Aaaaaaand breathe. There’s only one day left of 2018 (say, whaaaaaaaaat!), and the end of the year is such a great time to look back on the past 12 months and do a little self-reflection. 2018 has been one of the best, most challenging, and most educational years of my life, and since sharing is caring (and I care about my SWTlings a lot), I put together a list of the most important things this year has taught me, while looking back on the last four months of my blogging journey with my Nine most-liked Instagram posts.
Just a quick warning: this is gonna be a pretty long ‘un, so if reading’s not really your thing, please feel free to just read the summary text at the beginning of each point (and look at the pretty pictures!) So, here goes:
- Always trust your instinct. Aah. This is one of those ones I had to learn the hard way, because I’d heard people say it countless times but it was a piece of advice which, for some reason I always ignored. As someone’s who’s struggled (and still does struggle) with anxiety, your instinct can be oh-so-easy to dismiss as ‘that silly, anxious voice in your head’, and to simply push away. It took a certain experience earlier this year for me to realise that instinct is that feeling deep in the pit of your stomach, telling you repeatedly, strongly that something isn’t quite right. And take it from me, girl- the best thing you could ever do when you hear your instinct speaking to you is L-I-S-T-E-N. Because when it eventually turns out that your instinct was right all along (which, trust me- it always is), it’ll come with the loudest, most regretful ‘I told you so’ you will ever hear. There’s nothing more annoying than a ‘know-it-all’, but what sucks even more is when that ‘know it all’ is (drum roll, please)… the instinctive side of you.
- It’s okay to put yourself first sometimes. Practicing self-care does not make you a selfish person… I promise. Not sure whether anyone else can relate, but I’m the sort of person who kind of struggles to say ‘no’, and has this rather annoying habit of always trying to keep everyone happy. And this may be news to you (it was certainly news to me when I FINALLY figured it out this year), but… you can’t. You know that saying ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’? Well it’s true. You can’t thrive if you’re stunting your own growth my giving too much of yourself away. I mean, picture a pineapple. What’s its most distinctive feature? That beautiful, leafy crown. But take away its sunlight so a bunch of grapes can catch some rays; take away its water ’cause the pears are kinda parched; dig out the nutrient-packed soil its planted in ’cause the bananas are running a teeny bit low, what happens? It starts going brown and the leaves fall off. In other words? It loses its crown- the very thing that makes it special. So what am I saying? You are that pineapple. And listen, girl- you can’t keep giving people your time, your love; heck, even your material possessions without taking the time to look after yourself, and treat yourself every once in a while.
- Being a positive person doesn’t mean always pretending to be happy. Now this is one which, I’ll be honest with you: I’m still kind working out. Why? Basically, it dawned on me a while back that I was a pretty negative person- I had the tendency to be pessimistic; to dwell on negative past experiences, and it was really holding me back, so I decided to change it. And it worked… well, kinda. Being a woman of extremes, I pretty much did a complete 180 and was super-duper-hyper-positive aaaaaaaaaaaaall the damn time. I’d cut my finger and tell myself I was “good, thanks!”, be struggling with my emotions and tell my friends I was “great, thanks!”, be really ill and try to convince everyone I was feeling “really well, thanks!” (Ugh… I know.) After a while, the pretence of being permanently happy would get a little too much, and I’d find myself in the middle of yet another mini breakdown (oops). So what did I learn from all this? Again, it’s okay to be sad sometimes, and to admit that you’re sad, sis. Stay in that sadness for a while- allow yourself to feel it… but then make sure you pick yourself back up and start working towards fixing whatever’s getting you down rather than wallowing in the depths of despair (sorry to be dramatic, but well… I used to be soooooo guilty of this)… Which brings me onto my next point:
- Failure isn’t actually failure until you actually give up. Permanently. There’s a saying that goes: “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again”, and I honestly used to think it was a load of BS. I mean, who actually has time to keep trying after they’ve been knocked down so many times? Isn’t it normal to get kinda dejected and just think: ‘Ugh! Okay, okay! I give up now- clearly it wasn’t meant to be!’? Yeah, you’re right- that is a normal reaction. But in the words of Maya Angelou, “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” So screw normal. Be that ‘weirdo’ that goes the extra mile; the one who dusts herself off and keeps trying when other people would have given up aaaages ago. Just give it another go… and another… and another- and you will get there. And trust me- take it from a girl who passed her driving test on the 6th go. Yes, S-I-X-T-H (thank you, anxiety!): nothing can describe that feeling you get when you finally succeed at reaching your goal.
