spent so much time wondering why I wasn’t growing, why I was so insecure and unsure of myself, and waiting for it all to change. This process starts with your mindset and your actions. If you’re interested in going through a self-discovery and self-love journey, I want to help with ten tips.

Tip One: Become Self-Aware. Figure Out Who You Are.

Don’t get the wrong idea. It’s not like I sat in a room with a white board, connecting memories and events in my life with red string and used those to draw conclusions about myself. It’s just that once I became self-aware, living life actively instead of being stuck on autopilot, anything I did that was similar to something in my past, I naturally connected. Generally, I now know without hesitation who I am and can acknowledge both my strengths and weaknesses without fixating too much on either. Whether the qualities I found within myself are good or bad will always be subjective, but they are some of the qualities that make me who I am, and I love all of me.

Becoming self-aware is all about asking yourself questions. It is going the extra step and explaining to yourself why you do one thing over another. It’s knowing what you like and what you don’t like and the reasoning behind it. Knowing you don’t like baseball means something different when you realize you don’t like baseball because it means investing a lot of time in something that’s not fast paced. Knowing you don’t like lemons is different than knowing you don’t like most citrus fruit. Knowing people come to you for advice is different than understanding that you’re supportive and a good listener. I’m not saying you have to look at everything that in depth, but if you never question who you are, how do you expect to know yourself? How do you expect to grow?

Tip Two: Be Unapologetically Yourself.

We’ve sort of been taught not to compliment ourselves nor put ourselves down. If I call myself beautiful, I run the risk of someone telling me I’m conceited. If I say I’m opinionated, I run the risk of someone telling me I’m too difficult. Don’t let others dictate how you feel about yourself because people will always have something to say. In people’s minds, there are qualities seen as positive and those seen as negative. But some things are just so. Being unapologetically yourself means thinking something along the lines of I am who I am. I love who I am. If one day I look in the mirror and decide I don’t like what I see anymore, I’ll change and adapt accordingly.

I’m not one hundred percent here yet, but my goal is to be so sure of myself that there is no room for doubt, no matter what anyone says. I’m working towards being so confident that I don’t feel the need to explain myself to anyone but myself because I know my truth. I won’t feel the need to convince anyone how amazing I am, because I know how amazing I am. It won’t matter how other people feel about me, because I know my own worth and making them see it, is no longer a concern of mine. Some people may think this is self-absorbing but the truth is, it’s freeing. I strive to be this free. I feel closer everyday.

Side-note: Don’t use this tip as an excuse to continue behavior you know harms yourself or others whether emotionally, physically, or mentally. A part of self love is self-reflection which gives you the space to acknowledge your own toxic tendencies. Take advantage of this self-reflection and strive to do and be better, whatever that means to you.

Tip Three: Acknowledge Your Emotions- the Good and the Bad.

There’s this misconception that “negative” emotions like anger, jealousy, and sadness should be covered up. But ignoring them doesn’t make them go away. If anything, they’ll build up until you’re overwhelmed. This build-up of emotions is essentially a build-up of pressure and eventually it will lead you to explode. During this outburst you may say or do things you wouldn’t have done if you were in a better head space to think things through more. I’ve seen people speak out of outrage or pour their hearts out just to regret everything they’ve said. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t communicate with others on how you feel. However, you should have an understanding of what you feel and why instead of blurting it all out before you’ve even confronted it yourself. Self-awareness, communication and adaptive coping mechanisms can help you deal with the way you feel.

Tip Four: Vent. Learn to Cope.

You don’t even have to vent to another person. Writing it all down helps too. Anyway you can get the words and thoughts somewhere other than your brain is the goal. Don’t keep it all in your head; you can’t cope that way, especially if your mindset and thoughts are what are hurting you. It’s important to get to the root of how you’re feeling. Venting can help you achieve this. Letting in another perspective, getting advice, hearing yourself say it out loud, and just getting the words out is beneficial in the long run. It may not be a fix, but it sure is a release. It also makes others aware of what’s going. If you want to talk but don’t want people around you to know just yet, you can also text the Crisis Text Hotline at 741-741. Along with venting, find a way to cope that works for you that’s not destructive. Leaning on your hobbies and past times is a good place to start. It’s trial and error to find a way to cope that works for you, but it’s worth it in the end.

