- No one has the power to hurt you the same way the person staring back at you in the mirror does. Do me a favor: drop the boxing gloves and step away from the ring. Repeat after me: the fight is over. Perhaps this truth is sitting high at number one because it is one that takes up the most space in my soul. And perhaps it’s also number one because it is one that I continue to grapple with, even at 29. Especially at 29. I learned early on that approval was a status symbol – one that could be earned by staying humble, and small, and malleable. I learned that pride was boastful, that confidence was sinful, that self-worth was shameful. And so, I began breathing fire at all of the things that I was, and even more so, all of the things I was not. I adopted the attitude that being humble meant taking a pair of boxing gloves and fighting the girl looking at me in the mirror – swinging and kicking and tearing her apart until she became nothing but a stranger with tired eyes and a tethered soul. This is not humility. This is not modesty. This is not what it takes to earn the most important person’s approval: your own. Please stop bullying yourself. Please stop telling yourself that you are not good enough or brave enough or strong enough or smart enough or capable enough. Please don’t mistaken humility for self-loathing, self-love for self-deprecation, self-acceptance for a pool filled with vitriol and gasoline. Drop the match. You are going to come across a lot of people in your life who will rip you into shreds. Why do you insist on being one of them?
2. Comparison will destroy you if you let it. Social media is, without a doubt, the world’s most successful magician. You might be looking at a beautiful wedding, but what you did not see are the endless nights that the bride and groom spent up late, frantically calculating if they could meet their budget. You might see beautiful babies and wonder when is it going to be your turn, but you won’t see that the baby was born with invisible, life-altering health issues that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. You won’t see parents who feel helpless, as they sit on the sidelines and watch their baby get picked and prodded at for testing, only to come back to inconclusive results. You might see a couple that strategically poses, smiling and laughing at the camera, but you don’t see that deep down, both are unhappy and are together out of comfort. You may see people moving on at a faster speed than humanly possible, and you may see people accomplishing things that you never even dreamed of. And all of this will fill your bones with envy if you let it. Remember that what you see on social media is a cropped, edited, fine-tuned, personally picked out snap shot of what reality looks like for that person. We are all struggling, just as we are all succeeding. Some just choose to share more than others.
3. Balance is a life-long journey. I spend every birthday writing and then looking over what I wrote the year prior, hoping to find some solace and traces of growth in the last 365 days. When looking through the things I wrote this year and the two years prior, there was one common theme: balance. It took me until 29 to realize that balance isn’t an end-goal. You don’t one day wake up juggling everything on your plate seamlessly and call it quits. There is going to be stretches of time when juggling feels easy—when life feels calm. And then there will be times when the things you are juggling suddenly turn into boulders—when life becomes chaotic, and unmanageable, and heavy. This is where you re-adjust, re-align, and re-calibrate.
4. Honesty will get you what you need. If you are not being heard, lean in and speak up. You are doing no justice to yourself by stuffing your feelings for the sake of someone else’s.
5. You must work to live; do not live to work. What you do for a living may have tremendous value. What you do may be important and honorable and difficult, but it is still simply a job. And a job won’t come home with you and keep you warm at night. A job won’t tell you that it loves you. A job won’t make you a good person. You are equally as replaceable as the next person, no matter how dedicated you are to your craft. Please do not make a home out of your vocation. Please do not rely solely on your job for validation. Work plays a big role in our lives, but please do not make it your entire life.
6. Listening is key. So many people listen to respond or react.. and we wonder why people have such difficulty communicating. Practice listening to hear. Practice listening so that you can show up for people in the way that they deserve. I promise you this will make a world of a difference in all of your relationships.
7. Goals keep you moving. Life is a journey. There will never be a goal that you reach that is followed by a dead end sign. We do not reach a certain point in our lives one day and find out that’s it. Life is about constantly working towards more, working towards better, working towards reaching higher. Don’t forget to, every once in awhile, take a step back and make out a list of things you want for yourself and for your life, both in the short term and the long term.
8. You are allowed to say no. To weddings, to showers, to events that you cannot attend, to things that you cannot afford, to things that make you uncomfortable. Practice boundaries. Practice self-preservation. No is a two letter word, say it.
9. You can do hard things. No real need for an in-depth reflection. Just remember that at this very moment, you have survived every single difficult situation in your life and are still alive to tell the tale. You survived that and you will survive this too.
10. Practice gratitude. It’s not enough just to be grateful; you must practice gratitude. Make it a daily practice to write down one thing you are grateful for in that very moment. Practicing gratitude will change your perspective, especially when it comes to hard things. (see #9)
11. Self-care isn’t intended to be empty jargon thrown around by therapists to only fall on deaf ears. Practicing self-care does not need to be a big and bold declaration. It does not need to be a vacation on an island or a weekend at a spa. (Though both sound lovely). Self-care happens in between the moments of utter chaos, when you are in a tailspin and your life feels unmanageable. Self-care is deep breaths. Self-care if meditating, or going to yoga, or the gym, or taking a walk on the beach. Self-care is reading a book, spending time with your friends, having a cup of coffee. Self-care is taking time out of your day, no matter how busy you are, to acknowledge that you are important and that you need to be cared for. Remember, as the cliché goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup. So, take care of yourself.
