Happy Wicked Wednesday!
It’s been a while, but I’m back to tell you the break I’ve taken has been necessary. I’ve been learning some very important lessons. I’m here to share them with you.
Do you ever just get so caught up in your day-to-day responsibilities that you forget about the big picture? Do you always feel a baseline stress, this feeling of I’m-not-doing-my-best-but-I’m-unsure-how-to-do-my-best? Do you ever question if you’re doing it all wrong—this life thing—and you just wish someone would’ve given you an instruction manual for it?
Congratulations. You’re human.
Make mistakes & forgive yourself
You’re just human, and that’s okay. Say it again to yourself. Now, one more time.
Look, the only way to achieve perfection is to sit back and do nothing your entire life. But, when you do stuff, you make mistakes. When you make mistakes, you (hopefully) learn from them. There is no magic way to avoid this process. So, accept your missteps as necessary steps of your learning process. When you allow yourself to make mistakes (instead of berating yourself for them, instead of basing your actions and inactions on the possibility of them), you give yourself room to grow.
This is something I’ve been trying to do all my life, but I feel like I’m much better at it lately. It’s a topic that’s been actively rather than passively on my mind since I read a self-help book about it. More about that book here and here. If you’ve ever struggled to feel happy and fulfilled in your life, I highly recommend it. At 50ish pages, its message is concise, but that doesn’t make it any less authentic.
It is not shameful to seek help & love yourself
shame: (n) “a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety”
I like that definition of shame; it doesn’t focus on an implied wrongdoing, so it doesn’t imply all shame is justified. In my experience, most times shame comes without warning or warrant. In many forms and for a variety of reasons, not all of them legitimate.
For me, I’ve always felt shame at my shortcomings. They are many, because the expectations I put on myself have always been very high. In the words of Miley, “I always feel like I’m running a little behind.”
When I started struggling with my mental health, I was shy about needing help. I tried, as many do, to “suck it up”. Spoiler alert: That doesn’t work.
A lot of people feel shame at needing or wanting help, especially when it comes to mental health issues. So it makes sense that many people shy away from things like self-help books, articles or blogs about how to be happier and healthier. It’s this gigantic joke. Everyone’s looking themselves in the mirror going, “You have to be perfect because everyone else has got their life together and you don’t.” When, in actuality, everyone is imperfect, everyone is winging it, and everyone makes mistakes.
The difference between happy people and unhappy people is largely a matter of accepting and embracing your imperfect journey, and loving yourself every step of the way. Back when I still didn’t feel ready to blog, I Instagrammed about this:
If someone handed me a microphone, allowing me to speak one sentence to every man, woman, and child in the world, it would be, "Love yourself." All happiness manifests from it. All truth is derived from it. All wisdom is contained within it. I have found my calling, passion, authenticity, and joy in loving myself. I love inward as much as I love outward despite the stigma attached to doing so. Will I be seen as selfish? Is this uncaring to others in my life? Is this only something bitchy women and prude matriarchs do? No. This is the healthiest, kindest thing I have ever done for myself. So, the next time you automatically berate yourself as you would a child, the next time you insult yourself as you would an enemy, the next time you degrade your efforts as you would a failing student, instead STOP. Compliment yourself for something that's unique and beautiful about yourself, remind yourself of the incredible progress you have made and the amazing personal growth you have experienced, and forgive yourself for lessons learned along the way. Dance naked in front of a mirror. Call your parents just to thank them for the gift of life. Text a friend you love them like family. Do something just to make yourself smile, knowing you're the most qualified to do so. There was a time I wanted to die instead of continuing to exist as myself. Now I love myself just as passionately as I could love anyone else. It is my freedom, my refuge, and my strength. I wish this for all of you and everyone. 🙏💞
Step away sometimes
But, you know, I didn’t come to these kinds of conclusions overnight. I didn’t go from too depressed to get out of bed one day to philosophical, fulfilled, and happy person the next. I got to this mental and emotional state by making some very deliberate choices. One of them being taking a break from some things.
I took a break from:
– My blog
– My novel
– A lot of people
Taking a break from those things allowed me to focus on different things.
I focused on:
– My hobbies
– My dreams
– My innermost truth
Find your truth & choose authenticity in everything
This section is the most difficult for me to write, not only because I feel like I’m still in the process of coming into my own truth but also because there is no way I can tell you what your truth is. I can only say it is an intuitive endeavor. You have to trust yourself, and no one else, to know what’s best for your own life. And what makes you feel happiest and most fulfilled is probably different from what makes me feel happiest and most fulfilled. You have to know yourself, and considering we consistently change through reflection and reassessment (see section below), finding your truth is about finding the personality traits and deepest values you are confident will never change. After you find your truth and authenticity, to live by it is to consistently remember and love the things about yourself that will never change. And to never compromise those things for anyone or anything.
