Since my plunge into a whole lot of self-discovery this past summer, I’ve had many moments of taking a step back and looking at things from the outside in. The way I move through life, the way I interact with friends, family and colleagues, even the articles I write here on the blog – nothing is safe from my increasingly frequent gut-checks.
So at the time of year where our biggest self-reflection often occurs, I thought I’d share with you some lessons that have come out on top for me from 2019, and how I’m bringing them into 2020.
Take more time to be still. Many of us have come around to the realization that our culture of constantly being ‘on’, hustling at every hour of the day, and our attachment to screens is far from healthy. And over the past few years I really felt like I had made progress in the name of ‘balance’ as a way to separate myself from this mentality (hustle might as well be a four-letter word for me now!). But it wasn’t until I started attempting to meditate this past year that I realized I still have plenty of work to do.
Sitting still with yourself, your past, your feelings, your stresses, your doubts, even your accomplishments…. sitting still at all instead of always being on to the next thing… It’s literally the most challenging thing in the world for me. But it’s also been an amazing way for me to reconnect with me. My identity as a person outside of the labels of blogger, stylist, wife, stepmom, friend, daughter. I don’t remember the last time I thought about myself so much, but in a way that felt like work. Self work. Self therapy or even better hypnotherapy you can learn more about at https://tracieokeefe.com. And it’s brought a different type of balance to my life – an inner balance – and one I’ll continue to work on.
Replace judgement with curiosity and gratitude. Judgement is my weakness. It’s also my superpower. Let me explain: My job as the editor of this site is to constantly be assessing products, images, or whatever it is that lands on these pages. My job as a stylist is the same – having the eye to curate and the skill to make quick decisions. I literally make snap-judgements for a living. So it’s no surprise that this habit has spilled over into other places in my life! Meals, hotels, conversations, people… and this is where it becomes a problem.
I’ve found that my constant assessment of people and surroundings can absolutely prevent me from just enjoying them. Where I had taken pride in some of this previously, I’ve started to find it a little depressing as of late. It’s like I can’t be fulfilled on a trip unless I’m at some perfectly beautiful instagram-worthy hotel, eating the best meal of my life. And while I’m certainly not going to stop being curatorial about the spaces I spend my time in… I also can’t let that get in the way of the simple pleasures of travel and leisure.
I’ve also become way more aware of how – in basic interactions with people – I can instantly shoot down ideas, or reply in ways that sound judgemental without even meaning to instead of listening, absorbing, or understanding what it means to them. Having some new people in my life who are highly aware of the way they use words and interact with others has helped me so much in being more conscious of this myself, and being conscious is the first step in the right direction. The antidote? Replacing judgement with curiosity and gratitude. If I find myself judging a person or conversation? I’ll ask more questions. If I find myself bumming about an imperfect meal or hotel? I’ll ground myself with gratitude. Our world is beautiful and so are the people in it – sometimes it just takes a second of reminding ourselves to appreciate it.
Breathing > Reacting. You may be sensing a theme here… breathing, meditation, pausing… it’s all just more forms of self-awareness, but this one is a quickie that has made a big difference in my life.
I can definitely be a reactionary person when I’m tired, stressed, or simply in a state of hurry. I’ve been working on managing this on a variety of levels over the past year, and – to my surprise – the practice that has helped me the most is also one of the easiest: just breathing. Being able to relax against immense amount of stress is definitely crucial in maintaining your sanity. Good thing there are products, like those organic hemp flowers, than can help make that happen. Taking a breath before reacting or responding and checking myself is a habit that I’m just finally beginning to form. Breathing is a way of checking in with me to make sure I’m not projecting inner turmoil into a situation that doesn’t deserve my wrath. It’s almost embarrassing how simple this is! But, apparently I really needed this reminder in my life. After all, 2019 was a sh*tstorm of emotions and I think a lot of us were operating from a place of self preservation at times. For a small effort, this practice makes a huge impact, so if you need one easy thing to add to your 2020 resolutions, this is it.
Your voice and perspective are valuable. While we’re all guilty of doing this, I can’t tell you how many times this year I fell victim to comparing myself to others. I was especially triggered, I think, by the work on my book proposal. When I started writing and thinking of themes that I wanted to focus on, it felt like it had all already been done! And of course, editors want something fresh and new (which is fair, by the way). But when you start downward spiraling on this topic, it can get bleak real fast. But here’s the truth: we all come with our own unique perspectives and experiences that bring our story and voice to a topic. It may be the same topic we’ve heard a million times, but that doesn’t mean that your take on it doesn’t have value.
Don’t get me wrong – we can only read so many articles on how to style a gallery wall. But it’s your gallery wall. And maybe someone at the exact time that you are writing about your gallery wall needs to hear about how you’re styling your gallery wall. But it’s got to have your voice behind it!
I’ll get into this in another post soon, but one of the themes that has been coming through to me loud and clear for 2020 is putting it all out there. I began working on this in 2019 but I feel like, looking back now, I was just dipping my toe in the water. This year I’m ready to plunge. Get ready for unapologetic, honest, thoughtful, deep shit coming your way from me this year. Because only a unique voice can make a post about gallery walls interesting again.
Self knowledge is self power. Perhaps one of the most important lessons for me in 2019 was discovering how empowering it is to work on yourself. Is it hard? Heck yeah it is. If the list above any indication, I obviously learned a lot about all the areas I have for improvement. I learned my weaknesses, but I also learned my strengths. I understand more about what I have to offer to the people in my life and to the world. I also understand where I need others and that ‘giving up control’ to others is actually not about me letting go of something, but letting others shine where they are at their best.
I think we’re all learning so much about our place in the world right now. Those of us with the desire to do the work and be better to – and for – each other are leveling up and opening up. It’s an exciting time and I have such big hopes and ideas for 2020, knowing that it’s just the beginning of some new, big stuff. This journey will be a long, ongoing one, with a lot of stops along the way, and I really hope you’ll join me in it.