The 3 Biggest Lessons I Learned In 2021

I really love end-of-year content. Tell me about the things you tried, the things you learned, and the things you’re glad you didn’t do. I want all of the 2021 roundups.

This year has been one of self-improvement and discovery for me. I joined a coworking/networking group of primarily women, so I have a ton of great role models. I continued making progress with school. I quit the job I’d been doing for years. I started a business. This is major shit. It took me a long time (and a pandemic) to get to this point, and I’ve learned a lot. Here are some of the biggest takeaways:

Other people don’t get to determine my success or my worth.

Ok, yes, this is technically two different lessons, but they’re inexorably linked in my mind.

I’ve spent my entire life listening to people tell me that I’m not good enough, internalizing that message and accepting it as true. I can remember hearing it about my grades, my performance in sports (which, fair, since I’m not a sports person), my body, my professional skills and experience, on and on. I give some of these people the benefit of the doubt and think maybe it was done to motivate me, but, SURPRISE, this is really damaging and it failed spectacularly.

The result is that I’ve spent decades honestly believing that I can’t do shit. Well, guess what?

Nope. Nope to all of that. Listening to other people hasn’t done me any favors, nor has it gotten me to where I want to be in life. Instead of being motivated I’ve allowed myself to be mistreated and unhappy because I didn’t think I deserved anything more.

So for the last 6 months or so I’ve just ignored all of that. I was working with a coach and a therapist, both of whom helped me learn to actively challenge those negative thoughts and be honest about my goals and the things I want. Yeah, I know how simple that sounds, but it’s not. It’s undoing a lifetime of fear and insecurity and breaking the cycle of self-loathing.

I’m one semester from finishing my BS in Marketing. I’m writing professionally, the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do with my life. I’m interviewing for jobs similar to the one I was doing for almost six years, with better benefits, more support, and more than double the money. So I guess I *can* actually do stuff.

Burnout is real, even when I’m doing something I love.

Writing is everything to me. It’s been my main emotional outlet since I was old enough to write, literally.

My mom writes every day. When I was old enough to hold a pencil she gave me a notebook and explained that, sometimes, writing your thoughts and feelings down made them less scary and overwhelming. So from the time I was 6 or 7 I kept some kind of diary or journal. It did me a lot of good, I think. Even though I struggled to process my feelings and still needed a lot of therapy as an adult, I already had one healthy daily habit. It blossomed into short stories and creative non-fiction, and it’s something I developed a passion for.

I’ve dreamed about becoming a professional writer my entire life. Now I’m finally doing it, and I’m even calling myself a writer. That was a huge hurdle. So everything’s great and I love my work life, right? No. I still push myself too much, spend too much time working, and I even started to get burnt out in the last couple of weeks. I was surprised – if I’m living my dream, shouldn’t I love every day of it?

I do. I also need an occasional break, like with any job. I need time to watch trashy paranormal TV shows and work on my own projects and maybe take a midday nap without worrying about deadlines and revisions. I remembered that I work for myself and the only one driving me to take on so much work is me, so I took this weekend off, and I’ll be off until after the New Year. I won’t be making any money, of course, but burnout means I’m not doing my best work, and that could impact the content I’m creating for clients. Breaks are fine, another thing I’m learning.

No one, and I mean NO ONE, has the right to treat me (or you) like trash.

This goes hand in hand with my first lesson, but this also applies to people in my, and your, personal life. My boss doesn’t have a right to bully me. My friends don’t have the right to belittle me. My parents don’t have the right to use me as an emotional punching bag just because they’re my parents. Everyone has bad days, and sometimes people are shitty without really knowing it, but I’m talking about long-term patterns of behavior. There’s a power dynamic at play in these relationships, and it’s common for people like parents and bosses to use that to their advantage. They can treat you however they like because you’re stuck with them, right?

Nope. No one, LITERALLY FUCKING NO ONE, has the right to treat you badly without some kind of consequences. As an employee, an adult child, a friend, the strongest weapon you have is your presence.

Your boss wants to constantly demean you? That’s cool, you can find a new job, especially in this labor market.

Your friends only wants to spend time with you when they need something? They make you feel guilty about your success, or are constantly shitty and passive-aggressive? Whatever. You can get new friends, or just spend time alone. Solitude is better than spending time with people who don’t actually value your company or use you like an ATM.

Your parents are controlling and vindictive? Or they won’t shut up about their hateful views on BIPOC/LGBTQ+/other marginalized people, even after you’ve repeatedly set boundaries about it? That’s their choice, and you don’t have to be around them.

I understand that these people don’t make it easy to just remove yourself from the situation, but it’s possible. Don’t let them give you the whole “You need this job/We’ve been friends for decades/But we’re family” bullshit. And that’s all it is – bullshit. Just another tool they use to control and manipulate. You get to make the choice.

So those are the biggest (and apparently most long-winded) lessons I learned this year. I can only imagine what’s coming for 2022.

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