Tip Five: Drop or Compensate for Your Stressors.

Leaving the job you hate and cutting people off isn’t ruthless. Don’t let anyone or anything guilt you into staying when you know there is no benefit and all it’s doing is stressing you out. Leaving my job was probably the best decision I made last semester and three weeks later I was offered a new one that I appreciated ten times more. Some doors really do open when you close others. Cutting ties and limiting conversations in relationships that weren’t going anywhere, that ultimately stressed more than benefited me, took so much weight off my shoulders. I didn’t realize how much they weighed me down in the first place. Not all your stressors can be dropped though; this is compensated through making time for yourself and the things you love. For example, things like classes can be out of your control, but you can compensate with that by spending time with friends, taking a hot bath, or using other healthy coping mechanisms. Unfortunately, a stress-free life is unrealistic and not everything can be changed, but balancing stress with fun or relaxation can make the stressors of life more manageable.

Tip Six: Do What You Want. Don’t Do What You Don’t.

Do what you gotta do that will make you happy, if it won’t harm anyone else or yourself. I know some activities you have to do even if you don’t want to, like working or studying, but these aren’t the types of things I’m referring to. I mean all the other activities, hobbies and events that aren’t necessary but you have piled onto your plate. For example, I joined a sorority because I wanted to. Though I wasn’t present this semester, (and was shaky on my presence spring semester for various reasons), I’ve met some amazing people who do incredible things, all while raising money for great causes. I still believe that by the time I graduate, this decision will have benefited me. It already has. I honestly doubt I would be writing this if I hadn’t joined. On the flip side, a huge chunk of my stress was from taking on too much at once, including little favors that I knew I didn’t have time for or I didn’t even want to do. Please know that generally people who get mad at you for saying no don’t respect you. Yes, it is important to be there for others, but you shouldn’t have to constantly put them above yourself, especially if they don’t do the same in return. Also, you don’t always have to justify why you do things and don’t do others. Sometimes, “I don’t want to,” or, “I want to,” are the only reasons. Don’t feel guilty for choosing yourself.

Tip Seven: Make Time for Yourself. Do the Things you Love.

Choose yourself! Treat Yo’ Self. Take a Nap. Take a Bath. Listen to music. Read a Book. Cry. Exercise. Draw. Whatever it is that you do that helps you decompress, make time for it. I know it can be hard with the constant demands of life, but even twenty minutes a week for yourself to unwind can help you feel refreshed. You are more than your responsibilities. Just as neglecting your relationships can damage them, neglecting yourself can ruin your mindset.

Tip Eight: Surround Yourself with Good People.

Humans are social by nature. Even people who claim they generally hate people have exceptions to that. Who you surround yourself with influences who you are. We subconsciously pick up on our family’s and friend’s phrases and mannerisms. Can you picture how the people in your life have affected your mindset? Did you realize that they had? When we surround ourselves with people who strive for greatness, we are more likely to be determined to do the same. Likewise, being surrounded with positive people has the potential to make you more positive, just as surrounding yourself with negative people can make you more negative. Not only that, but it’s important to have supportive people in your life who you can lean on and can remind you how great you are.  Make sure the people in your life make you feel better about yourself, not worse. Make sure that they’ll call you on your bullshit but still support most of your decisions. A good person will lift you up when you’re feeling down and encourage you to be a better you without the intention of changing you to fit their mold. Don’t mistake your wants and dreams for those around you.

Tip Nine: Take Control of Your Life. Take Accountability.

I wrote a post about this one because it’s the one I have seen the most neglected. A lot of people go through life thinking everything happens to them. This ideology can be broken down into internal locus of control and external locus of control. If you have an internal locus of control, you believe you internally have some control over yourself, environments and situations. If you have external locus of control, you believe the external world controls and acts on you, with you having no say. In psychiatry, individuals who have an external locuses of control, have more mental and physical health problems. An external locus of control includes thinking you’re unlucky, putting the blame on others, blaming the circumstances, and neglecting your own role in the situations you are in. Clearly, there are aspects of life you can’t control. You don’t choose where you were born or the financial situation you enter into. Sometimes you’re on the wrong end of bias and sometimes you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Regardless, you’re the driver not the passenger.

