2017 has felt like a whirlwind year and I’m still taken by surprise by the number of moments and memories that manages to get stuffed into 365 days. The impending hope and aspirations of 2018 are already starting to breathe down my neck, so, in the interest of my own personal development, I like to take time to reflect upon the year as it wraps up.
While many take it upon themselves to use the new year as a means to humble-brag on social media about their annual achievements with a cringe-worthy bucket list and Oscar’s speech, I’d rather take a close look at my own mistakes and mishaps and see it as an opportunity for me to improve and grow.
OK, so 2017 was a hallmark year because we got an industrial pedestal fan that blows a hurricane and Elias decided to urinate in the garden instead of the floor. We made a baby. I left my fulltime job to be a writer/blogger. Rah rah rah. But let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Isn’t there more? Yes. I got gutsy and decided to be honest with myself and with others and in the process, I stopped doing these 3 things:
1. I stopped lying to myself
2017 marked the first year of me going back to ‘normal’ (whatever ‘normal’ means) following a 2.5 year episode battling PND/OCD/PTSD. The reason why I was sick for so long was that I spent way too long in the far, far-away Land of Denial. I call it that because when we’re in this mystical place occupied with pixies and fairies, we are often lying to ourselves about what’s really happening in our lives because it’s too ugly/messy/confronting/inconvenient.
This year, instead of lying to myself and telling myself “I’m OK” when I’m not coping with the incredible stress, unpredictability and pressure that our fast-paced world brings, I readily admit and accept that I’m a bit of a hot mess having a hot mess moment and that’s 100% totally fine.
Taking it a step further, I feel comfortable sharing through my blog and social media channels that there are moments – moments among the good and great times – where I’m going bat-shit crazy. This is done strategically as a way to ‘normalise’ being a human being with human feelings experiencing a mix of negative emotions. And quite frankly, we could all do with a good slap in the face with honesty, especially in a digital culture that thrives on masking the less glamorous parts of our lives through curation and filters.
Being able to acknowledge that I’m overwhelmed, anxious or stressed out means I can stop and look to something that us parents (especially mothers) are notorious for neglecting: self. Instead of trying to pretend I’m strong/perfect/have it all together, I take a step back and engage in an activity conducive to self-care. Recently, I had my first chiropractic massage since Elias was born three years ago and it was bliss. I say no to things more than I say yes – not to be difficult, but because I know my limits and don’t want to burn out rendering me completely useless to myself and my beloved family.
When I have a hot mess moment, I have a handful of beautiful friends I reach out to, as well as my husband and immediate family who completely understands. I tell them straight-up that I’m not doing well and ask for help/prayer/advice or just a listening ear. It’s amazing what difference it makes when we’re 100% honest with ourselves. It makes way for positive change, putting us on a path towards progress.
2. I stopped apologising for who I am
This world can be harsh and make us believe that negative emotions equate to weakness. People, sometimes those closest to us, can make us feel less than adequate or incompetent because we don’t handle, cope or respond to the ups and downs of life the way they would. They may think we seek attention or are just cry-babies. We’ve all been dealt a different hand in life and thus process events and circumstances differently.
Personally, I have had a lot of labels slapped across me by ignorant spectators who peer from a distance. I’ve been called everything from weird to emotional, unstable, sensitive, aggressive and even crazy. Previously, those labels would upset or bother me and I would feel a lot of shame, profusely trying to change so others would love and accept me.
This year, instead of apologising for who I am, I learnt to accept those attributes that make up my personality and temperament. Rather than try to conform to the expectations of others, I just embrace all these God-given characteristics and use it for good.
I have never been so liberated in my life nor cared so little about what other people think and IT FEELS AWESOME.
Since this epiphany, I’ve learnt that emotionally sensitive people offer a wealth of benefits to society and their communities such as having a greater self-awareness and higher cognitive functioning, being able to empathise well with others and creating dynamic, productive and passionate cultures in the workplace. (Just for the record, the direct opposite of emotional sensitivity is psychopathy/sociopathy, which is probably not a good thing for those who want to stay out of jail/trouble).
The world is made up of lots of diversely different people and I am one of them. What used to feel ‘wrong’ and ‘different’ now feels amazing and I love helping others embrace their inner fruitcake too. I often say that crazy is a spectrum and we all sit somewhere on it. Those who claim they don’t are usually the craziest out there because they’re blinded by their denial, which is actually the first symptom of insanity.
3. I stopped hanging around toxic people
In connection with all of the above, I stopped associating with people who were toxic. What does toxic even mean? Well, often we think it’s overt behaviour, like name-calling and being physically violent. It is that too, but most toxic behaviour is covert and can only be described as this strange feeling that your thoughts and feelings are being dismissed, diminished or deflected.
I stopped seeing passive-aggressive friends who would make belittling remarks, veiling it behind the façade of sarcasm or saying things like “I was only joking.” Generally, jokes are funny and enjoyable for everyone, so no, that was not a joke (but nice try). I stopped being friends with people who would gossip behind my back and justify their bad behaviour by saying they were “seeking wisdom.” I grew tired of hearing one-upping comments in conversations, as though life is one big competition. I stopped talking to people who refused to confront the truth but instead deflected blame and used gaslighting tactics to diminish my feelings.
Naturally, as a people-pleaser, I would allow anyone and everyone into my life naively believing we could all live in a utopian, holding hands and singing Kumbaya My Lord. Even Jesus had to contend with rivalry, jealousy and feeling trapped and ambushed by those who just plain hated him. Throughout the Gospels, we see this common theme of those in higher status positions leading congregations and sitting on religious boards being pompous and self-righteous, trying to undermine and even murder the Son of God. Um, insecure much?
This year, instead of accelerating efforts to please people who would never be pleased and appease those who were committed to misunderstanding me, I just cut those people off. Instead of wasting so much time, effort and mental energy on those who stomped on my pearls and damaged my self-esteem, I found friends who were loving, embracing and who I could be 100% myself around, free from judgement and condemnation.
Just remember, if you ever feel like you’re not doing so well, make sure you’re not hanging around jerks. After eliminating toxic people, I noticed a significant improvement in my mental and emotional health and maybe you will too.