Cheryl Strayed once wrote in her advice column that “The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherf*#king shit out of it.”
When I was in my 20s, there was nothing more frightening to me than genuine self reflection. I had become an expert on using hyperproductivity to drown out a haunting voice that my life looks wonderful and deceptively noble on the surface, but pockmarked with insecurities and falseness upon closer inspection.
Alas, life would eventually force me to see that escapism leads nowhere but the cruel sentence of repeating one’s painful mistakes over and over again. At my lowest point, I was left with no choice but to go inwards.
Enduring the tedious, and often heartbreaking process of introspection had eventually gifted me with the strength to brutally confront my past, the courage to be accountable to the good and bad choices I’ve made, and the kindness to let go of my long-held beliefs about the perfect life I should’ve, would’ve, and could’ve had. I filled up three journals with a decade’s worth of bottled up emotions and repressed edification. Putting one’s story into words was not only liberating, it also felt as if I had suddenly found an inner well of security and resilience.
As another year comes to an end, I encourage you to take some time to reacquaint yourself with how you spent your time and energy the past 365 days. A question I’d like to leave you with is something I found really helpful for my own self-reflection, and originally inspired by a conversation I had with a wise, silver-haired priest I met while waiting in line for a bookshop to open.
Try to ask yourself;
How did I pursue my happiness this past year?
While it’s easy to say that the search to be happy does not give anyone the permission to be an a$$hole, I find that it is far more difficult to put this principle into practice. We can get better at it though by revisiting our intentions- were there times when I sought personal joy at the expense of someone else’s? What are the decisions I made that I am most proud of, and which are the ones I wish I could change? How can I purify my pursuit of happiness next year?
If you find yourself bogged down by impatience, denial, or fear, acknowledge it but don’t let it stop you. Draw perseverance from the fact that if no one else can live your life for you, no one can learn the lessons for you either. Trust that when you understand yourself better, you’ll feel more grateful about how your past has contributed to your becoming. You’ll come out of this exercise more conscientious- aware that every decision you make, including the seemingly trivial ones, are helping form your present and your future.
Write. Not just as a way to release, but also to record accurately the insights you’ve discovered ingrained in your experiences. Whenever I read my journals, I always find myself surprised by the bits of wisdom I managed to capture. These lessons never cease to serve me, bringing me much needed light during difficult confusing moments in my life.
There is a beautiful Ethiopian proverb that goes, He who learns, teaches. If your journey of self-reflection gives birth to stories you think others could learn from, we encourage you to share them with us through the Story Bank. The power of stories to educate and persuade cannot be stressed enough. All over, we see how the world is finally being held accountable by the women who bravely broke their silence.
May our stories add fuel to this reckoning, and may they embolden more women to expand the collective narrative.
Eleanor is a multi-awarded social entrepreneur from the Philippines, focused on Education, Peace-building & Women Empowerment. She is a co-founder of She Talks Asia.