Today, I wanted to dedicate an entire episode to the five things that I learned in 2021. I have found 2021 to be one of the harder years, but probably the most transformational for me, and that is one of the things I’ll talk about here very, very soon.
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This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 216.
Hello, my friends. Happy 2022! Oh my goodness, it is crazy to say that. I’m excited for 2022, to be honest. I’ve had enough with 2021, I’m not going to lie. And I’m guessing that you are in the same boat. I’m grateful for 2021. Absolutely, I’m not going to lie, but I’m really happy to be here in 2022.
Today, I wanted to dedicate an entire episode to the things that I learned in 2021. I have found 2021 to be one of the harder years, but probably the most transformational for me, and that is one of the things I’ll talk about here very, very soon.
Before we do that, you may notice that the show looks a little different. We have new podcast cover art. If you follow me on Instagram, there’s a ton of different visual and aesthetic changes there as well, as well as that we have changed the name to Your Anxiety Toolkit instead of being Kimberley Quinlan. I will explain a little bit about why I’ve made these changes here in a very little moment.
Before we get into the good stuff of the show, the bulk of the show, I want to give you the very best stuff, which is the “I did a hard thing” segment. So here we go. For those of you who are new, every week, people submit their “I did a hard thing” and we talk about it, and we share it and we celebrate the big and the small and the medium wins.
This one is from Kboil, and it says:
“I went to work for the first time in five weeks after a horrendous meltdown where I wanted to take my own life. I am still struggling daily with my anxiety and panic attacks, but I am doing it. XO.”
This is the work, you guys, that may be triggering for some people. But the truth is we have to talk about how impactful our mental illnesses can be and how important mental health is, because if we don’t take out care of our mental health, it can get to the place where people are feeling suicidal. Let me also reframe that. Sometimes we get to those really difficult places and dark places. Not because you’re not taking care of yourself, but for multiple reasons, daily stresses, genetics, medical struggles, grief, trauma, high levels of anxiety.
Kboil is really bringing the most important piece of mental health discussions, which is, when we’re really, really struggling, number one, it’s important to celebrate your wins, and number two, nothing is off-limits. We must be willing to talk about these really difficult topics. Thank you, Kboil. I am just so honored that you shared this and so excited that you’re taking baby steps, and I really wish you well. I know it says you’re still struggling, so I’m sending you every single ounce of my compassion and love to you.
Ugh, it’s so good. My heart just swells for you all when you write in those “I did a hard thing’s.”
Okay. Let’s go over to the five things I learned in 2021. The first one is probably the most important, and it does explain why I’ve made certain changes in the way that I run my business, the way that I show up on social media and here on the podcast, and why I really want to make some changes in 2022.
First of all, this is proof that people can change their mind. It’s okay to change your mind. Actually, that’s probably the sixth thing I learned. Number one is, it’s okay to change your mind. But really the number one was, it’s important to act intentional.
I did a whole episode on whacking things together, how it’s okay to whack things together. I did that because I found myself becoming very perfectionistic. I am still a massive fan of the whack-it-together model, which is ultimately to practice not being perfect and just getting things done. But what I think I did is I went a little too far in the whack-it-together model and I wasn’t being as intentional. I was doing too much and not doing a great job of the things I was doing. I mean, it was still great and I was still helping people and I was still showing up and I’m so proud of what I did in 2021. But what I really learned is sometimes when you get into moving too fast and pushing too fast and too hard that you lose the intentionality. And when you lose the intentionality, you often lose the real lesson and the growth.
If you’re in recovery for anxiety or an OCD-related disorder or an eating disorder, or a body- focused repetitive behavior, if you’re rushing through and pushing through and wrestling with things instead of slowing down and being really intentional in your practices, chances are, you’re going to miss a lot of opportunity for real growth and real recovery. So slow down and be very intentional.
Some question you may ask is: What is it that I’m trying to achieve here? For me, often I’m like, because I’m trying to reach a certain goal or so forth, it’s like, well, is this rushing? Is this behavior actually moving the needle forward? If it comes to recovery, particularly if you’re having anxiety, I’m going to encourage you to ask: What am I trying to achieve here? Am I trying to get away from anxiety? Or am I trying to be with my anxiety? Because if you’re intentional and you’re trying to be with your anxiety, your recovery will benefit.
Now, how does this apply to me and you guys and us together is, I really don’t want to be as much on social media anymore. One of the things I really learned this year is that it’s not good for my mental health when I push it like I was, and I found that I was showing up on social media. Even here on the podcast, I’m not afraid to admit, I would sometimes sit down and just throw myself into it instead of actually stopping and doing what I originally did, which is I used to, and I used to do this all the time, but I think I fell out of the practice, which was to stop, and before I did anything, get really clear on like, who am I speaking to? What do they need to hear? How can I show up and serve them in a way that also serves me? Am I just showing up here to say that I showed up and recorded an episode so I can say that I did a weekly episode?
