Before I start I wanna get one thing straight. I am calling it my ‘year of me’ partly because it’s catchy and partly because of the outcome of 2019. Through all of the uncomfortable parts and the times when I completely failed and had to start over again, I finally made it to the other side and felt better than ever about who I was and what I wanted to do with all of this brand new and shiny me! Which I know, sounds really cool and fun right? But since I’m being 100% honest in this post – my year did not start off the way it ended.
In fact, it was the polar opposite.
Have you ever felt out of control of your own life? You’re doing everything ‘right’ per se, and making all of your own decisions… But somehow it doesn’t feel like you’re where you should be. Or even where you want to be. It feels as if there is just something off. You can’t pinpoint it exactly, but every new day you are in a whirlwind of ‘why am I doing this again?’ or ‘I guess I’ll catch up on that tomorrow…’ and it is EXHAUSTING. When I was in this stage I felt like all of my passion and drive were drained from me. It was almost as if I was screaming but no sound was coming out. An in-between that never ended.
Well at the beginning of 2019 that is exactly where I was. I was living for other people, not reaching my goals, and settling for comfortable. Isn’t it funny how quickly ‘comfortable’ can become uncomfortable when you’re trying to become content with your life. Maybe this is because we really aren’t meant to settle at all – ever. It’s laughable really, the way that we change as we get older and stop really demanding our lives be a certain way. We stop asking questions and and start following in the footsteps of the people we know and trust instead of forging our own path. We genuinely forget that at any point in our lives we can make changes, maybe not life altering changes but we can always do something. It is never ever as hopeless as it feels in the moment.
I’m not sure I could tell you the exact day or even month I realized that I had to make a change, but it was probably sometime during the Summer of 2019. I was living in my small college town and large load of Summer classes, and although I am beyond appreciative to be able to go to school I was struggling. I’ve always struggled while in school, it brings out a kind of dangerous perfectionism in me that really gets my insecurities going. So I had a negative mindset, and I really did feel like there was no way I could change it. On top of this there was all sorts of issues taking up mind space. Some were my own personal issues and some weren’t – but still affected me in great ways. I’m not ready to discuss all of that in depth yet, but it’s the reason I decided to make a change and if you understand what I’m talking about then maybe you’re ready too.
I started to go DEEP. I started to question everything I’ve ever thought to be true and really do the things that scared me. I didn’t just want to put a band-aid over it all. I wanted to heal the wound from the inside, actually I had to. This was a lot deeper than a few minor lifestyle changes. It was time to put all of the things I’ve learned over the years to work and actually grow. It was my year of me! So I began to bite old bad habits in the ass, fight the negative thoughts, and of course cut myself some slack when I wasn’t perfect so that I could actually continue to make real progress. No distractions this time around.
One of the biggest things that functions as a distraction for me was (and is) being busy. I love being busy so much, but I realized I was seriously disguising my fear of facing myself with my drive to hustle. So I started sitting with myself in silence. I started putting off to do lists to challenge my anxiety (Hi – this is the reason the blog hasn’t been as poppin’ – never apologize for taking time off for your mental health!). I didn’t want to live in a world where I was a slave to my schedule so I ran in the complete opposite direction. Soon after I began noticing even more distractions coming to the forefront. Things that masked the real problem – but from the outside looked “healthy” or “normal”. If you’re reading this and think you might have a few of these as well, chances are you’re probably right. Facing these led me to realize I was actually a much different person than I had known my whole life. Which is truth be told, a little bit scary.
Change is hard for me, very very hard. When things in my life change I tend to cling to routine and patterns of behavior from my past self that I have memorized. When I started to break down the barriers blocking me from growth I started to realize that there was (and is) going to be a process to get to know the new me. I’d have to break all of my routines and dispute all of my old patterns. I didn’t know how I was going to do this, and to tell you the truth I am still working on it 24/7. But one thing that helped me was simply being alone with my thoughts and feelings.
