9 Surprising Truths I Discovered About Myself in 2020

Compared to many people, I was fortunate to emerge from 2020 relatively unscathed. Admittedly, certain elements of our brief lockdown in Sydney tested me, but because my job carried on pretty much as usual (and I don’t get out much anyway), there were few noticeable changes in my day-to-day life.

However, I don’t think anyone resurfaced from last year’s unprecedented event without some restructuring of their lives. And so, at the start of 2021 and what we hope will be a better year – we may have to pretend for a moment that last week’s antics at Capitol Hill never happened – I’d like to highlight some of the positive ways the last terrible year altered my perceptions.

The most notable change to my lifestyle in 2020 was that I learned to relax. I’m not sure if I am naturally a productive person, but keeping busy distracts me from overthinking – which in turn keeps the “black dog” from my back door. So when I woke up in this new, threatening world that offered no certainties, i.e. I didn’t know how our income stream would be affected by the virus, or when we would see family and friends again – and curtailed my movements, I discovered the enjoyment of greater balance in my life, and a desire to use my time more wisely.

2020 was definitely an education that made me pull my inner sanctum closer and helped me let go of the dead wood.

Not only did COVID teach us a new language – where words like “restrictions”, “isolation”, and “seeding” took on new meaning – lockdown provided many of us with more time to self-reflect, to look at our lives more closely and gain a better understanding of what gives meaning to them – and I’m not talking about alcohol.

These are 9 surprising truths I discovered about myself:

  1. I enjoy my own company is a surprising admission from a Leo, however, I am a lion with anxiety, which adds another dimension to the attention-seeking stereotype. With the curtailment of my social life, I had to learn not to feel guilty about doing and achieving nothing and I saw a noticeable improvement in my mental health. Nowadays, I try to dedicate at least an hour each day to read or watch something vacuous on Netflix, just to switch off. It’s called self-care.
  2. I’m quite innovative. I am more resourceful than I thought and I’m not afraid to try out new things. Many of my friends struggle to fill their free time – especially when their partners are busy – whereas I discovered a plethora of new interests. I completed an online marketing course, I learned how to crochet, and I even gave Pilates another go. And while it’s unlikely I will continue to crochet in my retirement, I am more confident I won’t have to take up golf anytime soon either.
  3. I need routine. I have never lacked self-discipline, but I am easily distracted and so I need structure and accountability in my day – even if that’s just a to-do list. I’m certain that the necessity of a daily routine is symptomatic of my age and anxiety as much as COVID, or even a coping strategy I’ve picked up to prevent my brain straying into dangerous territory, but I am much more productive when I set myself goals. Now I just need to work on some flexibility.
  4. Friends, family, and community are important to me. During lockdown, we relied on our friends and family like never before, and everyone – even the socially anxious and introverts among us – was forced to make an effort to maintain connection, whether that was via a quick text to check in or a full-blown Zoom call. Small talk has never been one of my strengths, and prior to COVID, it was rare for me to instigate a group chat about the mundanities of my day. However, last year forced to do just that, and I saw for myself the benefits of those interactions in terms of the mutual boost to our morale.
  5. I need to exercise. I have hated sport for most of my life, which proves just how much we change with age. I don’t exercise to lose weight, I do it to keep my brain healthy and to maintain a positive outlook. I never understood how addictive exercise was until a recent sports injury affected my mobility and the mental health benefits I derive from nature and the great outdoors.
  6. Exercise doesn’t help me lose weight. However, as much as I’d love to eulogise about the resulting weight loss from my gruelling workouts and pathetic little runs, I finished the year at the same weight I started. I am fitter, my joints and muscles are (presumably) stronger, and a recent heart check gave me the all-clear, but I have also had to resign myself to the fact that I will never be a size 10 again. And that’s OK. Weight loss is about diet, and I love my food too much to be a skinny Minnie.
  7. I’m an empath. I discovered that an increasingly unhealthy compassion towards pretty much everything and everyone means that daily doomscrolling and watching cute dog videos are not great for my mental health. While I am proud of my compassion for those less fortunate than myself, I need to control my emotional investment. I can’t let the misfortunes of others paralyse me to the point where it prevents me from doing my own work to create awareness about the stuff that is important to me. Basing my own happiness on the happiness of others is an example of “interdependence”, according to my therapist.
  8. My emotional triggers. Last year, I gained a better understanding of what triggers my anxiety: my son’s mental health and its ramifications, a latent problem with rejection (that I’m still trying to understand), and the pressure of working for other people (whilst trying to balance my other responsibilities, in particular, my son’s needs). Now that I’ve identified them, I feel more confident about moving forward with my therapist to develop coping strategies. “What happens is not as important as how you react to what happens,” (Ellen Glasgow) is great advice that I intend to heed in 2021. In simple terms, it means I will stop taking responsibility for everyone else’s problems and choices and I will be my son’s supporter rather than his enabler.
  9. The true meaning of gratitude. It has been heartbreaking to watch the toll of COVID around the world, particularly from my place of privilege. And yet, I’m embarrassed to admit that I still have those why me days. I have never taken anything for granted, but in 2021 I am even more resolved to make the most of each day and be grateful for what I have.

What did you learn about yourself this year?

2016 Will Be About Me

I’ve decided that New Year’s resolutions are just so 2015.

 

Ambition Key Means Aim Or Goal
Ambition Key On Keyboard Meaning Target Aim Or Goal

Have you noticed how women often link theirs to self-improvement rather than ambition? How we focus on the stuff we don’t do well?

 

Probably because we are continually reminded that we are not perfect.

 

And I’m the worst offender. The resolutions of my past have always reeked of what I can only describe as pathetic girliness; and I’m a feminist. They’ve been centred around how I can become a better mother, a better wife or how I can shape and improve myself mentally and physically into something I’m frankly never going to be.

 

They’re not true-to-myself, badass, ego-fuelled, man goals.

 

The majority of men don’t see the need to self-improve, which is why we continually have to remind them. They don’t settle for wishy-washy, politically correct personal goals for the sake of popularity and fitting in. Men put themselves first. They are aware of their strengths. When they go into a work review, they always ask for a raise. Most women don’t ask for a rise; they wait for it to come to them and they can wait a long time.

 

I’m not going to be that woman this year.

 

This year I’m going to take the old man’s lead and be proactive about me. I’m going to focus on selfish goals instead of putting myself last place in the family and career hierarchy, and I will force myself to eat kale patties as punishment if I ever hear myself apologising or marginalising my value or opinion again.

 

Because in the words of L’Oreal, ‘I’m worth it.’

 

We’re all worth it, ladies. We just need to make sure everyone else gets that. And I don’t need to set my goals down in stone because I am the only judge of any importance. These ideas that I have for this year have been exploding in my brain for a while now, desperate to be implemented; yet so easily thwarted by excuses when you’re a professional procrastinator like me. They are ambitious and tangible personal achievements that are unrelated to those defects of my personality or genetics that I have blamed for my failures in the past, yet can’t change.

 

I’ve wasted too much of my life focusing on what I can’t do and what I haven’t got, but this year will be about focusing on my strengths. 2016 is about not compromising myself anymore, not defining myself by what others expect of me, nor allowing my innate lack of confidence to sap at my powers.

 

This year will be about discipline, focus, taking those risks that I’ve benched for too long and seizing the fucking day.

 

I’m gonna be a BITCH this year. This will be the year where I nail every fucking goal and then some that I haven’t even thought of yet.

 

‘Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!’ (Coach Taylor)

 

And I will start right now by going back to bed for my first strategy session.