That’s not how I want to be anymore. I really want to move towards being intentional and engaging in behaviors that actually push the needle forward and that are healthy for me. I’ve moved Instagram from Kimberley Quinlan to Your Anxiety Toolkit because for some reason, every time I got onto Instagram, I felt like it was about me, even though I know it’s not. And I don’t want it to be about me. I want it to be about mental health and anxiety and tools to help you.
So, that’s how it’s going to shift. We’ve got a ton of amazing guests happening, which I’ve already pre-recorded. And then after that, I think I may even take a little break from having guests and just practice sitting down with you and really talking about the important stuff I want you to know. Like this stuff that sits on my heart, that I really want you guys to know.
So, that’s number one, is become a little more intentional if you can. Don’t become perfectionistic, but move towards being intentional.
This is a huge one that I learned early in 2021. I was learning from a public speaker, and she constantly says, “Life is 50/50.” And that used to bug me so bad. It used to really make me angry because I’d be like, “No, life is not 50/50. It’s like 80/20. It’s like 80% good and 20% bad.” Until I was like, “Wait, if I’m really honest with myself, it is 50/50.” I think a lot of the suffering that I was experiencing, and I’m guessing a lot of the suffering that you were experiencing is trying to get it to be 80/20 or 90/10, because life is not supposed to be easy. Life happens. Life is hard. Bad things happen to good people, and that was a big lesson to me.
A friend of mine was going through a really hard time. I kept thinking, this is crazy. Why is this bad stuff happening to good people? Until I was like, that’s an era in my thinking. When did I learn that bad things shouldn’t happen to good people? Because bad things do happen to good people, and it’s not their fault.
Sometimes when we can give ourselves permission to drop the expectation of the 80/20 or the 100% or the 90/10 and just let everything be 50/50, it’s so much easier. Even as I parent my children, I think I was parenting them with this expectation that I’m supposed to be really, really good at it. But when I accepted that things will be 50/50, they’re not going to like when I ask them to pick up their room. They’re not going to like when I serve them vegetables that they don’t like to eat, and I can’t be disappointed when they’re disappointed about the vegetables I’ve served them because life is 50/50.
One of the best lessons I can give them is for them not to expect too much either. I’m not saying drop your standards and accept terribleness at all. What I’m saying is, do the best you can. Go for your dreams. Love your life. But still come back to the fact that you still have to brush your teeth and we break things and we spill things and we have to pay taxes and we are exhausted at the end of the day after having a great day at work. You might have some negative parts of it too. There’s pros and cons to everything.
So, that was really powerful for me, is life is not supposed to be easy. I’ve talked about this before. I think it was in the summer of 2019, where I would catch myself throwing mental tantrums in my head like, “It’s not fair. It shouldn’t be this hard.” And I’m like, “That is exactly the problem. Those mental tantrums that I have in my brain.”
The other one, let me add, is I actually had a whole therapy session about this, which was about this entitlement that I caught in myself of like, “This isn’t fair. Things should be easier. Things should be going easier or they shouldn’t be so hard.” And this real entitlement that came with that, and even though we use the word “entitlement,” I’m not using that as a criticism towards myself. It’s just naming it what it was. I felt this entitlement inside me of like, “No, things should be good. I should succeed at everything I try.” And that’s totally not true.
This one really hit me in September. I actually think I read something online that really hit me with this. I’m writing this down as I talk to you just so I make sure I get it in for you in the show notes.
Often, I talk to my patients and clients that you can’t control your thoughts and you can’t control your feelings, but you can control your reaction to those thoughts and feelings. And when you do that, you may find that your thoughts and feelings start to change. It’s a very basic concept of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a helpful modality of therapy for many, many, many different mental illnesses.
But when I talk about managing my mind is being, again, very intentional about the way I respond to problems and stresses in my mind. I’m not saying that you can control your intrusive thoughts, but I’m going to say it is my job to manage when anxiety shows up. It is my job to manage when thoughts and strong emotions hit me and make me want to lash out or project.
A lot of my patients have reported this. They’ll come to session and they’ll say, “You will not believe my husband. He just won’t do A, B, and C, and he knows it makes me crazy. He knows it makes me anxious. So why is he doing it? If he loved me, he wouldn’t do this.” And I have to keep gently reminding them, “It’s your responsibility to manage your emotions. It’s not their job.” We talked about this in one of the last episodes of the year in 2021, which is setting boundaries, you are responsible. You’re in your lane to manage your mind and your emotions. It’s not anybody else’s.
I think what was really hard about this is when I heard this, I used to take offense and I’d be like, “Oh my God, that’s just so mean. What about the people who are really, really, really suffering?” or “Wow, that’s so abrupt and dismissive.” Until I really sat with it. I actually journaled a lot on this of like, what shows up for me when someone talks about the word “responsibility”? I wrote about this a lot in the self-compassion workbook for OCD – compassionate responsibility. And I think the word “responsibility” really triggers us into thinking that if we’re taking responsibility for ourselves, we don’t deserve other people’s support. And that’s not true.
