My Journey Toward Change & Self-Acceptance
An Overhaul From the Inside Out
Every year around the holidays, I start to reflect on the past year and think about things that I want to accomplish in the upcoming year. About seven years ago, I started making checklists of the big goals I had for the upcoming year. I refrain from referring to these lists as “New Years’ Resolutions,” simply because of the negative connotation that is sometimes affiliated with “resolutions” that don’t last, and because I like to think of them as goals that I want to accomplish in my life that will hopefully alter more than just that singular year. The lists hang on my fridge for the entire year while I check things off as they are accomplished, and are saved once the year is over so that I can refer back to them when I need a little reminder or reassurance.
When I first started making these lists, my goals were somewhat superficial or career-focused. I was seeking degrees, promotions, awards, a new car – always searching for the next best thing that I thought might make me stand out and add to my overall happiness. I accomplished quite a bit professionally in my early twenties, with the caveat that I had to sacrifice quite a bit in my personal life. When I was on the fast-track and always searching for the next recognition that might make me feel accepted or appreciated, I learned priceless values about work ethic and commitment; but after many years of living for “bigger and better,” I started to recognize the toll that the constant need for overachievement was taking on my genuine happiness.
I knew that I was accomplishing every goal that I added to my lists because I was determined to do so, and when I realized that there was more to life than just recognition and awards, my lists slowly started shifting focus toward my personal life. I started to think about the things that I wanted to improve to really make myself happier in the long-term. The focus of my lists started spotlighting family, love, health, and general self-improvement. It has taken me several years of this practice to really dig deep into understanding myself and the person that I ultimately want to be.
I should note that this shift in focus shouldn’t be mistaken for a dwindling work ethic, lack of appreciation for career-oriented goals, or lack of gratitude for awards and recognition. I am still determined and focused and I still value a strong sense of work-ethic immensely. I am just as grateful for awards and recognition, and I can still appreciate the fun and excitement that comes from an awesome new car. The difference now is that I can see the importance that balance brings to life, and nothing will rock your world and teach you more about balance than becoming a parent.
This year, my shift has been so life-altering that it’s earth-shatteringly intimidating. My most recent list of goals is so major that I’m absolutely and completely terrified of failure. I am working hard to change so many things about who I am, from the inside out. I’ve been who I am for my entire adult life, and I’m shooting for an overhaul from the core. I can still love and appreciate many of the things that make me who I am, but I have this strong sense that I could be getting so much more from life if I just put in the effort.
Below isn’t my exact list of goals, but rather my reasons for seeking some major changes now:
I want to love and accept myself so that I can fully love and accept others. Listen, I’m not saying I’ve not been able to love others in the past. I mean that I want to really accept and appreciate who I am so that I can be vulnerable and truly get to know and love others for who they are without having to live up to so many unrealistic expectations myself or putting those expectations on others.
I want to change the things that I’m not happy with. This is a big, scary ideal that takes real commitment. Change is a scary word, but I’m not happy staying stationary in the mundane. The whole purpose of this “overhaul” is to take charge of my life and really love the life that I’m living. I want to take responsibility for my relationships with others and be the type of wife/mother/friend/daughter/sister/etc. that I admire. I want to be accountable for my mental and physical health and stop making excuses. As a woman, I feel somewhat hard-wired to pick myself apart and focus on my flaws. I want to be able to feel more confident by working to change the things that I can and be able to be more realistic by accepting and learning to love the things that I can’t.
I want to say “no” to things that don’t enhance my quality of life. I do not like saying “no” to people. I am a people-pleaser by nature, and I am frequently overcommitting myself to doing things that have no positive impact on my life, and often take away from my overall happiness. I am in no way saying that I’m just going to say “no” to everything that I don’t feel like doing because it doesn’t bring me the utmost joy all the time. Obviously there are days when I’d rather be on the beach in Mexico than in the office, but I love and appreciate my job and it ultimately serves as a means to provide for myself and my family. I’m talking about all the extra things that I find myself saying “yes” to that load my plate even fuller than it already is, or the things that don’t bring or lead to joy in any way.
I want meaningful connections with others. If I’m not happy with my interactions or relationships with others, I want to work to change who I am and how I react to them rather than taking things personally or trying to get them to change who they are. This doesn’t mean that I want to tolerate constant negativity or that I am inviting troubled relationships into my life. It means that I want to work to really get to know the people that I love and be able to understand their needs better in order to enhance our connections. I want to be a better listener and someone who is truly there for others, rather than a know-it-all who is always trying to fix the problem and only seeing things from my own personal perspective.
I want to live in the present. Throughout most of my life, my focus is always on the future, and occasionally on the past. I am a worrier, an organizer, a planner, and never a “go-with-the-flow” and “live in the moment” kind of person. I am always trying to plan every detail of my life and thinking lightyears ahead. If I’m not doing that, I’m beating myself up over things from the past that I have no power to change. I want to be able to focus on the little moments that I’m living in and enjoy them for what they are. As a wife and a mother to a toddler, I want to have the power to set times to disconnect from technology so that I can really connect with what matters around me. I want to absorb all the little moments of my child’s life and stop worrying so much about her future so that I don’t unknowingly wish her childhood away.
I want to feel that it’s okay to put myself first at times. This is a struggle for me, because I’ve always tried to be a “fixer” and take care of everyone else’s needs first. I tend to absorb the emotion of everyone around me and carry it around with me, desperately seeking solutions or ways to help. Mothers (and really most women in general) are often guilty of putting everyone and everything ahead of ourselves. I want to embrace the times that I am away from my family without feeling guilty, because I know it provides clarity and makes me value the time that we do spend together. I want to take care of myself and be able to admit when I need help from others. I want to take time to exercise, read, get my hair done/nails done/go to the chiropractor/get a massage or whatever it may be that is going to take a little extra time but will contribute to my overall well-being. I need to take time to care about myself so that I can feel good and be in the right place to really be there for others.
I want to be able to forgive myself. This goes right along with living in the present. I am terrified of failure, and the disappointments and mistakes in my life live with me forever. I beat myself up over and over about things that are minuscule in the big picture, and things that are long in the past. I want to be able to take something valuable from every mistake and move on. Life is too short to dwell on negative experiences, and we all make mistakes. I am not immune to failure, and I want to learn to forgive myself, refocus, and reset when mistakes inevitably happen.
As I’m on this journey of change, I have daily practices and accountability systems in place to help keep me on track. I don’t want to fail at this, because I have been yearning for a long time to be the absolute best version of myself and I finally feel like I’m starting to figure it out. I can already feel the difference these practices are making in my life, and the anxiety and need for order and control that I’ve fought with for so long dwindle more and more each day. So, this post will serve as my ultimate vulnerability and accountability test by really putting myself out there and committing to these practices. I’ll work at this for my daughter, my husband, my family, my friends… but most importantly, I’ll do this for me.