I set a challenge for myself.
How the words ring in your ears, hearing “self-improvement” and “goal-setting.” Or the Buzzfeed-worthy declaration of a “thirty-day challenge.”
Let’s be honest: you can’t change that much in a month’s time. You can start setting a habit if you stick to it every single day, but you likely won’t become unrecognizable and shed the entirety of your past self like a molting snake.
What exactly did I do to challenge myself? My goal was to become more confident, to love myself more. Again, the catchy idea of “self-love” sounds romantic in theory…not so much when trying to establish it as a practice. To meet this vague goal of mine, I wanted to start daily habits that would better utilize my time and avoid go-to behaviors that hinder growth.
Yes, a month can feel very short (This whole year has felt like a vast eternity), but in retrospect, it’s not. A single day is a gift, a collection of breaths wrapped up with a rainbow of emotions and an opportunity for growth. We’re quick to judge time without acknowledging its full potential.
Even in these thirty days, I neglected time. I still neglected myself, too. Old habits die hard…more like they keep on living in your brain’s basement editing Wikipedia articles and mooching off their parents.
I digress. Without further ado, here’s what I’ve learned in my Thirty Days of Confidence.
Your mindset will NOT change in a month.
I’ve always struggled with negative self-esteem. My confidence has teeter-tottered my whole life, coming in bursts of self-assurance, only to fall flat on my face. I’m someone who tends to boast optimism and kindness to everyone besides myself, as if I’m an alien who wouldn’t benefit from some mental TLC.
And I’m still the same way. I still tend to be anxious and critical about myself and all I do. It’d take a brain transplant to change that. However, I can learn to be gentler, less demanding, and hopefully a tad more loving.
Think of yourself as a small child, or your best friend. Imagine you’re a mother nurturing her beloved. Never would she think, “This child doesn’t deserve food. She has too much to do.” Or, “All that hard work you put in? It’s bound to fail, so why bother?” And sometimes, “Nobody loves you. You’re all alone. You should be ashamed.”
It won’t take a month to turn my mental bully into a friend, but it’s a continual work in progress. This growth shouldn’t lose relevance after a month’s time. Perhaps it’ll take a lifetime to achieve in any capacity, but the journey is worth taking.
You can withstand more than you realize.
Chronic mental illness is here to stay. That doesn’t mean you cannot work toward managing it better. What might have felt completely daunting last month could turn into a bump in the road: sure, it disrupts the ride, but the car keeps driving forward.
I thank a multitude of factors into slowly improving mental resilience. An increase of antidepressants and a “zappy” Fisher Wallace stimulator have been effective, according to my judgment. I also make note to “chat” with people every day. As much as I can stay connected, I will. I need to.
How do I know I’m a tad more resilient? Take for instance a too-common classroom situation where I feel my anxiety rising into full-on frustration. I can sense the tell-tale signs I’m about to burst…and maybe I do, but I can keep on with the day and practically forget I danced on the edge.
Some days are better than others. Growth and recovery aren’t linear. But I say I’m proud of where I’ve come, even from a month or two ago.
There’s so much more to come.
Not only was I pursuing goals of confidence, but I was also beginning the ever-daunting process of finding a job. I think anyone can attest, the hunt is a roller coaster of thoughts and emotions.
Especially since I’m in American Samoa until next June, everything related to life after service feels…out of reach. Unreal. Even the fact it’s the last day of November isn’t sinking in whatsoever. I have zilch festive feelings. A lack of seasonal change of any kind (besides just getting HOTTER) is really throwing me off.
Graduating college in May, I succumbed to a summer’s-long existential crisis: what the HECK am I doing? For the longest time, I couldn’t even nail down a single career field to pursue. I’m very much a dreamer who can conjure up a hundred-and-one ideas, but don’t ask me how to logically make any of them a reality.
I still feel lost in that bubble of confusion and unpracticality, but I’m closer to the bubble’s surface. I can see some of the outside world, the steps toward making a life as a lost, struggling millennial. Fingers crossed that one of my many phone interviews leads to more. Until then, I hopefully can utilize my sapling confidence to find where I belong.
Yoga is awesome.
This last one is a bonus, but seriously, what a gamechanger. Only one time before did I try making yoga a regular habit, but this time around, it’s been my evening go-to. My routine feels incomplete without it.
With all the eating disorder and body dysmorphia jazz, my relationship with any exercise has been rocky at best. Any bit of cardio means that, the entire time, I’m thinking about burning calories. Even if I don’t act on my thoughts doesn’t mean they dissipate. The ED voice is always there, and exercise is a go-to place to blast the blowhorn.
Yoga has been much different. Thanks to humidity, my time always turns into “hot yoga,” but my thoughts focus upon my poses, my posture, how my body is stretching, how good it feels. It’s a rare half-hour of mental stillness.
And unlike other exercise? I truly want to do it every day, not because I feel like I should, or I ate too much that day, or I “feel” like a busted tube of biscuits.
So. Long story short, miracles didn’t transpire this month, but progress did. That’s all I can ask for. I hope every month becomes one aimed toward confidence, wisdom, and love for self and all. I’m trying to feel like I deserve that, as much as I believe everybody deserves all those things and more.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie