I originally planned to publish this blog post on the eve of whenever I happened to start the next exciting chapter of my life. It was to be a cause for celebration after a long and hard battle won. Now that my original deadline has passed and said chapter still remains in the draft stage, I had to re-evaluate what I was going to do with this post.
Recently, I poured out all of my fears and frustrations after facing a devastating setback. I felt so inspired by the outpouring of encouragement, support, and love I received from friends in response. When I am surrounded by darkness, my friends are always there to help me see the light, and I am truly blessed to have them in my life.
One friend brought something to mind which I found to be perspective shifting. The way we measure success tends to be limited to whenever we reach significant Facebook-worthy life events. Landing the promotion, getting married, starting a family… all the landmark milestones you share on your timeline and watch as the likes pour in. But why don’t we treat our moments of personal growth with the same regard and value? How have you transformed from the person you were ten years ago to the person you are today? What challenges did you overcome through hard work and dedication? How has the way you see the world evolved and expanded? Let’s not forget to measure our success by how much we’ve achieved and how far we’ve come along the way to hitting those milestones.
2017 has been filled with ups and downs, triumphs and heartbreaks, accomplishments and disappointments. Every goal unreached tests my ability to get up, persevere, and move forward in the face of hard blows. This whole idea of growing through what you go through in life is what keeps me moving along this obstacle course and moving on toward the next big thing. I realized I don’t need to wait until I’ve reached that big milestone to share what I have learned over the past year, because my success story has already begun. So, here goes….
Know Your Worth
For a time, I described myself primarily through the work I did, which lead to me facing an identity crisis when I experienced a career change. This was a wake-up call that I needed to stop defining my worth by my job titles. Too often, we ascribe our value through how much other people deem us worthy, whether within a team, in a relationship, or whatever type of professional or personal dynamic we share with others. Now whenever I am asked, “What do you do?” or “Tell me about yourself”, I challenge myself to give a curiosity-inducing answer that is more reflective of who I am through talking about what I bring to the world and what I believe in. For example: “I am a digital storyteller and a community builder devoted to starting conversations around topics of personal growth, social responsibility, and the latest phenomenon in internet memes.”
Be Your Own Cheerleader
During tough times, feelings of being a failure, a loser, and a worthless human being are easy to come by but hard to get rid of. You are your own worst critic and biggest enemy, but you have to be your own best advocate and greatest champion when battling against the negativity in your brain. Cancel out the negative noise in your mind telling you that you are not worthy or deserving of happiness by telling yourself are worthy of love, you are worthy of respect, and you are worthy of feeling worthwhile. Your choice to believe in yourself is the most transformative choice you can make.
Celebrate Your Wins
Something I’ve done to remind myself of my attributes and my achievements is get into the habit of cataloguing my wins. As the keeper and curator of my own personal highlights reel, I started compiling a list of achievements each week. So far, they’ve been related to my freelancing gigs, volunteer projects, and personal goals (like completing my reading challenge target for the year). It’s a great way to track your growth, remember how much you’ve done, and boost up your confidence when you’re feeling down on yourself. And, you never know when you’ll need to show off your strength and pitch someone for a new opportunity!
Before you regret yourself. It’s so easy to get comfortable and stay in your comfort zone, which is why it’s important to constantly check in with yourself and ask the following questions: Am I getting what I need? Am I fulfilled? Am I happy? If the answer is no, consider what you need to do to change that. It won’t be easy, but who said a fulfilled, happy, and good life is meant to be easy?
Just because you can do anything doesn’t mean you should do everything. We tend to overextend ourselves due to this very notion. Be discerning when it comes to approaching opportunities. Don’t just take on whatever is offered to you—think of whether or not it fits into your lifestyle and is worthwhile for you to pursue. Assess what it is that you need and evaluate. When something is not the right fit for you, be prepared to walk away and move forward. I’ve become more cautious, selective, and frank since putting this into practice with every decision I make. I’m finding out this is a part of growing up and maturing into someone who is no longer an agreeable yes man, but someone who stands up for and asserts their worth.
Take the Good in the Bad
Why do bad things happen to good people? The truth of the matter is, there is no sense in any of it. We can only reflect on the outcome and the resulting impact on our lives, and try our hardest to maintain perspective on what we still have that is important to us. After bad experiences, you’ll never be the same, and maybe that is its purpose. Maybe we need the pain, the losses, and the darkness to push and propel us forward. Sometimes you have to say goodbye to what you once knew and love to welcome in new opportunities, new ideas, new loves, and other new things that will change your life for the better.
Patience is Key
I’m a believer in the notion that good things come to those who wait, a belief I have found wavering through this constant waiting game I am in. Some believe in the idea that you are the master of your own fate, and that you are solely responsible for getting what you want. Yes, you do have to be an active agent in working towards your goals, but it is also balanced out with a whole lot of unpredictability, which requires you to have patience and faith. When life doesn’t go the way I want or I find myself feeling stuck, I have to remind myself that there are always things out of our control and that it is not my fault nor a sign of not being good enough.
Stop Comparing Yourself
Social media is an enabler of feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, envy, and the dreaded FOMO. I am extremely guilty of this as a result of endlessly scrolling through my Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds and seeing people happy with friends, happy with family, happy in relationships, happy at work, happy at home, and happy on vacation. When I’m feeling down on myself, I can’t help but measure their successes and wins against my shortcomings and failures and wonder why I’m not deserving of the dream job, the perfect family, the awesome friends, the loving relationship, and the kick-ass apartment. It’s hard to keep yourself in check and remember that you are only seeing one side of a person’s complex life, and that everyone is going through their own versions of tough shit as well. This is why I am determined to break up the highlights reels by showing the low points too in an effort to connect us closer together among the messes of our lives. It might not be aesthetically pleasing to see, but maybe in a year or two from now, when that post appears on my Time Capsule memories, I can be reminded of how much I’ve overcome since then.