Take accountability. Recognize when you’ve made a mistake or negatively impacted someone’s life. Own up to your final decisions. Own up to your fears and your worries, but don’t fixate. Worries and fears are just an obstacle, not a barrier. Sometimes you have to take to a couple steps back to see the bigger picture and help yourself move forward. Own up to your accomplishments. So many people I know do great things and forget to pat themselves on the back. They forget to look at how far they’ve come. They forget all the work they pushed through to get where they are. Invest in yourself and the direction you’re going. Reinvest if it no longer interests you. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you have to go down a certain path or be a certain person. You’re not stuck. Not every single life decision you make has to make sense for your future. You may think it does but that’s something society or the way you were raised has tricked you into thinking because we are so future oriented. For example, I’m going to college because of the supposed weight a degree carries for future employment, not because I love taking classes, but I still recognize that I can have fun along the way and make the best of the situation. I can get a tattoo because I want it, splurge on concert tickets, and join some school organizations although they may ultimately have no obvious impact on my future. If you want to wait for things to happen, that’s cool, but you will be waiting much longer than if you grab hold of the reigns and determine your own direction.

Tip Ten: Perfection Doesn’t Exist. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others.

You’re never going to be 100 % perfect. Once you stop striving for perfection I guarantee life will get easier. Perfection doesn’t even exist; it’s entirely subjective. Plus, the way people are, nothing will ever be enough. I bet if you reached your version of perfect you would still find something wrong. We’re harsher on ourselves than on other people, which is why learning to compliment ourselves can go such a long way. That being said, stop comparing yourself to others in a way that damages your own self esteem. Though we are innately similar, our experiences, genes, beliefs, and all affect the way we look, think, and cope. Some people can handle things that you can’t. Some people have better opportunities. Some people are prettier. That doesn’t make you any less of a person. That doesn’t make you any less worthy. You’ll get where you want to go as long as you’re putting in the effort. Looking around to see what everyone else is doing won’t help you get there.

Something to Remember…

A bad day or bad moment doesn’t mean you’re off track. You will probably slip up, go through a period of self-doubt, compare yourself, or not make time for yourself. That’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up over it. What matters is that you’re trying and you’ll veer yourself back towards the path once you are ready.  Actively noticing you’ve gone back to an old habit you’re trying to kick means you’re on the right track. This goes back to being self-aware. Acknowledge your harmful and helpful actions. Remember, at first changing your actions and thought processes must be active decisions. You can’t will to change something or feel differently without taking the initiative to change it. This may mean stopping yourself after a negative, intrusive thought and correcting it. It might mean dropping a class, changing a major. Maybe you go out this weekend or make time for yourself to relax. Perhaps you start a journal. Whatever it is, you have to start and keep with it for it to turn into a habit.

In the words of J. Cole, “Love yourself…or nobody will.” Everyone’s guilty in looking for validation in other people, but flexing for others should not be the only or majority of the time you feel validated. Work towards being more than enough for yourself because hypothetically, as cliché as it sounds, you really only have yourself. You are the only one in your head. You are the only one experiencing your life and interpreting it the way that you are. People come and go. They say and do hurtful things. They have their own lives. If you aren’t content with yourself, it’s easier to take what people say to heart. It’s human nature to only focus on the negative and suddenly you find yourself believing you’re the worst when the reality is you’ve gone underappreciated. Don’t allow anyone to take control of you or your confidence because that means they can also take it away from you. Self-love is about getting out of your own way, getting out of your own head. It’s knowing you aren’t perfect and you’ll never be perfect, but still being content. It’s acknowledging your self-destructive behavior and working towards bettering yourself. It’s holding yourself accountable for the good and the bad. It’s knowing your worth and what you deserve and not settling for anything less.