2017 was my year of learning. I adopted Michelangelo’s quote “I am still learning” as my motto and let it guide me through uncertainty and doubt each time I stepped out of my comfort zone. I made myself uncomfortable a lot last year which resulted in a lot of learning. I learned that I was strong enough to balance on my hands, head, and one leg with the other one bound. I learned to ask for what I wanted and to remain determined when I kept hearing ‘no’. I learned that walking across Paris to sit underneath the Eiffel tower as it sparkled was worth the pain I felt the next day (but next time I’ll take a taxi!). I learned that practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make you better. I learned to believe in the kindness of strangers and the simple joy of smiling a little longer than usual. Most importantly, I learned that learning is a life-time practice that requires, commitment, patience and kindness.
While “I am still learning” defined my journey in 2017 and allowed me to move closer to the life I wanted, the thoughts and beliefs I had to unlearn were equally if not more important to my journey.
Prior to starting my journey to self-love, I made countless attempts to change. But back then change involved losing 20 lbs first (despite never really needing to lose that much weight) and then everything else falling into place. Just about every quarter or so I would get a burst of inspiration usually influenced by an arbitrary deadline (8 weeks until summer, 10 weeks until my birthday, before the New Year,etc.) and focus on losing weight or making another superficial goal. Sometimes I got lucky (i.e caught a cold or loss my appetite due to stress) and came close to my goal but most of the time when I hit the first setback, I would give up and go back to my old habits. I held on to this belief that losing weight would be the catalyst to “cure” my anxiety, depression and insecurity for much of my adult-life.
However, in my late twenties as I freaked out about turning thirty soon and not being where I wanted to be in life, I started to question and challenge my thoughts and habits. I started asking myself – “If I can get this far in life with anxiety and insecurity, imagine where I can be if I actually loved myself and believed I was capable of achieving my dreams”. It started becoming clear to me that I was the one person standing in the way of my happiness. Years earlier an advisor in college had blatantly asked me when I was going to stop “shooting myself if the foot”. I remember at the time feeling attacked and misunderstood. I felt my actions, thoughts and feelings were justified given the circumstances. I was convinced that the source of my anxiety was related to the way I looked, so the solution had to be in losing weight. But I realized that the problem was in the way I thought about myself, not in the way I looked.
Unlearning the thoughts and habits I’ve had for almost 20 years is no easy task. Just like learning, I imagine it might be a lifelong practice where I’m consciously making the choice to not give in to my thoughts and limiting beliefs. Meditation has helped significantly with not allowing my thoughts to define or control me, but the beliefs I have seem to be rooted pretty deeply. To quote Solange’s Cranes in the Sky, I tried to “run it away…write it away or cry it away” but it still remains.
Even though I have a long journey of learning and unlearning ahead of me, I am still proud of the progress I’ve made over the last year and half. Sometimes it seems like things are creeping along because I’ve had no dramatic life changes, but I know that the seemingly tiny steps I am taking are adding up to a better me and a me that is one step closer to the woman I want to be.