Around this time last year, my partner told me that one of his goals for 2021 was to help me love myself better, to have me love myself as much as he did.
I’m here to report that he succeeded.
How, you might ask. Shit, I wonder the same thing some days.
At the beginning of this year, I felt a sort of pressure to “get better” or “be better.” I wanted to feel more confident, to feel more like an individuated adult, to feel like I was driving my emotions rather than the other way around. I wanted to be the person I had always seen and imagined myself being when I was some arbitrary age younger than I was now.
I’d always been good at holding myself accountable to finishing homework and tasks, so I imagined I could keep lists of habits I wanted to rebuild and recreate for myself to accomplish this growth. All this accomplished though was give me more anxiety over trying to remember everything—on top of everything else that was happening in my day-to-day life at school, in my family, and with my partner.
To get back to my partner—a lot happened between us this year. We rented I forgot how many U-Hauls, took a few weekend trips, began a shared Google Drive, did an Instagram Live, moved in together, lived and worked in different time zones under the same roof, hosted an all-day summit, attended a wedding, ventured to a couple different countries, went to the hospital a few too many times, took hundreds of photos, got fast food more than we should have, and talked—a lot.
Among and between everything that was happening, he provided me with the resources to create a more structured, protected, and routine space for myself each day. He brought to me people who would be my second best hype people (second only to him) when I wouldn’t listen to him or myself. He encouraged me to reach out to a friend who could introduce me to a new therapist. He saw the parts of me that I tried to keep hidden behind the identity I thought I wanted to create for myself, and he pushed me to let them out when I was ready.
By May, I’d long forgotten about the lists of habits I’d written for myself. They had always been too difficult, too forced to memorize and incorporate into my daily life. It was only when I began to feel psychologically safe—safe with my partner through all the love he sought to give me, the village he’d created for me—that I was able to begin the real work.
I went to therapy, found the space to reflect, and actually made a point of reading the books he suggested.
I found a new therapist, made a point of practicing the new emotional habits she shared with me, and also actually read the books she suggested.
I attended a personal development seminar (which was helpful but also a lot).
I followed people online—fitness coaches, therapists, activists, influencers—whose habits, thoughts, and lives I admired. I also added the podcasts and books they recommended into my own list.
I began a daily future self journaling practice.
I learned to measure the quantitative things that actually helped my mental health—body measurements, days meditated, hours slept, etc.
I invested in purchases that my future self would thank me for rather than the purchases my current self thought I was worth.
Every day, regardless of how my emotions felt or where my old habits wanted to take me, I had a new, healthier set of systems that I could autopilot into. Even if my emotions weren’t always fully present, I built the habit of going through the motions until they became habits which later became parts of my identity.
I am a person who protects her personal time in the mornings, who meditates and journals daily, who reads at least 5 minutes of a therapy or self-help book each morning, who works out before she gets breakfast to start her day. I am that person. I just hadn’t realized a year ago that the version of me who had a greater sense of self, was in control of her emotions, and more confident was going to have these habits.
I was only reminded of my partner’s goal this week as I prepared to spend my second Christmas apart from my family, my first Christmas alone (I’m not sick, just cursing COVID for making travel risky right now). Last year, during that first Christmas away from family, I at least had my partner with me. This year, I’m alone—and I actually feel peace about that.
I miss my family like hell, and thinking about the time that we’ve lost together because of the pandemic gives me a level of sadness I can feel deep in my joints and makes me want to cry. But I’m okay with spending the holiday by myself because I realize I’m really content with just being by myself.
I like spending time with me. Damn, she’s really, really terrible at going to bed early, but she’s real silly, understanding, dedicated, hard-working, and honest with herself. She’s really, really honest with herself about the person she wants to be. She’s getting better at giving herself the grace she deserves. And she loves being loved and giving love.
This year wasn’t easy. I shed a shit ton of tears, and I am still so far from where I hope to be in my personal growth—my tossing in bed for 30 minutes the other night because I was worrying about denied health insurance claims is a stunning example of that—but I’m still really proud of how far I’ve come this year. And I don’t say that often enough.