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When I consider what I would like to leave behind in 2017, it would be easy to name political nonsense, people who get on my nerves, or ways that oppression rears its ugly head. But I can’t really control those things, aside from setting self-protective boundaries. And thinking about external toxicity makes me feel disempowered, which is not how I want to start any new year.
Instead I’m taking a look at what I do have agency over: my own thoughts and behaviors. Paying attention to what I can change about my relationship with myself and the world helps me live with less stress, and I hope it will help you have a relatively stress-free 2018 too.
I can’t count how many days, how many opportunities I’ve lost to my self-doubt. And while it’s not easy to leave behind, especially because of the relationship between imposter syndrome and oppression, that won’t stop me from trying. In 2018, I commit to recognizing moments of self-doubt and reaching out for support so I’m not crossing this hurdle on my own. That’s what I did to conquer self-doubt when applying for The Body is Not an Apology, and look at me now!
2. Prioritizing other people’s needs over my own
This toxic behavior of mine can seem nice on the surface, yet the underlying mechanism is self-sabotage. The most compassionate people have the best boundaries, writes Brené Brown, and that’s because burnout limits the energy we have to support ourselves and others. From now on, I will take the red flags of doing too much seriously and see them as a stop sign in the road reminding me to detour for self-care. Burnout for me can look like resentment, inability to focus, muscle tension, and unfortunately an increased desire to help others.
Not only do I intend to limit the time I spend in spaces where judgment flows freely, but more importantly, I want to leave behind the ways I contribute to judgment in community. That means checking my oppressive myths, internalized racism, and competitive self before I get to the door – and any other moment I notice thoughts that dehumanize others and cause harm. In order to leave judgment in 2017, I will choose to spend time with compassionate people who also strive to uphold this commitment to be non-judgmental in their words and actions.
More Radical Reads:10 Ways I Was More Resilient When 2017 Tried to Kill Us All
4. Not asking for help when I need it
I’ve been practicing how to ask for and accept help throughout 2017, and while I have a lot more to learn, I’m ready to kiss goodbye to not asking for support at all. Reaching out in need of help is downright uncomfortable, especially for anyone with an anxiety disorder, BPD, or PTSD. However, not asking for help is self-sabotage. If I need to recruit cheerleaders who can help me ask for even more help, so be it. That’s what I will do because reaching out for help is a way to show that I believe in myself and my value, and it means I’m sticking by my commitment to prioritize my needs.
5. Neglecting self-care
Not practicing self-care when I recognize that I need it is one of the most toxic ways that I hold myself back. There are multiple moments a day where I feel tension in my body and choose to stay in my desk chair. There are times I know I should eat but don’t push myself to fulfill hunger. Dissociation complicates this self-neglect, acting like a plate of glass between me and the self-care I need. In 2018, I am committing to compassionately challenge myself in these moments of struggle to better nurture my wellbeing.
6.Talking with people who don’t respect me
I can’t control whether or not other people respect me. I can only live my life true to myself and hope that others respond with respect – which can feel like an unrealistic expectation for me as a disabled trans person of color. What I do have agency over is how close I get to people who disrespect me. By trusting my intuition and looking for signs of feeling disrespected, such as having panic attacks around someone else, I can create healthier boundaries around interacting with disrespectful people.
7. Ignoring my boundaries
Having boundaries is one thing; communicating and enforcing my boundaries is a whole other challenge. The problem is boundaries are only helpful when they’re maintained. Otherwise it’s like inconsistently training a pet, where it’s ok when they’re on the couch half the time, but they get shooed off the other half. How is the pet supposed to feel except confused about expectations? We are all that cat or dog, hoping for consistent communication so we can understand what others need to feel respected. I’m going to better acknowledge signs that my boundaries have been crossed, such as feeling reserved or wanting to complain rather than address something directly. And then I’m going to let others know how I feel sooner rather than later.
8. Conditional love
Now this is some toxic energy that’s so common it’s hard to notice. Conditional love is too often the model we’re taught of how to give and receive love. In 2018, I will embrace and love my shadow self, those parts of me I may not always like and sometimes try to hide. Unconditional love starts within. And I will likewise make space make space for everyone in my life to be their whole, messy existence, sending the love and compassion free of judgment – from behind my boundaries when necessary.
9. Self-sufficient thinking
Convenience culture makes it seem like we can work alone, eat alone, survive alone, care for all our individual needs alone. And that is a bold lie perpetuated to increase isolation and destroy communities from the inside. I am leaving this self-sufficient thinking far behind. With that in mind, my biggest, most exciting goal for 2018 is to collaborate with others and build more mutually supportive relationships, especially with other queer healers of color. There are a lot of us! And the more we work together, the more we can practice asking for help, the less we burn out, and all the while challenging the toxic myth of self-sufficiency and strengthening our community care networks.
10. Scarcity mindset
Overcoming scarcity mindset is a big challenge, but one wholeheartedly worth taking on. I’ve spent 2017 deep in the trenches trying to excavate scarcity thinking, getting a little closer to the point where all my decision-making doesn’t revolve around not having enough resources. As a multiply-marginalized person, one responsible for raising funds to support the mental health or queer and trans people of color, it is all too easy to internalize that there isn’t enough money to get anything accomplished. To confront that false belief, I remind myself the world is vast and full of riches, so the problem isn’t the lack of resources period, but the misallocation of resources in a way that upholds oppressive systems. Both viewpoints are depressing, but the second one gives me more hope that resources can become available. Connecting to resources is the hurdle, and I intend to move through 2018 with understanding that scarcity, while a reality for many, can shift and ultimately end. It’s wiser to focus my energy on acquiring resources, rather than scheming how best to operate without enough.
Everyone is healing from different internalized falsehoods and past traumas. As you look forward to 2018, ask yourself what toxic ideas are lodged in your thought and behaviors. Remember that your truest self, the core of your being, is free from these concepts. In other words, we’re not learning anything new to leave toxic thinking behind; we’re unlearning what we don’t need so as to more fully step into our individual power and create change that supports collective wellbeing.
Lama Rod Owens teaches that by loving ourselves, we give others permission to love themselves too. What an incredible act of self-love it is to purify ourselves of the toxicity that has taken up residence within our minds and hearts. If we all take on the task of compassionately extricating these ideas that harm us and those around us, imagine how much growth we can achieve in 2018 and how amazing future years will be.
[Featured Image: Person wearing a hat stands outdoors in the sun. Pexels,com]