The parties have ended. The hangovers are nursed, and our squeals of joy have been replaced by quiet sighs. After having taken stock of the last twelve months and bid them goodbye — sometimes with fierce abandon — reality (whatever that means) is settling back in.
We’re back to some kind of routine, many of us resolved to do things better — or at the very least differently — for the year to come. And while I’m all for it if this is what you’re yearning to do, I feel like taking another direction today. See, I think we spend a lot of time dreaming up lofty outcomes, only to find ourselves disappointed whether we achieve them or not. Because the things that keep us struggling along the way don’t magically disappear once we reach our destination.
And so here are some of my wishes for us, in the year to come. They don’t direct any specific course of action, but by keeping them in mind, they’ll help us frame a better way of being in the world.
If I’ve learned anything in the last few years — and I believe that I am still learning! — it’s that setting strong boundaries is one of the healthiest and most compassionate things we can do for ourselves and for others.
Boundaries differ from building walls, or hiding behind some kind of metaphorical armour (something I did for most of my adult life). I think the operative word here is hiding. When we build a fortress around ourselves, which many of us do, we essentially try to protect ourselves against any type of potential threat. The problem is that we also end up shielding ourselves against any kind of unexpected goodness.
We miss out. A lot. And we cultivate fear.
Boundaries, on the other hand, give us a sense of direction in everything we do. They aren’t a defense system, but a way of interacting with the world. With strongly rooted boundaries, we can stand proudly in our own power and worthiness, and have a great compass to navigate what life brings us.
Many people’s entire life experience — women, in particular, but not exclusively — is strongly motivated by shame. Let’s face it: shame sells! With multiple billion-dollar industries thriving thanks to keeping the status quo on shame, some people don’t even realize the power it holds over their entire life.
I want to call bullshit. Enough with shame.
The good thing is that shame, in its physical manifestation, is rather easy to identify (try it for yourself: think of a topic or a situation that’s a shame-trigger for yourself, and you should very quickly get a specific feeling in your body, which you’re likely to recognize).
A lot of shame is socially constructed, and wholly unnecessary. Let go deliberately against it. Any time we experience shame, we should question its roots and see how we can reframe the stories surrounding it, instead of taking them for granted.
We take too much for granted. We also spend too much energy focusing on the things that aren’t going as we’d like, without taking the time to acknowledge what’s good. Not that we don’t necessarily see it, but it’s often easier, even juicier, to look at all that’s wrong.
I’ll never advocate against striving to improve things, of course, but I do believe we all need to make a conscious effort to not only be more appreciative, but to actively voice it, especially with people. By making it a habit to tell others around us exactly what we appreciate about who they are or what they do, we give everyone the opportunity to shine, and to cultivate their own superpowers.
So, what are your own wishes for 2018?