As 2020 drew to a close, like every year, I began to reflect on the year. While 2020, itself, has been different from any other year I have lived, the challenge was ultimately the same: me.
The real challenge is the person I see in the mirror every morning staring back at me with a lot of unknown questions. It is my expectations, my goals, the image of what my life should be vs. what it actually is, my ambitions, and the things I am grateful for. It is what I look like and how those looks make me feel. It is my job and where I am at with my career. It is my failures and my achievements. I think about all the things I have not done and all the choices I have made, both good and bad.
I spend time feeling guilty for even worrying about my “minor” problems compared to others, and then I begin to feel stuck in a negative cycle that I can’t escape. It does not matter what part of life the cycle is in – body image, career, money, etc. It is a negative cycle of failure, fear, and guilt. I start thinking about what is holding me back from breaking this cycle, but the only thing I ever come up with is it is easier to make excuses to justify my own inaction and blame everyone or everything else for my challenges than it is for me to accept that the cause always leads back to me.
Throughout my life, I have had many great moments and experienced many things. I have achieved a lot and yet there is always something missing. I have filled this “missing piece” with a million different things thinking this time it will be what completes the person that I look at every morning in the mirror. Sadly, I am disappointed every time because the real problem is my own vision of myself. I never seem to live up to the standards I have for myself.
The truth is, I just feel like I am holding on to an image of myself that has never existed. It is an image shaped from what I believe to be perfection, which was created based on my own human need for acceptance and all the different experiences and moments throughout my life.
As my thoughts now turn to 2021, I have decided my only resolution is that I will not stay in that cycle. This is a new year: one where I must take responsibility for my own actions as much as my own inactions. My vision of perfection has to change to include who I am, what I am, and what I want to be, and not be driven by what I think “others” want.
Living for others’ acceptance is not happiness. It is very easy to get caught up in “destination addiction” or the idea that happiness is with the next best thing, the next best person, or the next best place. Happiness is loving who you are. Don’t shape who you are based on what you think other people want you to be and don’t change your goals because you are afraid that people won’t understand or accept you. If they don’t, you weren’t important to them to begin with.
Things will never be handed to you. You will never wake up one day and have it all figured out. You have to work for it. It is a process and if you want something, you have to go get it.
This is not about any one thing. There is nothing cryptic in these thoughts. The truth is, I have wasted years worrying about what others think instead of facing the real challenge that is my own fears. It is now time to work each day towards what I want – loving the journey – while remembering to enjoy what I have, and loving myself in all its flawed beauty. I know I am my own worst critic when I look in the mirror, but if I spend all my time criticizing myself then when will I have time to enjoy my life?
Kimberly Dyonne, M.P.A.