Going places alone and being okay being by myself was always one of my strong suits. Probably to a fault, because sometimes I can be a bit of a loner. But this time was challenging. I had new anxieties because of my uncertainty with who I was! And it was so easy to just spend time with others and morph back into the person I used to be. But I kept up my solo time. I went to coffee shops alone to write. I read books instead of watching tv with friends. I chose to stay in and rest when I’d had a stressful week instead of going out. I joined a new gym and went to workout classes by myself.
If there is one thing I realized through being alone, it was that going against the crowd was so damn hard. How do you explain to the people in your life that you need time alone, and it’s not anything against them, it’s just what you need? Well, in some cases you don’t. Because the people who really truly care about you are the ones who will understand if you say ‘I need to do this for me’. So I started doing what I needed. When I needed it. I didn’t want to have to ask, because it’s my life and that should be a good enough reason. I deserve to be the best version of myself in all aspects, even if this includes losing a few people who don’t get it.
That change in and of itself was huge. I had always been the type of person that really strived to please everyone around me and make everyone feel comfortable. I would rather be completely inconvenienced than ask for what I needed. I was always saying ‘I’m sorry’ and became the girl who said yes to a lot more than I could handle. The only reason I stopped being this person, if we’re being real honest here, is because I go to therapy and I was pushed to a breaking point. I’ve gone to therapy for years now and it is truly just a part of my life now. I don’t think it’s strange or unique that I go, I think we’d probably live in a better world if everyone went to therapy. Everyone has their own shit to work through and it helps to have an unbiased person to talk to about it.
The second reason I started asking for what I needed was that I could no longer give to anyone else without feeling like I was a broken person on my own. At times it felt like I couldn’t stand on my own two feet because everything I had was being sucked into ‘giving’. I was trying to pour from an empty cup. I could no longer be the person I wanted to be for my loved ones because I was not working to become the best version of myself for me.
It’s often stated over and over that doing things for other people is the most humbling and heroic thing of all. And while this is true, I have a slightly different take on it. Think about the people that give their lives to others… Firefighters, religious figures, mothers and fathers. There are so many people who spend their lives taking care of us, but what if those people didn’t eat to fuel their bodies? What if they never got a good nights sleep or educated themselves?
Giving everything you have is not selfless, it is selfish.
If you spend all of your time trying to rescue someone or something you eventually run out of energy. Energy that could be used to do wildly amazing things for the world around you and the people in your life. The bottom line is, you can help and fix and rescue, until it starts interfering with your ability to take care of yourself. You have to draw the line somewhere because you have so much left to do. So much left to be.
Another thing I started employing in everyday life was cutting the fake ‘self care’ bullshit and actually giving myself what I needed. And you know what? This may be controversial but I don’t subscribe to the trend going on right now that you have to follow strict rules and do everything ‘right’ to give yourself what you want and need. Cutting out dairy or waking up at 5 am to be more ‘productive’ isn’t going to make you happy. I can tell you this because I’ve totally been there. Being so regimented about random things can actually be a huge distraction from what you really need.
But on the flip side, I don’t think going around calling every indulgence self care is a great method either. Be strong enough to do what you want and need when you want and need it. Not on other people’s time. Not because you feel like it’s what you should do. Give yourself a face mask one day and sleep in your makeup the next. There’s more to the story than skincare anyways. And we all deserve a healthy balance of everything in life! Giving yourself what you need isn’t simple or easy. It’s the hard decisions like going to therapy, or cutting someone toxic out of your life. At the end of the day those are the things that are going to make the real difference, at least I know it did for me.
Being where I am today, I can definitely say that I had to be pushed to a low point to really make any changes in who I was. I had to pinpoint all of the things I was doing to myself, which isn’t easy because you’re essentially just calling yourself on your own bullshit. Once I knew the distraction methods I was using I had to make changes that would never be able to be undone. The changes I went through made me think differently, lose friends, and aspire to have a very different life. You really do have to start from scratch.
I think that is the hardest part, coming to terms with the fact that in order to become the person you want so badly to be, you may have to give up old habits and maybe even learn who you are all over again. If you can take away anything from this, please don’t let it be that you have to follow my ‘recipe’ for growth. Instead let it be that the hard route is probably, most likely, definitely… The right one.