Over the last few months, I’ve been going through a time of reflection and self-discovery. In December I got to a point where I realised that I didn’t recognise who I’d become. I had drifted very far away from what I believe in and as a result of being in a difficult relationship as well as some very silly decision-making on my part, I had made compromises that I had never intended to make.
I’m just going to outline briefly what happened to prompt my desire for reflection so that I can then go on to explain how I’ve managed to get myself back on track. Up until November, I had been in a relationship that was preventing personal growth for both parties involved, as the situation was rather complicated. Distraught at its ending, I spent the next few weeks making many mistakes and lashing out at everyone around me. When I returned home for my Christmas holidays I started to realise that I had let a very ugly side of my personality come to the forefront and that I needed to change sooner rather than later – not only for my own good, but also for that of my friends and family.
The month I spent at home meant that I had plenty of time for healing and meditation. I got to a point where I felt ready to go back to school and to make amends with the friends that I had alienated prior to the holidays.
I’m not sure what caused it, but a few days after I got back to school, I went back to the person I was before the holidays. All I could think about was me and my worries and my fears and my problems. The difference this time though was that I could see what was happening. I recognised that I was obviously in need of more time to heal, but that I also needed to get a better grip on myself – especially on my words and actions.
This recognition led me to sit down one Sunday afternoon with a piece of paper and pen to write down several things. I started with what was bothering me, so that I could analyse what exactly I needed to work on. I settled on school stress, the ending of that relationship, myself (my body-image as well as my personality) and my relationship with God.
Now people have written entire books on such topics so I’m going to try and keep it brief. But after working out the four main things that I was struggling with, I then made four mind maps – one for each topic. On each mind map I wrote down why they were bothering me, the factors involved and the problems they were causing. After that, I made four new mind maps. This time they detailed my action plan. I wrote down what I wanted to do to change the way I reacted to the emotions I felt as well as any events or interactions with other people that I faced. This included making sure that I took ten minutes each night to reflect on the day that had passed and to positively assess how I could have perhaps reacted better in a situation. Often I don’t even realise that what I’ve said or done was wrong or inconsiderate because I don’t think about it afterwards. My action plan also included journaling as part of those ten minutes. I find it quite hard to journal routinely due to my busy schedule, but whenever I do, I feel calmer afterwards, because I’ve had a chance to express myself freely.
I have quite a few other things on my action plan that I’m trying to incorporate into my daily life, many of which focus on self-love and a positive attitude, such as spending more time outside, drinking tea and calling my amazing Godmother who is also my counsellor. Obviously they also focus on being more considerate of other people, but one of my realisations was that part of the reason for
my irrational reactions was that I was struggling with myself. I was trying to blame others for the failure of my relationship, my self-consciousness, my falling grades, my disappearing relationship with God and my lack of self-control. I was unwilling to accept that I needed to work on myself before those problems could be fixed.
While I regret quite a bit of the last few months, I’m also grateful for the lessons they taught me (one of which was to be grateful for what I’d learned).
One of the first things I learnt is that I shouldn’t blame others for what happened. Trying to demonise someone for breaking my heart just made me feel worse. Trying to accuse others of influencing my own bad decisions created resentment and hurt my friendships. I had to recognise that we’re all human and by trying to put myself in their shoes, I was able to see their point of view. Everyone makes mistakes, but blaming others for my own was not the solution, because it prevented me from seeing the real cause which in turn meant that I couldn’t solve the problem. Instead I learnt that I was the root of most of the problems, but that I could change that. I can develop myself and I can grow to become a better person. We’re not rooted to who we are at a certain point, we are always able to change. Contradictory to what I just said, I also learnt that I was not solely to blame. There are always factors in life that we simply cannot influence. Similarly, even if we are to blame for something, we shouldn’t hold on to that feeling of guilt forever, because it will stop us moving forward. Personally, I found that recognising and accepting the blame, attempting to make amends and deciding to move forward and not make that mistake again is the way to go.
In terms of my terrible attitude, I learnt that sometimes when someone is being rude or inconsiderate it’s not simply because they feel like it – often they’re going through something difficult and don’t know how else to cope with it. However, I also came to terms with my attitude not being acceptable. I can’t use heartbreak and stress as an excuse to be horrible to someone else.
By looking at how I ended up in situations where I made mistakes, I realised that I needed to work on my self-control, which is something I’ve always struggled with. I’ve made firm rules concerning alcohol and procrastination and I’m proud to say that I’ve stuck to them so far.
But one of the most important things I’ve learnt is that it’s okay to say no. It’s okay to say no to something that might make you seem cool or that you think might make the person you care about stay if it’s not in line with what you believe in and if it has the power to hurt you. Because I’m easily swayed to a certain point of view, especially if I’ve had an alcoholic drink, I know that it’s important to surround myself with friends who support my values and who will support me in making the right decisions. And it’s equally important that I support them too.
I’ve learnt many other things from the last few months, but I hope I’ve outlined the ones most relevant to others. I’m still far from perfect and I still have moments when I’m down in the dumps and I feel like hating myself and the world. But those moments are far fewer now than they were four months ago and I know that they will become fewer still. I doubt that I will ever not have moments where I feel down, because that’s not the way life works. But I know that by working on myself and learning from my mistakes, I’m getting back on the right track for me.
Written by Ilona Clayton