To be real, my people and I were lacking in a lot of faith moving into 2017. There was a lot of love lost and it felt like all of our vanguards of light and hope were peacing out (Prince, Carrie Fisher, Afeni Shakur, etc etc) so as not to deal with huger unforeseen collective trash fires to come. Suffice it to say, the advent of a new year felt like an imperative time to focus truly on building self-love in deep, dramatic ways. No more time to waste. Here are just a few transformative strategies I acquired in 2017:
My therapist gifted this strategy to me and is a technique used in cognitive behavioral therapy to challenge negative, self-defeating thoughts. I struggle with anxiety, complex PTSD, and major depression, a trifecta that can leave me lost in negative thoughts and feelings of low self-worth. They can be like a broken record, a track that keeps skipping and landing on—you suck, you suck, you suck. Though it’s been a difficult process and it isn’t always foolproof, I’ve learned to stop cruel thoughts dead in their tracks and redirect myself. The first step is to just literally notice or realize what you’re thinking, which can be hard enough. Once I’ve realized—oh! I’m worrying excessively over something I have no control over, or I’m obsessing over all my mistakes and creating an outrageous narrative that points to me being an awful person—then I make a choice to test reality. Am I really a terrible failure because I’ve messed up a few times, or am I just flawed? Is it getting me anywhere to obsess over a situation I can’t possibly change? Then, I try to barrage myself with more positive thoughts that turn the negative ones on their side.
Dreaming Big & Not Feeling Bad About It—cuz haters can kiss my ass.
Our radical communities are not immune from the tendency to require each other to play small. So many of us feel inadequate and guilty for shouting the glory of ourselves from the rooftops out of a fear of seeming full of ourselves or fear we are asking for too much when we have big goals. The trick is to own our accomplishments and our aspirations, while also acknowledging that we live inside structures that force us to compete with each other for resources, and that the terms are not equal or fair. It’s possible for us to actively challenge those structures and work toward collective liberation, while also moving forward with personal objectives. It’s also hugely important to be fantastic in our imaginations—it’s the only way we can transform and become new. This year, I learned to own my big dreams and ambitions without apologizing for them or minimizing them. Yes, I desire success—which to me means pursuing my passions in a way that cultivates stability and recognition. This is not the same as an egotistical drive for fame or fortune. This is me saying—I want to live.
More Radical Reads: Practicing Radical Self-Love: Why You Need Self Care The Most When It Seems Impossible
Prioritizing Time with Plants, Animals, & Spirits Over Humans—(and not feel sorry about it).
I am partially an extroverted romantic empath who can see the beauty in everyone and deeply values spending time with others and being out and about. And!—the other part of me is a misanthropic turtle person who gets really tired of human antics and needs to hole away from our kind. This year, I moved myself to accept these contradictions as opposed to criticize myself or wish away my inner hermit. I choose to listen to myself when being called to retreat into nature and magic. I spend a good amount of time each week through any season “in nature”—which in NYC means Greenwood Cemetery or Prospect Park. I take long walks when I can, I slow down and listen, I climb trees, I sit on the rocks by the East River. I say hello to sparrows and squirrels, and I run my fingers along the undersides of leaves. I spend a lot of quality time with my cat. I devote a lot of time to personal ritual practices, spells, and divination. I write letters and have conversations with spirits that are close to me.
Hanging with Real-Ass Humans (As Opposed to Vampires)
A huge thing I learned over this year is not only to trust my need for chill time with spirits and creatures when I’ve had enough of people, but also to prioritize the humans who really feed my spirit. Seriously, there are enough people in positions of institutional and structural power trying to suck the life out of us that we really don’t need that shit in our intimate bonds. I learned to stop hoping for people who have consistent and obvious trouble with reciprocity to change or live up to their potential of being better, and to instead accept the reality of who and how they are presently. If I’m meeting or exceeding someone’s desires and needs for intimacy, but my own aren’t being met, then I’m out. My time, energy, and resources are too valuable and often stretched too thin to be wasted. This doesn’t mean a person is on my shitlist (usually), but it does mean I won’t be prioritizing them in my life. Having been in really imbalanced, codependent, and abusive relationships in my life and experiencing the total contrast of those things, 2017 was the year I said goodbye to the former in order to feed the latter.
More Radical Reads: “How Do You Love Your Body On Bad Days?:” 6 Lessons to Surviving Illness & Resurfacing Self Love
Indulgence without Guilt & with Moderation
Because sometimes I need a drink to unwind. Sometimes I need to binge-watch bad TV or to eat a bunch of sweet treats. As someone who has struggled with eating disorders, destructive perfectionism, and for whom addiction has played a huge role in my entire life in intimate relationships and in various communities I intersect with, indulgence has been tricky and confusing. I’ve lived inside of extremes—binging and purging—and found it hard to find a balance. I’ve gotten it very wrong.
This year, I mastered moderation and acceptance, however. I allowed it to sink in that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing—that frankly either extreme—over-indulgence and over-control— is harmful. It’s more so about being in communication with your body and mind and being clear on what you’re doing and why. It’s also about being flexible and knowing that you may go through periods where substances are a total no-go, binging TV would get in the way of your responsibilities, or throwing down for a cover at a show will put you in the red with bills this month. To indulge is not to be reckless or to avoid responsibility, it is to weave joy, pleasure, and down-time into our lives with balance.
[Feature Image: Person with long curly hair stands outdoors near a tree wearing a black fedora and green jacket. Pexels.com]