2020 was not the worst year ever

Before my headline turns you off-hear me out.

By Jessica Militello

As the year comes to a draw, most of us have a tendency to reflect on the year as a new year approaches. As we all know, this year was certainly not like any year that we’ve had in our lifetimes. We have survived mass shutdowns of society, a pandemic that is still going on; everything normal that we often take for granted was and for some of us still is just out of our reach as we wait and hope for a return to normal life.

But even among all of this complete upheaval of our lives, many of us still have a tendency to criticize ourselves for what we didn’t accomplish. We still look at others from a completely outside view and compare and despair. Sometimes it feels easier to look at what we don’t have than how far we’ve come. And if you didn’t get where you wanted to be that’s okay- it is normal to strive for more, and to want more-but when does a little healthy self-critique go too far? When you begin to criticize yourself or think of yourself as not as good, or good enough, or less than others, is when it isn’t healthy. Striving for more is amazing; dragging yourself for not getting there yet will do nothing but make you feel bad or get frustrated enough to just throw in the towel.

When you look at your losses, or your incompletes, make sure you also make another few columns to take inventory of what you’ve accomplished, and how you are going to prepare to accomplish what you didn’t get to this year. Some things were completely out of your control, and there’s other things that are a matter of getting a little creative and finding a different way to get to your path.

In the beginning of the year I thought for sure I was going to make more money as a writer, land work in bigger publications, finally make writing my full-time source of income instead of taking second part-time gigs to supplement my income. But March rolled around, and NYC was the epicenter of the pandemic. We had a complete shutdown, I got taken off of a couple of larger projects that I was just starting to work on after publications nixed their freelance budget to allow “remaining” staff writers to finish it off, and then we waited for what we all thought would have been a couple of weeks that turned into over 5 months.

But you know what else happened-I deleted social media for over 8 months to focus on myself, I continued my therapy sessions, I took up meditating, journaling, and spent a lot of time with myself. I healed from a heartbreak that started off my 2020, I raised my standards, developed more self-worth, created boundaries for my relationships with myself and others, and I let go of people who no longer served my growth, happiness, and well-being. In retrospect, I realize this year was not about financial or career success, but about healing myself, decluttering my mind, and building my self-worth.

It may not have been the year I expected, but it was what I needed. And now that I continue to do the hard work on my inner-self- I feel like it can only better me for going back after my writing goals, for curating my life and the people I allow in it. Because without self-worth you will accept anyone and anything in your life because you are desperate to belong, to feel validated, and will accept much less than what you want and deserve because without self-worth you will feel like any crumbs thrown your way are a prize. Without self-worth you will believe that you are only “good enough” when others accept you or pay attention to you. I am so impressed with how much I’ve grown-but this was what my year was about; everyone is on a different journey and has different experiences. But had the world not been shut down, I would not have been forced to face myself in such an intense and intimate way.

At the end of this year, I am grateful for it all because it led to this amazing growth that I have achieved- it was often painful as hell, confusing, and seemingly never-ending. I’m proud of myself for going through the storm-sometimes I thought I wouldn’t make it to the other side.

None of it was easy-the loneliness I went through from raising my standards and letting go of certain people in my life was debilitating at times. That loneliness made it tempting to make exceptions for those who could not meet me where I now stand. But I did not go through the storm to go all the way back to where I started.

I know there are some people who feel this was their worst year ever and I cannot speak for others’ experiences, their pain, losses, or disappointments. If this is how you feel-your feelings are valid. But after you do that I would implore you to look at some of what you’ve gained and learned and what you want for your next year; to find a way to face your pain and clear out the thoughts and experiences that are no longer serving you so you can go on. At some point you have to let your pain go or it will continue to weigh you down and keep you stagnant.

So what do you think? How was your 2020- what were some of your losses and gains, and what do you want for your life for the new year? How will you get started? How can you start to heal yourself? Just a few questions to think on- share in the comments below-

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