12. Perfectionism is a kiss of death. You simply cannot control every single thing that happens in your universe. Instead, practice vulnerability. Practice asking for help. Practice throwing your hands in the air and saying, “actually, sometimes life is hard, and sometimes I need a little help.”
13. Identifying what is on the other side of your pain will help you resolve it. Emotions are a tricky thing. Often, negative emotions lead us to believe an altered version of reality, and as a result, we project negative feelings onto someone else instead of sitting in our own discomfort and trudging through our own struggles. Learning to identify the source of your pain will alleviate the pain. Just trust me on this.
14. Listen closely. There isn’t always confetti or a loud noise or balloons when things change. Sometimes, most times, change happens in increments. And it’s often not until we are far enough in the future to really see the way in which our world has shifted. So, listen closely. You might miss the change if you don’t.
15. Ingenuity is a turn off. If you run into people that you don’t ever have intentions in seeing again, do not ask to keep in touch. Do not pretend to be interested in something when you are not. Do not make up lies for the sake of conversation. Be genuinely, whole-heartedly who you really are.
16. People will show up for you when you start showing up for them. Stop being the person that puts their own stuff in front of everyone else. Show up for the people in your life that you love.
17. Discomfort is where change happens. Brene Brown she told her students if it doesn’t make you uncomfortable, it’s not doing the job, and I couldn’t agree more.
18. You, more than anyone else, are deserving of big, heaping spoonful’s of grace. This goes back to #1. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself. The things that need to get done will get done and the things that won’t will still be there when you revisit. Give yourself grace when it comes to self-deprecation. Give yourself grace when you feel like you aren’t doing enough. Give yourself grace when your best doesn’t feel like it’s enough. Learn to serve grace as a main course and not a side dish that no one ever touches.
19. Fear doesn’t deserve a space in the driver’s seat. Fear will try to steer the wheel of your life. Fear will feed you lies. Fear will paralyze you. Do not let her.
20. Know that your self-worth is not determined by stuff, or social status, or diplomas. It cannot be due in part to having designer handbags and red bottom stilettos. It cannot be because you have two diplomas totaling over $180K hanging up in your office. Your value cannot lie in the things that you can touch. Who you are is not what you have.
21. Truth borrowed from my favorite adolescent drama, One Tree Hill: happiness is a mood, not a destination. I have spent many hours in my office with clients who, when asked what their long-term goal is, will say, “I want to be happy.” And I think this is a goal that many have, even outside of my office. But happiness, much like sadness, or anger, or amused, or apathetic, is a mood, not a destination. Don’t kick yourself for feeling things outside of happiness. You are human and you are made to feel.
22. A busy schedule will never fill you. I know that silence can be deafening, but I also know what it’s like to overload my schedule to avoid that silence. Filling your schedule for the sake of trying to fill some sort of emptiness will be like pouring sand into an hour glass with no bottom.
23. Friendships change all the time. Be open to the idea that not all friendships survive all stages of life. Be open to the idea that the people you thought would be a part of your life story are only meant to be in your life for certain scenes. After the act ends, some people only make guest appearances in your life. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s okay to find new people who fill you, who make you whole, who make you feel seen, and safe, and heard. Maybe it’s okay to hang onto a handful of old friends and a handful of new friends and move on from friendships that shackle you to the ground.
24. Feelings are not facts. Oftentimes, we create an internal dialogue and go straight to panic mode long before we find the truth of things. Remember, just because we feel unworthy does not actually mean that we are unworthy. Just because we feel like we aren’t successful does not make it so.
25. You should not betray who you are for the sake of someone else. When you reach the end of your life, you will not be met with someone who tells you they are so proud you are just like someone else. Own the person that you are and don’t betray her by being someone else.
26. Life is both beautiful and it’s brutal. Or, as Glennon Doyle would say, life is brutaful. And I think once we understand that, once we really accept that not every day is going to be sunshine and rainbows, we’d all stop seeking the eternal glow of happiness and just be present in the moment and in the feeling that we’re in today.
27. Things do not change unless you change. You will not lose the weight if you don’t change your eating and exercise habits. You will not get the guy if you aren’t open to the idea of love. You will not fix your relationship if you are pretending there is nothing to fix. Please do not sit idly and wait for the world to change for you. Get up and get ready to fight for what you want.
28. Life is hard for everyone. I think we get caught up on the notion that it gets better, but I think that’s a lie. I think the feeling of being misunderstood, or unaccepted, or not good enough is universal and doesn’t just go away the second the clock strikes midnight and you turn 18 and suddenly, you are an adult. I think we get tougher, and stronger, and more capable of handling the debris that is left standing when life falls apart.
29. You are never going to be ready. If you wait for the perfect moment to fall in love, love just might pass you by. You will not be ready when love smacks you in the face; you will not be ready for when heartache dances in front of your door. You will not be ready when you get the offer for a dream job and are asked to uproot yourself and move states away in a month. You will not be ready to say goodbye, or walk away from a relationship, or a job, or a family member. You will not be ready to get back into your workout gear and get back into the gym. If you keep waiting for a sign or a feeling that tells you that right now, at this very moment, you are ready, you will be waiting for a long time. Don’t miss out on what’s right in front of you simply because you believe in your core that there will be a ticker tape parade signaling you to go.