You Are a Work in Progress
Nobody is perfect and you are no exception. It’s okay to feel like you’re stuck in the in-between or you’ve fallen behind. The best way to motivate yourself is to remember that you are a work in progress and to be devoted to constant and continual improvement. Strive to always be exploring, learning, and growing by trying new experiences, acquiring knowledge, and building your skill set. If there’s an opportunity that peaks your curiosity and interest, try it out. You never know where, who, or what these chances will lead you to….
Always Be (Re)-Charging
For the love of Jeebus, take a breather, take a break, and enjoy life! You are no use if you are always charging ahead, stressed out of your goddamn mind. When I peaced out of the city for a spontaneous two week journey across Italy, I came back feeling freer than I had been in ages. Sometimes you need to get out of your surroundings to find the inspiration to go forward. Whether that’s by traveling, going outside and appreciating nature, connecting with your inner self through meditation, taking a technology break and spending quality time with loved ones, or escaping into your favourite books and songs, make self-care a priority. When you take time for yourself, you gain a deeper focus and appreciation for the here and now. We only get one life. One today. Use it well.
Unlearn the Busy Brag
When answering the conversation starter, “how are you?”, I would always give the same answer, “busy, but good.” A default response like this led to dead-end small talk that we would forget about five minutes later. Once I became aware of the fact that my empty choice of words were signalling a weak, closed-off portrayal of myself to others, as it could be perceived that a “busy” person doesn’t have the time for meaningful conversations or new opportunities, or even worst of all, is giving a subtle hint that they don’t have the time or desire to really connect with you, I knew I had to stop this perpetuation of false excuses on my behalf. I’m challenging myself to not give default answers and to instead engage in quality conversations that pull people in instead of push them away. From elaborating more on the highs and lows of my day to asking unique and unusual questions, I strive to find small ways to get people to open up so we’re building valuable connections and creating memorable memories together.
There’s this stigma against exposing yourself as being too eager for something or desperate for attention, so we’re in this constant battle to appear to care the least and to be the most chill. Personally, I find enthusiasm to be an endearing quality! If a friend posts an A+ selfie, shower them with praise and affection. If you’ve achieved a big goal of yours, shamelessly plug yourself through self-promotion. Quench your thirst when you prevail and cheer others on when they do as well and let’s create our very own fanbase of superfans.
Surround Yourself with Support
We can’t do this alone. We need to lean on each other for support. However, we tend to resist from asking for help when we need it in fear of being a bother to others. The truth is, people are happy to help, and it’s those people who are open and receptive to listening, providing advice, and showing compassion that you should gravitate towards. Allocate and spend time with the people who lift you up, challenge you in healthy ways, encourage you to spread your wings and grow, and have respect for you. Those who choose to stick by you through your emotional ups and downs are your true blue friends. I cannot thank my friends enough for boosting me up when I’m feeling down, giving me long pep talks when I’m selling myself short, and for helping me feel not alone.
Know When It’s Time to Cut Ties
I’ve learned a lot about what goes into a quality friendship, and I’ve determined that it depends strongly on the compatibility between your energies, your mindsets, and your views. A hard truth I found is that people will change…. or you will change. And with that change, you figure out that there’s just no future for certain relationships to continue. Having been on both sides, it hurts either way to cut ties with someone you were once tight with, but growing apart is a natural part of life. Value the time you spent together in each others lives, re-allocate your time, energy, and love towards the people in your life, and make room for new people you can learn from and care for.
Be a Friend
I’ve learned how to be a good friend from my friends, starting with simply being there for your friends when they need someone. When I felt lower than low, when people I trusted were leaving me behind and I felt completely alone, all it took was for one friend to be there. You don’t need to have the solutions, you just need to believe in them. Give them your thoughts, prayers, or whatever you have to offer. Show up and make time for them if they need someone there beside them by making necessary personal sacrifices (if you can binge-watch your show on Netflix, you can give your time). If your friendships truly mean something to you, work for it. Lastly, let them know you are rooting for them and let it be known that you will be that 3am friend for them when everything’s going wrong. That makes a difference. More than you’ll know.
Be Unapologetically You
I’ve always felt this need to present the most positive public image of myself at all times, even when life was knocking me down. I’ve grown to appreciate the value of being vulnerable and revealing all sides of me, from the lightness to the darkness, to the happiness to the sadness. You don’t always need to put a positive spin on every negative situation. Instead of keeping everything bottled up inside, confront how you are really feeling, acknowledge that your emotions are valid, say your piece to make peace, and then let it go. The authentic you is the you that will make the most impact and your story will resonate deeply with people, leading to greater connections.
Throughout of my trials of adversity, I have developed great grit, persistence, perspective, and purpose to shape my life’s path. Every struggle makes you stronger. From surviving through child abuse, bullying, family illness, death, financial hardships, career change, depression, and rejection upon rejection, every stage of my life has had its challenging experiences, but I have persevered and am persevering over those obstacles and hardships. The fighting spirit is in my genes and I’m not going to lose it.
I’m thankful to you for sticking by me, and I want you to know I am rooting for you too.
Keep breathing. Keep fighting. We’re in this together.
Featured Image by Brooke Cagle.