New Year, New You: How A Little Self-Love Can Transform Your Life
The New Year has a long-standing tradition of being a time when resolutions are made. I have, just like you, seen people make resolutions that often only last for a month or two at the most. I’m even a victim of this myself. So when I saw my friend Courtney using the hashtag “Year of Peace” in October, I got curious. What was this year of peace all about? Was it a New Year’s resolution that she had actually stuck to? What can others learn from her journey?
I reached out to Courtney to see if she would be open to sharing her story and she was! Her journey started slightly after the New Year.
It was Jan. 3, 2016 and Courtney had taken her seat in church. The pastor’s message focused on the upcoming year and he asked the crowd to look at the new year through the lens of possibility. He posed this question: how could you be more loving, more peaceful, more grateful, and more joyful this year? The pastor’s words rang like a bell in Courtney’s head after she left church that day. She had been wrestling with an internal struggle and though she had pushed it down into the deepest part of her, she couldn’t ignore it any longer. At 33, she was still single, feeling a bit lost and defeated professionally, and had a negative body image. Most of her friends were married and starting families. Society, she said, was telling her that she was behind in her life and internally, she felt uncomfortable in her own skin.
She told her close friends and family about the pastor’s message and asked their opinion about which topic she should examine in her life over the next year. Would it be gratitude, love, joy, or peace? She soul searched herself and “peace” was tugging at her, and it also was the resounding choice from those she asked as well. That was it, in 2016, she would focus on finding inner peace.
To Courtney, inward peace is synonymous with self-love and when she really listened to her gut and got honest with herself in church that day she knew things had to change. The past few years had been a series of ups and downs personally and professionally. She had regretted some of the choices she made and spent too much time wondering what was next, leading to her feeling like something was missing. At the end of 2016, she hoped to be a new, better version of herself. A person who didn’t look to others for validation. A person who felt at peace with all aspects of her life.
Her journey was anything but easy. “It all starts internally,” she said. “I project how I feel about myself externally through my actions.” It’s a simple lesson but one that for many can be challenging to understand. In other terms, the way you act and conduct yourself in social situations mirrors how you truly feel about yourself deep down inside.
“I had a lot of tough moments with myself when I was brutally honest about the things I had suppressed. I asked ‘why’ a lot and searched for the answers to the behaviors I wanted to change.”
This self-reflection was deep, intensive work which created the foundation for her search for peace. Once she understood why she did certain undesirable things, she was able to come up with a course of action to change her behavior and focus on how to garner inner strength.
She posted notes on her mirror with positive intentions. She framed an inspiring quote and put it up in her office. It says, “Be gentle with yourself, you’re doing the best you can.” Late last year, she tattooed the word “grace” on her wrist. This serves as a daily reminder that this is a journey, not a destination, and to be humble enough to allow room for mistakes. To pick herself back up and keep moving forward positively.
She also began reading books for advice on her career, dating and generally being mindful and intentional with decisions. She started volunteering more and mentoring a middle school girl. She surrounded herself with like-minded people who supported her in her year of peace. And most importantly, she said, she spent a year getting really comfortable being by herself. This was the key to figuring out why she wasn’t peaceful in the first place and how to, at last, become comfortable in her own skin.
Over the first eight months of 2016, she knew she was in the process of transforming her mind and yet there was still more to do. “If I’m working this hard on my mind, soul, and heart, I also have to work hard on my body,” she admitted. So when a friend asked her to join her at some fitness classes, she said yes even though it was an hour and a half drive to the studio after work each day of the week. Luckily, she felt comfortable at the gym her friend suggested. It was for women only and took place in a small group format where they did high-intensity strength training for 45 minutes.
Over a matter of months, she lost 30 pounds and transformed her body to mirror the work she was doing on her spirit. Now, she says, “I’m strong, confident and healthy.”
“It’s not about the number on the scale, though” she says. “It affects the way I sleep and what I eat. I take better care of myself and I also created a community of people who support me and who I support.”
Externally, people were taking notice of her positive life changes. She used the hashtag #YearofPeace on her Instagram posts to document what peace looked like for her (which is how I first took note of her journey!). Mostly enjoying the simple things in life — something she has embraced as absolutely necessary in her journey.
As 2016 is coming to a close and Courtney’s “Year of Peace” only has three days left, she says she’s much happier, more confident, has stronger relationships and overall, she’s a more grounded person.
It may have started as a vision with a cool hashtag, but now for Courtney, it’s a lifestyle. “It’s about being aware and intentional about stopping what’s not working and being happy with where I am and appreciating how I got there.”
Just the other day, Courtney ran across a quote that perfectly describes where she has come at the close of her #yearofpeace: “She is at a place in her life where peace is her priority and negativity cannot exist.”
She advises everyone to work on themselves — whether for you, that’s peace or something else completely — and she has a couple tips to help you get off to a great start.
Surround yourself with the type of person you want to be. She cautions that if you spend time with fearful people, you will adopt their fear.
Don’t keep things or people in your life that aren’t conducive to positive energy.
Understand your triggers. That could be going out for a drink, but never being able to stick to just one or an obsession with comparing yourself to other people’s highlight reel on social media. She loves the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Allow yourself grace. “Working on yourself is not easy and you’re going to have bad days and days that you make bad choices and that’s ok. Recognize it, stop it, and get back on track,” she advises.
In the new year, Courtney has a new motto. It will be her “year of love.” What will yours be?