But when I really sat on “It’s my job to manage my mind,” everything changed. I think that’s why I came to the place where I was like, “Okay, I’m going to be way more intentional because it is my job. It’s my job to really slowly and in baby steps, work at changing how I react and having really hard conversations with myself on like, ‘Wow, you fully reacted in a little bit of a crazy way there.’” What was going on for you? What do you need to change? How do you need to show up for yourself different? How can you be intentional around this? Because it’s your job. I’m saying that to myself, “Kimberley, it’s your job. It’s your responsibility.” It’s the most compassionate act you can do, is to practice managing your mind.
Again, these all tie beautifully in together because once I took responsibility for really managing my mind and really owning what was showing up for me, it was then my job to catch the thought errors. Again, I want to be really clear here. I’m not saying that you can control your intrusive thoughts. Absolutely not. But what I’m speaking about more, and I’m actually going to do a whole episode on this in just a couple of weeks, is catching thoughts like, “I’m going to screw this up. That was the worst. I am a failure. I am freaking out.” These are all often not accurate statements, So I’m talking about the way in which we frame and perceive things, not your intrusive thoughts. I want to be really, really certain. We’re not in the business of correcting intrusive thoughts of anxiety.
When it comes to depressive thoughts or very negative thoughts or catastrophic thoughts, or very black and white thoughts, we can be very intentional and be like, “Wait a second, I catch myself on this all the time. I’ll be like, my husband often comes home in the end of the day and says, ‘How was your day?’ And I’ll often make these sweeping statements like, ‘Oh, it was a really hard day.’ Even if that’s true, how does it benefit me? Was it 100% true? Because what’s probably 100% true is, oh, there are a couple of really, really difficult times that took me some time to come down from. But there were also some really beautiful moments.” That’s the truth. It takes more effort to say that and you have to be more intentional to say that. But if we say, “It was a really hard day,” our brain is going to pick up on that and it’s going to start to feel overwhelmed and heavy.
I’m going to leave you with this one because this one was the best. That is the lesson I took away – I’m not for everybody. I guess what we could say in parentheses is, “and that’s okay.”
I actually was on a podcast this week with Bryan Piatt, an amazing OCD advocate. He had asked me this question and I was reflecting on it the other day, which is, I think that in my many years of being on the planet earth and being in my human body, I thought that if I was just kind, there’s really no reason anyone could not like me. If I was just kind to everybody and I did my best and I kept out of drama, everybody should like me. There can’t be much to hate. I think I banked on this as a way of avoiding conflict and as a way of getting people to approve of me.
I learned last year that even when I’m kind, even when I show up in the best version of myself and I do nothing, but show up with loving kindness in my heart, I’m still not going to be for everybody. Do you want to know how crazy that made me when I realized that? In 2021, a lot of you may know, but I was very seriously online bullied and shamed and trolled. There is this one particular person who really trolls a lot of mental health accounts, and I seem to be one that they loved to really bully and shame. I kept crying and going home to my husband and saying, “But why am I so kind?” I had to realize it’s that same kind of concept of like, good things should happen to good people and bad things should happen to bad people, until I was like, “Oh, that’s not true.” Life is 50/50, and you’re never going to be for everybody.
So, I’m going to offer to you the same thing. I’m not for everyone. You’re not for everyone. Try to get a good 10 people in your life on your side and the other billion gazillion people, you don’t need to please them. Just be a little intentional there. And I’m too, I’m doubling down now in really just being intentional on who matters and whose opinion does matter and everyone else can take me or leave me.
I hope that those five things were helpful to you. Maybe they sparked some curiosity for you and you may or may not agree with some of those. The good thing to remember here is, these are the things I learned, but they might not be exactly what you needed to hear today. And that’s totally okay. Sometimes we need to hear things at a certain time. At other times, they’re not for you at that particular time in your life. And that is okay.
So, there are the things I learned this year, in 2021. I’m so excited about this year because I have those amazing lessons that I learned. I’m going to be much more intentional about the podcast and I’m going to try to use the podcast to be a little more personal, where people in my podcast are more my insider group compared to social media because again, I want to be really intentional and healthy around social media.
Before we finish, I want to do the review of the week. Please, please, please, please. If you can do me one gift, it would be to leave a review for the podcast. This one is from Kanji96 and they said:
“Thank you, Kimberley. This podcast is very helpful for me, especially when I’m going through hard times. Right now happens to be one of those hard times. Here I am back listening to Kimberley. Thank you.”
I’m so grateful, Kanji, for that you support me. Thank you so, so much. I’m going to leave you all with a quote that Kanji almost used and that I always use, which is, it is a beautiful day to do hard things.
Let’s do 2022 together. I’m so incredibly thrilled to be walking on this path with you. I know that your time is valuable. I appreciate you coming and spending your time with me, and I’ll see you next week.