How To Identify What You’ve Learned About Yourself This Past Year
Remember this time last year, when we already thought we’d been through so much? Even just a few weeks into the Covid-19 pandemic, the analytically minded among us were wondering how this unprecedented experience would forever scar us, or maybe change us for the better. Now it’s, well, feeling a lot more precedented. And with each milestone — the one-year-anniversary of the pandemic’s start, the rollouts of vaccines, and even the sentencing in the George Floyd case that sparked last summer’s uprisings — it seems more and more like we should have some sense of understanding, some narrative arc.
That’s not yet the reality for a lot of us, though. Don’t stress if you haven’t really been able to process it all. We’re still living it. The breakneck pace of the information age tricks us into thinking we should understand things as soon as they have happened, but our bodies and psyches still live on somatic time, not at internet-speed.
But surely you have reached some deeper understanding of yourself over the past year, even if you’re not sure how to articulate what it is. Here are three ideas for how to pinpoint what you’ve learned:
Think about what you miss
I suggested this thought experiment almost exactly a year ago, and I still think it works, maybe even more accurately now: Close your eyes and picture what you miss from the Before Times. The first thing that comes to mind — before your rational brain self-corrects — will offer a clue into who you really are, how you really want to live:
Think about what you don’t miss
On a related note, my colleague Ross McCammon recommends taking a moment to think about what you used to find important but that now, a year later, seems pointless, negligible, hard to even fully remember. What, do you now realize (even more than you did last April!), does “enough” look like for you?
Focus on yourself
It’s not as self-centered as it sounds. Focusing on yourself is not the same thing as only caring about yourself; in fact, it allows you to care for others more effectively. (It’s a good way to manage anxiety-induced overfunctioning.) As therapist Kathleen Smith wrote recently, “if you spend all your energy trying to teach others how to navigate life, you may find that you have little left to direct yourself.” While the world opens up, vaccines make social interactions and returning to the office possible, and everything gets noisier again, instead of trying to guess what other people want from you, stay focused on what you want.
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And remember that if you’ve decided, during your pandemic year, that you want to make some tangible changes, it’s possible that not everyone will be happy with that. Smith writes:
Many people would say they’ve learned quite a bit about themselves during the pandemic. They’re ready to let go of some relationship dynamics that weren’t quite working, or spend less time doing the things they prioritized in their past life. Don’t abandon that thinking just because it makes your mom huff in disappointment or your best friend grow impatient with you.
If nothing else, the pandemic has shown us how little we control about our own lives. Don’t abdicate your rights to what you actually do still control because you’re afraid of what people might think.