- I’m a beautiful person, despite my flaws. Internally and externally. I won’t go into too much detail right now, but it took me a good, say… 10 years to realise that: a) I’m not butters, and b) I’m not a terrible person. I used to spend so much time picking out, and hating flaws in my appearance, and my personality; pretty much every insecurity out there- you name it, I’ve had it. It got to the point where my lack of security in myself started to hold me back from doing things I’d always wanted to do… But then one day, I don’t know what happened, but it’s like something in my brain suddenly clicked and I thought: wow- you know what, girl? You’re actually kinda cute (and yes, it’s totally okay to call yourself cute – believe in yourself, girl!) I also finally realised that yes, I have some aspects of my personality I need to work on, but some of the ‘flaws’ I’d spend years agonising over are actually some of my greatest strengths. And so, I started learning to love myself, which reminds me of my next point…
- Self-love is a journey… and one which it’s best to go on solo. I used to think I could go through life not really liking myself very much because as long as long as the people in my life loved me, it didn’t really matter what I thought of myself… right? Boy, was I wrong! See here’s the thing: Trying to love yourself through someone else is like trying to go through the rest of your life walking on crutches after you’ve broken your leg. And yes, you’ll survive for a little while- the crutches will prop you up just fine… But once they’re taken away, you’ll be left to stand on your own two feet again, and you’ll discover that it’s hard. When you’re used to being supported all the time, and all of a sudden you’re not, your muscles will be so weak that it’s actually painful to walk. So rather than relying on that crutch- that person; that thing to keep you standing, it’s time you start putting in the work yourself- take those mental physio sessions; go on short daily walks towards the destination of self-love. The love you have for yourself is far greater and stronger than the love any other person could ever show you. And once you value yourself like you should; once you really believe you are a diamond, then and only then can you truly allow yourself to be loved.
- I’m a people person… Or at least, I can be. I used to think (and I know this sounds terrible, but I’m being honest) thatIDidn’tReallyLikePeople (there- I said it!) It turns out I just have the tendency to hold back from them because… well, it takes me a while to open up and trust people, and also? I’m kinda scared of them… or rather of the idea of them (thank you, social anxiety!) Now don’t get me wrong: I’m still very much an introvert- Even though I love being in the company of friends, sitting in the corner of my bedroom with some fairy lights and a scented candle on is the definition of my happy place. But at the same time, get me in the right setting (chilled vibe, open space, nice people), and calm my brain down a little (okay, a lot) and you know what? I actually start to enjoy myself. Being more open to the idea of meeting new people, and trying new things is something I’m still working on, and even though it can be super scary sometimes, Thomas Jefferson reminds us that ‘With great risk comes great reward.” When it comes to people, the risk of getting hurt is often nothing in comparison to the reward of the beautiful bonds and relationships you’re bound to form when you simply dare… to put yourself out there.
- It’s the little things in life. I don’t know what it is, but this year has really taught me to appreciate the things we often take for granted, and to be thankful for them. And you know, it’s the silliest things- the beautiful summer we had in the UK this year- the sight of blossom trees in the spring, rainbow-coloured leaves in autumn; even just watching squirrels skipping through the trees during my walks at lunchtime has been so incredibly refreshing. I was in a church service a couple of weeks back (for my non-religious readers, please feel free to skip over this part), and the person delivering the sermon said: “disappointment comes when we focus on what God hasn’t done, rather than what he has done.” In other words, disappointment comes when we focus on what we don’t have, rather than what we do have. Which, if you think about it? Is totally true. We spend too much time focusing on not having enough money; not having enough friends; not having a super big house to realise that we’re actually rich. Rich in the love of our friends and family. Rich in the health that enables us to go on those lunchtime walks and see the beautiful plants and creatures. Rich enough to be able to put delicious, nutritious food on the table. And when we truly begin to appreciate those seemingly insignificant things we actually do possess, the freedom and joy that comes with that realisation is truly amazing.
- I’m stronger than I think. I’ve never really thought of myself as a particularly strong person. Yes, I can carry home two heavy bags of grocery shopping all on my own (although I have to keep swapping hands), but I’m also that girl who cries at almost anything, and when I feel something? I feel it. Hard. I always feel like my emotions are like everyone else’s emotions, times 100 and sometimes I wish I were better at holding back my tears, and being that girl… or woman who’s going through the trenches, but on the outside looks like she’s floating above the clouds. But you know what? There’s strength in my sensitivity; in my empathy, and throughout this year, there have been times this year when I’ve been had experiences I never thought I could, or would survive, but hey- hello, world! Here I am. At the end of 2018, here we are: Still standing. Still alive. Still kicking. And my dear SWTling: if you think back to your lowest point this year, if you’ve survived that, you better believe you can survive anything.
So here’s to all the lessons learnt in 2018- may we reflect on them, and use them as opportunities to grow; to live our happiest, most fulfilled, and best lives in 2019. Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve, and see you on the other side. 🥂