5 Lessons Learned From 43 Years of Being Me
Yesterday was my 43rd birthday and, unlike most birthdays, I spent most of the day alone. I woke up early and got in a great workout. I then took a long hot shower and slathered myself in J’adore body creme (my new favorite personal indulgence). Afterwards, I slid into an oversized tee and sat on my sofa with my journal. Ok, so not this photo! LOL
Looking back on all I had done since the beginning of the year, I reflected on what steps led me to where I was in that moment and on what steps I needed to take going forward. I have been feeling pretty good about myself these past few months and I like the momentum my life has. During my reflection, it hit me that there were many things that I had been doing differently than in years past. I started to realize that the lessons I had embraced since the beginning of the year were helping me to transform into a healthier, happier version of myself. These might not be Einsteinian revelations but for me they have taken a while to sink in. If there is one thing I love doing, it’s sharing helpful nuggets with you. So here goes.
1. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you have to eat or drink it.
The one personal challenge that has given me the most stress in my adult life is the struggle to maintain my ideal weight. I lose. I gain. I lose. I gain. On and on, year after year. Two of my biggest vices are sweet treats and beer, and neither are beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight. My work often takes me to many events where unlimited free food and drinks are I typically eat and drink to my heart’s content. On top of that, I typically bring quite a lot home to continue eating and drinking for weeks after the event has long past.
One day it hit me, just because it’s free doesn’t mean you have to eat or drink it. Why am I self-sabotaging myself in the name of “saving.” What am I truly saving. Certainly not my waistline or my health. Now, I just say no thank you to excessive and unnecessary consumption of food and drinks that’s only going to cause me stress and unhappiness in the long haul.
2. Wear all the free t-shirts.
Just like free food and drinks are typically plentiful at the events I go to, so are the free promotional items. Often times these items are wearables, and that means loads and loads of free t-shirts. I generally collect my t-shirts and give them as donations because I’ve always felt self-conscious wearing them myself. Typically, I feel a sense that being caught wearing a branded t-shirt might make me look low class.
As a consultant, you are your brand and how people perceive your personal level of success an often dictate whether or not they hire you. Living with this desire to put forth the right image has at times caused me to overspend. Granted, I come from a culture that hyper fixates on image (Colombians what can I say!) so that doesn’t help but at some point in our lives we have to say to ourselves who cares what they think. I need to be valued for the wisdom I bring to the table, not because I have on a fancy blouse. Now, I embrace my free t-shirts and rock them almost everyday. Throw on a black blazer on top and I’m bossed-up frugalista style.
3. Routines are good.
I have always said that I hate routines and, as a matter of fact, I have carefully cultivated my life so that I don’t have any routine schedules forced upon me. Actually, becoming a consultant was so that I could escape the 9-5 and the routines that comes with it.
I’m a notorious flower child and my mantra has always been, I go where the wind takes me. The problem with that is that the wind often takes you in circles. It finally sunk in that if you want to move forward in life, you have to be purposeful in your actions.
Don’t mistake me, I still value being the master of my time and having the freedom to decide how I wish to spend it. However, I have learned the hard way that developing routines aimed at accomplishing the goals I set is absolutely necessary for success.
Now, I religiously map out a schedule for all the important things and I block out all the times to do them on my calendar. I even set up reminders and alarms to keep me on tract. For example, Sunday at 4pm is meal prep time, Tuesday at 10am-12pm is walking/audio book time, and Friday 6pm-7pm is happy hour with friends. I now even go to bed at the same time everyday and wake up at the same time every morning, and I set alerts to remind me when to start whining down at night.
All of my must do things for business, for my personal well-being, and to maintain my relationships with others go on the calendar before everything else. If anything else comes up and it can fit into the windows that are open on the calendar, then it’s fly away with the wind butterfly.
4. Let go and live on.
One of my faults is that I’m a perfectionist and as they say, “perfection is the enemy of progress.” I hate failing, and I hate losing, and I hate giving up. In January, I suffered a major heartbreak and, not saying my ex was winning any boyfriend of the year awards, I really had to be honest with myself about how I could have been a better partner. That big panty self-reflection was a necessary part of my personal growth, it was being done in social isolation and it was leading me down a rabbit hole of low self-esteem.
I felt like a total failure for being what I thought was the worst girlfriend ever. I was allowing myself to be overwhelmed by self-criticism. This was keeping me stuck in a cycle of self pity and self loathing. Rather, I should have been embracing my shortcomings in a wholistic approach to self-improvement. The question should not have been so much about how I could have saved that relationship (because who knows if that was even possible), but how could I have been healthier, happier, and more fit to sustain a significant relationship with the RIGHT partner.
Now, I am in a place where I have accepted that I’m not perfect and that’s okay. I am looking to improve the things about myself that I can change and I’m learning to embrace those things I can’t. I have come to realize that being honest about who you are, and your limitations, is important to building healthy relationships. I have now incorporated techniques to address the areas in which I seek personal growth, have invested in cultivating a supportive social circle, and have acknowledged that there are some things about myself that I don’t want to change and that’s ok too.
5. You don’t have to pick up the phone, answer that message, or accept that invitation.
Avoiding toxic people is absolutely essential for maintaining your wellbeing, and maintaining your wellbeing is essential to accomplishing your goals. I can’t tell you how many internet arguments I’ve had, how many times self-destructive family members have tried to snare me in their chaos, or how many times I’ve gone to events with people only to fret the night away wondering “why am I here!”
My father, Earl Griffin, told me once, “You know you don’t have to respond.” Truer words have never been spoken and taking that lesson to heart has made a huge difference in my life these past few months. I’m an empathetic person, one of those people that gets caught up in whatever others around me are feeling. Other people’s negative energy is my kryptonite. It makes me defensive, unfocused, and lethargic. Being around negative people just zaps the life right out of me, making it difficult to function in a healthy way and enjoy my life.
Now, I take serious stock of the people around me and I ask myself what am I getting from this relationship. If the positives don’t out-weight the negatives, I remove them from my life. Over the past few months, that has meant a much smaller circle of “friends,” less interaction with some family members, and less time spent engaging online with people and groups that give me nothing but stress. Carefully cultivating a social circle where you are surrounded by people who appreciate, nurture, and motivate you is a key component to a successful life.