Reflections on 2021
It has been four years since I began an annual ritual to pause, look back and reflect on the past year. Unlike my other posts on wellbeing and weaving, this one is personal. I usually think about 3 learnings, practices, and feelings that have stood out to me in the year.
3 Key Learnings
The Seed has Everything for the Future
A tiny seed has all the inputs for a giant tree to grow. But you cannot expect an apple tree from an orange seed.
The importance of starting with a true microcosm of the envisioned future was evident to me, among other things, while:
- Reading about ‘Unconditional Parenting’, I saw how mindful responses and modelling with children from a young age can shape the adults they go on to become.
- I realized how communities genuinely rooted in the power of many saw greater co-ownership of learning and support.
What we sow matters to the future we create. It requires intentional thought. It requires a long-term view of things.
Start with the Who, Not Why
The people and the quality of relationships between them are critical drivers of a community. Anchoring a community in shared values instead of a common purpose enables the community to resolve conflicts and evolve better in response to changing contexts.
The Wellbeing Movement communities focused on the ‘who’ thrived more. Similarly, I have also seen the ‘who’ drive my engagement with some communities.
Living Authentically: From Rejection to Acceptance
2021 revealed that I could be true to myself while accepting others (Thank you, Satya Gopalan, for helping me understand this better).
My friends and family have many identities and beliefs— some that I love, some that I don’t, but none that I cannot accept. Everyone is a work in progress and on their journeys. As long as I am not being forced to change, I can use boundary-setting and non-violent communication to be myself.
Acceptance has also helped repair and nurture my relationships. It has also helped me be compassionate and accepting of myself. Read my reflections from the year on this topic here.
3 Key Practices
What If and Why Not:
When you act from a place of fear, you end up saying no to many possibilities based on an assumption of the worst-case scenario. When you operate with an open mind, heart and will, you learn to embrace your fears and meet them like a friend. The worries don’t disappear, but they don’t handicap you either. At the same time, you become open to transformative possibilities.
Asking the ‘What if’ and ‘Why not’ has been more useful to expand my horizons than being stuck with the ‘How’. The ‘How’ tends to reveal itself over time.
I made it a point to look up at least once a day — either at the open skies or the canopy of trees. It has filled me with a sense of awe.
Research at UC Berkeley shows that experiencing awe has many benefits:
- We feel connected to the broader universe and keep in mind the interest of others while taking action.
- We experience wonder and curiosity.
- Our health improves due to a better-moderated cytokine response by the body.
No wonder it saved me from languishing in the prolonged pandemic.
Regular Perspective Taking:
There is a difference between knowing “How would you feel in someone else’s situation?” and understanding “How does the other feel in the situation?”
Our world views are shaped by our genes, histories, circumstances, and other factors. Therefore, we cannot imagine predicting everything others feel and think. In such situations, perspective-taking plays a role.
The best response is to listen, understand and see the narrative that has brought people here. The process helps you see and remain connected to others’ whole self. Something about them that doesn’t resonate does not become a thorn in the relationship. It enables you to accept them, their feeling and thinking, without agreeing with them. It also opens up new possibilities to move forward.
Perspective-taking has equipped me to move beyond hurt and resentment in personal relationships and given me a deeper understanding of my stakeholders and peers in professional life.
3 Overarching Feelings
It has been one of those years where I have felt most comfortable being in my skin. I have been living in integrity with myself, without worrying about fitting in or being liked. It feels like the parts of me that I had locked away in the closet have integrated with the rest of me. And the more I have accepted myself, the more I have been able to get others.
I have discovered more allies and deepened my existing friendships as I have lived with authenticity. I have been intentional about connecting with individuals that balance honesty and care. The many safe and brave spaces with these people have been crucial in nurturing my being and enabling my growth.
I have broken free from the notion that self-compassion would make me complacent or self-indulgent. I have moved from cognitively understanding self-compassion to embodying it this year. Embracing my imperfections has only strengthened my learning and resilience in life. I check myself quickly in multiple instances when I would beat or blame myself or be self-critical. It has also prevented over-thinking and reacting during a crisis. Instead, I have taken compassionate action sooner and responded with ownership.
My Wish for You
I am thankful for the attention you have given me by reading this personal reflection. It is a sign of your care for me. I hope you understand and embody acceptance, belonging and self-compassion in 2021. Lastly, don’t forget to look up!!