It’s hard to know where to start. I can only give you some of the questions I have had to ask myself lately.
It’s probably best to spend some time in silence with those. Maybe free write or meditate on them. If you’re raising your eyebrow at me right now, go look up the scientific benefits of silence, meditation, and journaling. Yes, there have been studies, you skeptic. You don’t have to be a spiritual, religious or “new age” kinda person to try these things. And, honestly, let’s talk about shame again.
Tell the voice of shame to shut up
shame: (n) “a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety”
Judging something without giving it due research or trial is shameful; ie: a feeling caused by impropriety, ie: this thing I am judging seems improper.
Because see, it’s that facet of shame that leads to people simply existing in inauthentic lives. These people follow blindly that little voice that says, “This is improper.” That voice is shame. That voice is cultural normativity. In some cases, that voice is our parents, family, peers, preachers, and teachers. All your life the world will grab you by the hand and tell you, “This is right. This is wrong. This is important. This isn’t.” You have to learn to snatch your hand away and say, “No. I decide those things.”
And, you know what, maybe something isn’t right for you, and that voice is your intuition. But you’ll never know until you move past that pesky little shameful voice, and you start to listen to and speak for yourself.
Reflect on yourself & reassess your life
But how do you listen to and speak for yourself? This isn’t a skill that’s often taught. However, I feel it’s the most important lesson I’ve ever learned.
Well, let’s start with the chronological order of the thing: To speak for yourself, you must first listen to yourself.
reflection: (n) “something that shows the effect, existence, or character of something else” (v) “a thought, idea, or opinion formed or a remark made as a result of meditation; consideration of some subject matter, idea, or purpose”
reassessment: (n) “to perform a reassessment of something is to evaluate it again, or reappraise it, especially if its value has changed or new information has altered your understanding of it”
The best reflections on life are reflections on self. Take a hard look at the very character of yourself and your deepest values. When you’ve had to make a decision on a job or a move or a college, you considered it seriously because it was important to you. Loving yourself is about making yourself as important as anything else in your life. In considering yourself as deeply as you would any important decision, you may come to a conclusion about yourself that was not obvious to you before, a conclusion that ultimately influences all future decisions about your life.
Reassessment is another beast entirely and best done after reflection; maybe during reflection you came to some conclusion about yourself that led you to desire a reassessment of your life. Why wouldn’t you reassess your life, when to be a human in this time is to be constantly bombarded with new information? Reassessment is your battle-axe against information overload. And it could potentially lead to an altered understanding of or a serious change in your life.
There are people who go through their entire lifetime never dedicating time to these things. I can never be one of those people. Those are the people who wake up one day in a 20 year marriage and realize they haven’t been happy for 15 of those years, who stay in unfulfilling careers, who reach retirement just to have no idea what to do with their free time, who never leave their hometown even though they once dreamed of doing so, who forget most of their dreams entirely, who distract themselves all the time with every little thing they could be doing instead of just being in silence with their own thoughts.
Because sitting in silence with your own thoughts is one of the most terrifying things a human can do and, you’ll come to learn, one of the healthiest, best things a human can do… because, if you do it enough, it changes your life. It begets a wisdom that I struggle to define. All I can say is it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.
Personally, I reflect and reassess best through my writing. I reflect best through personal journaling. I reassess best through organizational writing and planning tools like brainstorming exercises: mind mapping, free writing, list making, and association-based brain dumping (my personal favorite being David Allen’s Trigger List). I’m a full blown planner nerd now, but I didn’t use to be that way. In fact, I’ve struggled to stay organized for most of my life, even through college when I desperately needed the tools I’m using now.
But I’m not faulting myself for those mistakes. I love myself, remember? And loving myself includes understanding that I was living a much earlier part of my journey then. I didn’t have the maturity and mental clarity I do now. And it takes maturity and mental clarity to choose to spend time alone, with only yourself and your pens and planners and journals for company, and to thoroughly enjoy that time.
(Side note: I’d like to do a post soon about all of my planning systems. They’re not all over the place like they used to be. In fact, I just recently re-organized my routines list based on The Miracle Morning steps.)
Steps to loving yourself…
See y’all this Sacred Sunday. Maybe I’ll have a planner post!