I recently encountered a situation that made me really think about the primary lessons I have learned since going through the divorce process. It was both enlightening and eye-opening because it made me realize how much I have grown as a person as well as how I have embraced a new level of maturity in my womanhood. Allow me to share the seven mistakes to avoid.
- Feeling obligated to explain yourself to others.
As I got ready to post something on Facebook recently, I was trying to figure out how to word what I needed to say while justifying why I believed it. I realized that I was spending way too much time trying to fix my words to justify something that was not even that serious! I believe that explaining our decisions and actions is often an inadvertent way of seeking validation or approval. At the end of the day, those from whom we seek that validation don’t have to live with the choices we make for ourselves. Now, let me be clear. This isn’t about justifying negative, irrational or illegal behavior. We all need mentors and those whom we seek for guidance. This is about releasing yourself from the bondage of people pleasing and validation. Understand that you do not owe everyone an explanation for what you do, specifically when those people are not directly affected by what it is that you are saying and doing. Check yourself before you explain yourself.
- Feeling guilty for choosing yourself.
As I have managed the relationships in my life, there were a few that were manipulative or co-dependent in nature. I realized that on more than one occasion, I became enmeshed with the other parties in the relationship and the interaction became toxic and unhealthy. As a result of the pressure and negative emotions that manifested, I realized that I was declining on a personal level and had to choose myself or the relationship. For the sake of my own sanity and safety, I chose myself. This didn’t come without opposition and resistance. Choosing yourself in a toxic situation is the healthiest decision you can make for your life. There are a myriad of reasons why we attempt to hold on to situations and people that we know are no good for us, but the reality is that if you are not good within yourself, for yourself and on your own, you cannot operate at maximum capacity in your relationships. Choose wholeness and goodness within yourself, and don’t feel guilty about it. There is no fulfillment in pouring into others when you are empty.
- Not setting boundaries.
I’ll never forget the moment I realized the importance of boundaries. I had been dealing with a pushy and demeaning person who continuously expected things that I didn’t have the capacity or resources to give. It was stressful. I assessed how I could accommodate them, acknowledged where I couldn’t, and set boundaries. These were healthy boundaries for me, and strategic to protect myself from the toxic energy that they often brought into my personal space. They weren’t happy about it and even circumvented those boundaries a time or two. In time, this person came to adhere to those boundaries in spite of their lack of acceptance. Not setting limits can cost you financially, mentally, and emotionally. When you don’t set healthy boundaries, you get taken advantage of, are disrespected, and you are often pushed to do things that are outside your realm of comfort or even your safety. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries and also to implement consequences when people fail to respect them.
- Failing to prepare.
As I continue on my journey of self-improvement, one of the most common themes that continue to stand out is preparation. I love what happens in my life when I take the time to prepare for things that I know are coming. I have come to understand the importance of preparing for the unexpected, but I often find that some of my greatest lessons have come from situations where I failed to prepare. Often, I can quickly pinpoint where I failed, and take steps to properly execute the next time around. Other times, it isn’t so simple, and there is greater work to be done to bounce back. As I am unlearning the behaviors of a perfectionist, I condemn myself less and have become intentional about preparing for things that I know are coming along and doing my best to prepare for the unexpected. There is only so much we can do to prepare for the unexpected, but the awareness of it is a part of having a good foundation for success.
- Dragging people who don’t want to “go.”
As we progress in our lives, we gain connections with people that are meaningful and important. While it is vital for us to surround ourselves with people with whom we can grow, the reality is that it doesn’t always happen this way. As we experience life, we sometimes outgrow a circle of people or friendships that we expected to last. There is nothing wrong with either situation, but you cannot stifle your life, your purpose or your calling for the sake of “taking others with you.” You certainly can’t make someone accept or embrace something that they are not ready for. However, I believe that we are sometimes called to invite others along to experience where we are going or what we are doing with our lives. The thing is, those people have to be willing participants and open to receive whatever exposure they will gain. If not, they cannot be forced. We all possess the same ability to exercise free will.
- Carrying baggage.
If you’re a lover of R&B and Neo-Soul, you have probably heard a song by Erykah Badu called Bag Lady. The lyrics are a ballad of self-love, the melody a message of letting go. Have you ever had a moment when you just felt heavy? The burdens and heaviness of life situations are a real weight that can be felt both physically and spiritually. It can manifest physically as a result of giving up on yourself and making unhealthy choices like not being active or poor diet and overeating. Yes, that is a form of baggage.
On the other hand, sometimes spiritual heaviness can be more devastating and difficult to manage. Whether you carry those burdens as a result of personal issues or because you have taken on someone else’s, the reality is that if they are not handled appropriately, the damage can be long-term and even devastating to your wellbeing as well as those around you. While some burdens are good for the sake of you interceding on behalf of those who may need prayer, there are some burdens that you are not meant to carry. You must learn to discern the difference.
- Not allowing yourself to go through the “process.”
There are some things in life that you will not be able to escape. There are conflicts, situations, and people that we must encounter and experience to learn and grow. Growth requires a “processing” of those experiences. This requires you to take strategic steps to understand what happened and to glean knowledge and positivity from those experiences. When you don’t allow yourself to do this, you stay stuck and may even harbor negative emotions like bitterness and unforgiveness as a result of not allowing yourself to move forward. You may also repeat mistakes time and time again as a result of not taking the time to understand what happened. Give yourself permission to process what happens in your life so you can move forward and be productive.
It may take some time and a few bumps along the way to embrace these things and productively execute them, but don’t give up on yourself. You are more than worth the investment of your time.