These have really helped me feel more content and at peace with myself and the world around me. The lessons have evolved over the last several years as I have increased in self-awareness and mindfulness through varied research, practice, and experimentation. Such ‘rules’ have also enabled me to feel more positive and motivated which has meant that I have been able to accomplish the things that I truly want.
I am now 25 years young and these life lessons are what got me through, and will get me through my next 25.
1. Speak up
I spent years stressing and over analyzing what I could’ve, would’ve or should’ve said in a lot of different situations. But one day, six years ago, I woke up and was literally was like “F this shit.” I was dying on the inside and enough was enough. Now, I say exactly what I need to always and to say that this has been liberating would be an understatement. However, I have been given a lecture or two by one or two individuals. They argue that I “shut people down,” “talk back to elders” or generally “don’t give an F.” They just make me think “Really? Wow, I am glad you noticed!”
2. Say no
I have learned to say no and not feel bad about it. The truth is, beyond one’s duties to their loved ones and the like, you don’t owe anyone anything. Saying no is often really difficult but so very important.
3. Love yourself
Learning that I actually matter and being the first to value myself has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, I grew up believing that my needs weren’t that important, now I don’t feel that way. For me, self-love looks like taking an essential nap out of the blue regardless of what madness is brewing around me, forgiving myself daily for being so nutty and of course practicing getting from point one and point two.
4. It’s okay
This point is married to the practice of self-love. It’s just about taking a deep breath whenever I am on the verge of an anxiety driven meltdown and whispering to my soul that it’s ok. It’s not the end of the world until it actually is.
5. Remember God
Naturally, humans often remember God (whatever ‘God’ means to them) the most when in desperate need. I try to show my daily gratitude by remembering God when the going is good too.
6. Write lists
I like to think of the notepad on my smartphone as my personal assistant because it is. I don’t know how I used to know what to do on a day-to-day basis before I discovered it.
7. Maintain connections
I have had to accept that I was lonely because I had built high walls around myself that needed to be brought down. I have been working on breaking this wall for a while by texting back, initiating meet-ups, and showing up more at the houses of my relatives. Let’s just say, I’ve come a long way and I am a lot happier as a result.
8. Go for it
I am currently trying to let my life be defined by my dreams rather than my fears by saying ‘yes’ to each opportunity that speaks to my soul. Following your dreams can be very scary but the truth is that being comfortable and living the life you truly want are incompatible.
9. You don’t always have to be happy
Yes. I went through a period where I internalized the whole ‘you can control your thoughts’ bullshit and tried to live by it entirely. That was bloody hard. Sometimes you just got to sit with whatever is it you are struggling with and acknowledge it. Pain doesn’t last forever and we go through things for a reason.
10. Forgive yourself when you make mistakes
Like I have said, I now try to fully embrace who I am, warts and all. I try to forgive myself every time I am tempted to hurt myself through thoughts by simply recounting all the things I accomplish that day or in general.
11. Be vulnerable
Being honest and vulnerable by letting go of the pressure to act as if I’ve always ‘got it together’ has helped me to find my ‘tribe.’ It has also helped those around me to come in their true form because truth reflects the truth.
Exercise has got me through some tough times. It has made me realize that the constant hype about how good it is for you was serious. I could do with some right now. Tired.
13. Realize that people don’t automatically hate you
Like many of us, I lived with the paranoia that some people in my circles had issues with me. Just by questioning this and actually making an effort to build relationships with those I cared for has made me realize otherwise.
14. Know that you don’t have to explain yourself
Just like learning to say no when I need to, I am learning to let go of the need to explain my life and choices to those around me. To summon a cliché, I was born free.
15. Let yourself cry
There is healing in letting our tears flow, although we are often taught that crying is a form weakness. Crying is a form of self-expression that allows you to release the pain inside you.
16. Eat cake
Freely and unapologetically. Just because you can. This means that whenever I want to treat myself to food that I am supposed to feel guilty about eating (usually cake) I make a point of letting go of that guilt. Remember that no one can make you feel any kind of way without your permission!
17. Show your loved ones how much you care
It is so vital to communicate your thoughts and feelings to those that you love on a daily basis. Communicating the appreciation and love you feel for them is a priceless part of a strong relationship.
18. Write every day
I used to write before I learned my ABC’s by scribbling lines of ‘writing’ on endless pages. Maybe in my heaven, I can alternate my time between writing and laying in a warm bath.
19. Know that past experiences don’t define you
I have known real pain and God put me there so I can truly appreciate it when blessings came my way. I am currently able to enjoy these blessings, big and small on a daily basis.
20. You don’t have to play the role society hands you
Society will give you a role and a script, especially if you are a woman. Remember your free will and do you, no matter how challenging. You will thank yourself later.
21. It’s possible, as hard it may be
I once read this that “it’s not about having all the resources, it’s about being resourceful” and it’s so true. I have tried to test this theory a number of times by ‘doing things anyway’ even though I felt that I didn’t have that right resources and the results have amazed me.
When someone I love asks me, “Why are you laughing so hard, have you been promised paradise?” I scratch my head. Sorry, but I refuse to believe that I am sinning by giving myself the permission to feel the God-given joy of laughter. Laugh.
I believe that many of us live life automatically without realizing that we are simply complying with the labels that we have been handed and mirroring society’s expectations. For me, this meant being frightened of disappointing other people by failing to meet their expectations of me and feeling the need to come across as perfect in all my identities. I found that way of life not only exhausting but unfulfilling and monotonous.
Living my life with the lessons above in mind has been my way of breaking the chains, living deliberately and reclaiming my own existence. And this place is a much happier place to be.