For many, a new year often dictates new goals and personal changes – lose weight, exercise, drink more water, get a better job, etc. But I wonder how many of us decide to work on being gentler with ourselves and giving ourselves grace, especially those of us who are overachievers or have had high expectations placed upon us.
Last year was a doozie. I was working two writing jobs, a dream in my mind as I fulfilled my goal of becoming a full-time writer, but in reality, it was a nightmare. My energy was pushed to and beyond its limit with constant deadlines, covering events, interviewing people and trying to satisfy my highly critical full-time boss.
My manager was so critical and nitpicky that I had anxiety every time I turned in a piece, anticipating the litany of comments and corrections. I also experienced constant microaggressions and scrutiny that my other team members didn’t. And yes, at one point, my work did suffer under the constant beratement and disrespect I experienced. The gaslighting of trying to make me believe I wasn’t a good writer wore on me.
I knew I needed a break, but I didn’t know what to do. I was dragging myself to work on the days I had to be in the office and barely making it out of bed when I worked from home. Everything felt like an enormous chore. I could barely make myself a decent meal or shower, but I got my work done. I pushed myself to meet all my deadlines. And no matter how hard I worked at my full-time job, it was never enough. No matter how respectful, professional or kind I was to coworkers, it didn’t matter.
I worked 6 days a week for two years under conditions in my full-time role that became impossible. I felt stuck because I knew the second I alerted human resources or filed a complaint against my boss, my days were numbered, and I was afraid of quitting without another job.
It had been suggested that I utilize FMLA, but I didn’t think I could afford to take time off without pay. But I finally decided to take the risk to try and preserve my mental health.
I opted to wait until the end of the week to take leave from my full-time role so I could wrap up loose ends. I was in a journalism fellowship and had a mentor who was aware of all the nonsense I was going through. She said to me, “Why are you playing by the rules when no one else is?”
The statement served as a blinding lightbulb moment.
The next day I alerted my toxic boss that I was taking a month off, which I wound up extending. And during that time, I found clarity and personal grace.
I gave myself compassion.
I forgave myself for mistakes I made in my full-time role, understanding that the behavior from my boss was causing anxiety that made it increasingly difficult for me to be my best. My boss didn’t want me to succeed and that wasn’t my fault. I affirmed my talents and turned my attention to my part-time role where I felt valued and hadn’t experienced any of the challenges of my full-time job.
On my time off I took care of myself, did some things I enjoy and started therapy. I gave myself a space to heal from a toxic environment and reclaim my worth. I’ve continued to give myself grace and am becoming my soft place to fall.
I’m working on not beating myself up over mistakes, things I don’t do or accomplish on an arbitrary schedule, having dessert when I really want it or sleeping innnnnnn. I’m recognizing that healing takes time and it’s not a linear process. Some days I feel great and energized. And some days I don’t make it out of bed. All of it is ok.
Life can be hard enough without adding self-deprecation. This year, among the resolutions, declarations and wishes, maybe we can think about being gentle with ourselves and giving ourselves grace. So, instead of or along with “New Year, New Me,” consider, just being kind to whoever you are right now.