My main goal for self-improvement this year is simply to be kinder to myself. I’ve realized that my stringent standards, constant self-criticism, and inability to say “no” have done nothing but suck the life out of me. Lately, I’ve been too exhausted to do anything at all. And I know that’s not good. I don’t want to stop being driven. I don’t want to stop growing as a person. But I need to learn how to ease up on myself so I have space to grow and achieve. This year, I’m endeavoring to cultivate more balance in my approach to my life. After the jump, some ways I plan on being kinder to myself.
1. Schedule one night a week to spend time with myself. I am penciling in at least one date night with myself every week. Maybe I’ll go to yoga or cook dinner or browse around in a bookstore. But whatever I do, I’ll do it alone and I won’t cancel plans with myself. If I can make time for dates with guys and friends and family, than it seems only logical that I would be able to do this for myself.
2. Read more poetry. I read tons of books and learn a lot from them, but there is really only one literary genre that moves me on a more spiritual level: poetry. Reading verse of any kind gives me new ways of seeing the world and strengthens my creative problem solving muscle. I think to get out of ruts or static ways of being you have to open up space. I’m hopeful that reading more poetry will give me the clues and insights I need to change.
3. Add an extra hour of sleep to my night. This sounds like a “duh” idea. But this is a challenge for me. I’ve never really been much of a sleeper. My mother says since birth I would only sleep for 15 minute stretches at a time and then pop my eyes open waiting to be entertained. I am still the same way. I often wake up in the middle of the night to check if it’s almost the morning because I’m bored of being asleep. As you might imagine, I have a really hard time waking up in the morning. My new idea is to instate a mandatory bedtime preceded by a short meditation so I fall asleep more easily and wake up less cranky.
4. Honor my unplugged time. Part of my job is to make sure that I’m sufficiently plugged into what’s going on in the virtual world. Often my life centers around my laptop, text messages, email, RSS feeds, Tumblr, Gchat, Facebook and on and on. These virtual mediums are essential to my life, but they kill my creativity. And part of my job is also to be creative. There lies the rub. I am going to start finding times throughout the week when I can unplug entirely. This will mean turning off my phone/computer/television for a while and completely zoning out and just “being” without worrying about what I might be missing.
5. Exercise, exercise, exercise. I’ve always been an exerciser. But it seems the busier I get the smaller my exercise slice grows in my time pie chart. But that’s not okay for me. Exercise is the way I release my excess angst. And if that angst is not released, it finds its way somewhere else to live in my body. Little by little, pent up angst turns into tense shoulders and obsessive thoughts. I already have a gym membership, I just have to use it at least three times a week. No compromises.
6. Take vacation days to actually, you know, take a vacation. My last real vacation was more than two years ago. I can give you a list of the reasons why; sick grandfather, brother’s wedding, parents that miss me, lack of funds. All legit reasons, but no more excuses. This year, I’m taking a vacation. The kind where I don’t sleep on a pull out couch, or bring my laptop, or have to wear a bridesmaid dress. I’m taking the kind where I am sitting on a white sand beach with nothing but a book of poetry and a cocktail. A vacation is important for pushing the reset button on my soul. I need it.
7. Get involved with a cause that you care about that effects the lives of others, be it mentoring at-risk youth, reading at a senior center, or occupying your city. You know how they say that getting involved feels good? Well, they say it because it’s true. It’s a moment where you get to set your ego aside. It’s a moment where you get to step outside of the microcosm of your life. My experience is that the best way to learn to be kind to yourself is to be kind to others. I used to be an inner city high school teacher, so I was giving of myself this way on a daily basis. Now, I miss it. I’m not going back to teaching, but I am committed to finding more ways to be involved in my community.
8. Ask yourself “What Would Alana from ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’Do? And then do that thing. If it’s drinking Go Go juice till you call everyone “Honey Boo Boo Child” or eating a late night burrito or doing karaoke until you blow out your voice, it’s important to honor those things that bring you joy. Within reason of course. Try to pick something that isn’t self-destructive. I’m not advocating that kids (or anyone really) drink Go Go juice. But Go Go juice or not, Alana is my muse because she’s listening to the wind of her soul as Cat Stevens would say.