I remember beginning 2020 feeling like I was on top of the world. I vividly remember being on my balcony, looking across at the mountains and truly believing that this was going to be MY year. It was going to be awesome. I knew it!
I remember being really excited in March. I had planned a birthday getaway with a group of close friends. I rented a beautiful Airbnb in the rainforest — it had a pool with a unicorn float with a barbeque pit. It was going to be perfect! I was SO excited for it to happen.
But we all know what happened in March. COVID-19 and MCO descended upon us and while I didn’t know it then, life as I knew it would drastically change.
So much has happened this year. When I look back at how my year started, I am almost in disbelief at where I am now, how different my life has become and because of it, what a different person I am today — 365 days later.
I lost a lot this year. I lost relationships — with a family member I love dearly, with a partner that I thought I would marry, with friends that I thought were my ride or die. I’ve also lost other things but nothing as significant to me than my relationships.
These losses threw me into a whirlwind of emotional turbulence but through the storm I found my way to inner peace. Here are a 4 key lessons I’ve learnt this year that kept me going and pushed me to grow.
1. Acceptance & Surrender
Ooof! This was a hard one. Learning to accept situations as it is and people as they are has been mighty challenging but this is truly the KEY to inner peace. Knowing when you DO have control and when you absolutely DO NOT helps with how you divert your attention and energy.
I used to hold on to certain narratives in my head (of people and things) and I can be quite stubborn on insisting on it despite the Universe showing me repeatedly that it is not going to go the way I imagine it EVER. Learning to accept this has been hard. I had to be beaten to a pulp by reality and had to finally wave my white flag and say “Okay Universe, you win. I won’t chase this anymore. I’m going to let go and trust that all will be well for me if I do.”
I had to learn to trust that what is meant for me will be for me and what isn’t will never be, no matter how much I force it.
This realisation moved me to pray for the very 1st time in 10 years. To whom I don’t know (God, Universe, Allah, Shiva?) but definitely whomever or whatever it is up there.
2. Temper That Ego
I have a huge ego and I had to learn to temper it and shut it down. I’ve learnt that the ego is essentially who you think you are — it’s your sense of self which is basically created by your own mind.
“I am a good friend”
“I am a generous person.”
You ego may not truly reflect who you actually are because we are all masters of self-deception, especially when it comes to things that we do not want to face or have shut down in the past because it is too painful to confront.
Learning to override my ego has been incredibly challenging but it was necessary for me to see myself for who I am which allows me to practice the next lesson.
3. Be Kind To Yourself and To Others
In hindsight, what made it extremely hard to confront my ego was that I had a very unloving relationship with myself. I was very hard on myself and had unrealistically high expectations of myself. The ego was formed to protect me from self-vilification.
The moment I learnt to see myself for who I am and embraced ALL OF ME without judgment was the moment I set myself free — free to be who I am and free to learn and grow.
I had to see myself for all my flaws without vilifying myself. I learnt to recognise that while I may not be perfect, I am good enough. The best part about this radical honesty with the self is this — as I confronted parts of me that were flawed, I saw parts of myself that were wonderful and good too. In all their deserving glory. *cue actual self-esteem*
The ability to be kind and compassionate to oneself also opens up the ability to see others in the same way. To understand that no one is perfect. To accept that everyone has a good and bad side, that life isn’t black and white but oftentimes, grey. And finally, to recognise that every bad behaviour, unkind act or out-of-character reaction comes from a place of hurt and pain. Being able to fully accept myself and be kind to myself allowed me to see and treat others with more compassion.
4. Embrace The Present & Be Grateful
I used to obsess over loss.
“What did I do?”
“What could I have done better?”
“Why did he/she treat me that way?”
This year I have learnt to shut that down and focus on what is currently present in my life. The moment I made that mindset shift and saw all the things that I have going for me and all the people that were still present in my life despite this turbulent year was the moment I felt truly blessed.
I realised that there’s always two side to every coin. For every loss, there is something to be gained. We just need to look to the other side for what is present instead of focusing on that which is gone.
All that being said, NONE of this was easy. It took constant practice and a commitment to grow. There was a lot of feeling my feelings and crying involved. SO. MUCH. CRYING. But in this process, I also gave myself a lot of self-bearhugs and self-validation; a lot of talking to myself in front of the mirror to cheer myself up and on.
No one told me this but self-love involves a lot of crying. Society has always viewed crying as a negative thing but to me, crying is the best way to acknowledge painful and uncomfortable feelings, without words. It is a release of all that is pent up. Crying is a completely natural form of human expression — we see it in babies — how they cry when they feel uncomfortable, sad or angry. And when they are done, they go back to being happy, like nothing’s happened.
And that is what I experienced. After I was done with all my crying, I was able to pick myself up and move on. I had processed whatever I needed to process and I was ready to put new perspectives and lessons into actual practice.
Today, I feel light and happy; and it is not because my life has magically become easier. Infact, there are more uncertainties now in my life and I know that there will be no shortage of hard times. But the thing about having some form of inner peace is this — no matter how hard life gets, I have myself to come back to; and within me I have found a secure and happy place. One that I fought hard (with myself) to earn.
As this tumultuous year ends, I pray for all of us to find our inner peace. If you have been struggling, my ears are open to you. If you have struggled and are on your journey to inner peace, I would love to speak to you. And if you have found your inner peace, I would love to learn from you.
May the new year be kinder to us all and may it inspire us to be kinder to ourselves and those around us. Here’s to a 2021 filled with opportunities for growth, love, joy and an abundance of inner peace.