Well, the first half of 2021 is in the books, and I’m honestly still in shock. Riot Fest felt like I finally got my summer groove and I don’t understand how we blinked, and summer was over. It’s starting to cool down in Chicago, and unfortunately, the sun is setting earlier but I’ve been slowly pulling out my sweaters and that brings me so much joy. Not only did we say goodbye to summer but it’s also hit me that the year is more than halfway over. It feels like only yesterday we were still sorting out of France trip and even then that definitely didn’t feel like the halfway mark in 2021.
But this year has taught me so much and I’m so grateful for where I am today because of these lessons in particular. I feel like not only do I have a better work-life balance, I have a better relationship with myself as well as my loved ones.
Being true to yourself is the key to a happy life
Somedays the Imposter Syndrome really kicks me in the butt. I recently got some very exciting collaboration opportunities and have had to pinch myself because oftentimes I don’t think my voice will do these brands justice. Seeing the likes (or lack thereof) on Instagram fluctuate and try and I might not seeing the growth in my follower count can be so disheartening. I feel like following all the trends, taking pictures exactly like all the other girls you see on the platform is the only way to going to get noticed and get followers. But then I realize that wouldn’t be authentic to who I am.
I never want to be like everyone else, there is only one you in the world and no one can take that away from you. I like to think that many of you come to my blog because you can relate to me, you have a similar experience as I do and are looking for that connection. Or you’re also petite or a fashion lover and want to hear honest reviews of products or trends I’m loving because we have similar styles and are inspired by my outfit posts.
The internet makes it so easy to find like-minded people that we need to lean into what makes us unique. Being true to yourself, your passions, and your dreams is the way to be truly happy.
Therapy is for everyone
I started therapy almost two years ago, at one of the darkest points of my life. I am forever grateful for what my therapist has taught me and continues to teach me about myself, as well as my ability to be a better partner, friend, daughter, and individual. Life is a journey and we are constantly growing and changing. The value in having someone to talk to that can help me see where I can improve is unexplainable. I feel like I am so much more confident, I feel lighter, happier, and more myself because of what I’ve learned with and from my therapist. I look for more opportunities to grow on my own, I enjoy learning about better forms of communication and how I can be an even stronger partner and friend.
You don’t realize how much you need someone to talk to that is willing to just listen and knows when to give you their advice. I look forward to our meetings on Wednesdays and get excited to tell her how I’ve successfully implemented some of the things we’ve talked about or how because of the world we’ve done my relationships have improved and I’ve been able to be assertive in situations I never dreamed I would be.
I know not everyone can be as lucky as I am to find a therapist they connect with as easily as I did with mine. But I promise you the value you will get if you give it a shot and keep looking is so worth the time.
Communication skills can always improve and are the key to a healthy relationship
No one is perfect and I think when we are emotionally invested in things we are passionate about we can let those emotions get the best of us. But having effective communication is something I’ve learned is so important not only in romantic relationships but also in our professional lives. I think to be a good partner you need to be able to speak up and ask for what you want, but you also need the ability to hear your partner’s needs. No one is a mind reader and oftentimes people will disappoint you if you aren’t upfront about what you want or need. This also goes for your professional life. If you can’t set boundaries with work how are they to know what your professional goals are? Tell them when you are going to start your day, what your goals are, and where you see yourself in the future of the company, or even what your workload looks like, and if you are feeling overwhelmed. They won’t know you’re at your limit unless you speak up and talk about your feelings.
When it comes to love we spend so much time with the person that we can often expect them to just know how we’re feeling but chances are with everything happening in their lives as well they have other things on their mind. You won’t get what you want unless you say something. I used to be notorious for expecting my partner to know I wanted him home at a certain time for dinner. If he decided to stay late after work I would sit there and stew in my frustration. He would ask me if it was ok and I would say “yeah” even though it wasn’t. I would get upset with him even though it was me who wasn’t communicating properly.
Boundaries are also important to keep relationships healthy. They don’t have to be bad or nasty. They are there to give you the tools to protect your mental health and give the person guidance on how to treat you. Not texting when you’re feeling really emotional, instead of setting the boundary that you will not fight through text messages is a great way to take out an emotional interpretation of the texts and instead hear a tone of voice. Last month I read the book Set Boundaries, Find Peace by Nedra Glover Tawwab and it gave me a brand new perspective on how good communication can be found in setting boundaries with your loved ones.
You are allowed to let people go from your life if they do not serve you
This one has been very hard to grasp in the past. With my Codependency being a people pleaser was number one. I would suck up my feelings to make sure people stayed in my life. I would apologize just to keep the peace and I would sit on my feelings to make others feel ok. Recently I’ve learned if you don’t agree with someone and don’t feel like they align with your morals you can let them go. You don’t have to keep them around because they’ve been a good friend in the past.
I always go back to an analogy my therapist taught me; think of your life as a theater. All the people you know have seats in the theater, you have some in the front row, the middle, you can even assign people to the back or balcony seats, and if someone isn’t a positive part of your life you’re even allowed to kick them out. You don’t have to keep someone around just because they say they have a ticket to the show.
Protecting yourself from toxic, manipulative people is more important than keeping a friend.
Working from home is amazing but challenging
I’ve been working from home for two years now, much of that was unsure of if or when I would be possibly heading back into an office. I knew in my heart that having the ability to travel, see loved ones, and essentially make my schedule was what I wanted and something I wasn’t willing to give up after almost a year of being bicoastal and traveling to Charlotte frequently. But I also find that working from home can really burn me out if I’m not careful. You need to set boundaries for yourself, express those with your coworkers, and learn to focus on what’s best for you.
I also think it makes building those connections a bit more challenging. You aren’t face to face with these people on a daily basis, you can’t just walk over to their desk for a chat or learn about their personal interests as quickly and easily. You need to put in that effort to talk and get to know them and put yourself out there to allow them to get to know you.
Europeans know how to have a healthy work-life balance
After visiting France it really opened my eyes to how work-life balance really should be, how the mantra ‘live to work’ is kind of an American thing, and if you want to find true happiness you need to do things for yourself instead of constantly working. When I came home from France I set myself rules that I wouldn’t start my workday before 9 am would have a hard stop at 5 pm no matter what. I take that time in the morning to get myself ready, listen to my favorite podcasts, journal, and do whatever housework that might need to get done. Then in the afternoon, I try to get myself away from my desk and make lunch. I’ve gotten bad about taking an afternoon break but I try to force myself into at least 30 minutes to make something to eat and maybe do some blog work or something.
Making time for yourself and not putting every ounce of yourself into your job will make you feel more accomplished and happier. I never knew that giving myself just that little time in the morning would make me feel so much happier and more productive.
Sometimes things don’t go as planned but it’s important to keep going
Actually, let me correct that often things don’t go as planned. I think when you set expectations in your head rarely do they go completely perfectly. Making allowances for change is a plan is good. Our France trip challenged us to find the positive in every situation, we had a lot go wrong, even with all our planning and research there were little things we didn’t plan for like our bikes getting left in Chicago when grocery stores are closed and even some of the road closures into the different cities caught us by surprise. We had to readjust and keep moving, we had some amazing moments come out of these unexpected days and probably wouldn’t have had them if things had gone as planned.
So for what it’s worth 2020 was an insane year full of so many lessons but this year I feel like I’ve learned some of my most important lessons, I can see big changes in myself in the last 6 months and it feels good to feel confident to speak up and be who I am.