Nine life lessons I’ve learned in the past 28 years

Remember ‘War Paint’ that I did for Jik-Reuben‘s exhibition at Yaam Berlin in the summer with a blurb on my experience with depression? This is it in colour.

Last week was my birthday and although I opted for a pretty low-key day, it was one of my best ever, especially considering last year was particularly difficult. Unlike in previous times, I was in good, stable spirits and the usual pensiveness that comes with another year of life was not connected to a downward spiral. (Yay!) For most of the day, I occupied my time journalling, working out, meditating and visualising amid thinking on past mistakes, long-time goals and figuring out how to improve upon my blunders in future — an exhausting, but much-needed and fulfilling exercise.

My introspection and reflections this time around instead filled me with hope, a sense of peace and a reminder to keep going, so I thought I’d share the nine most important things I’ve learnt over the last 28 years in case you too can benefit. More anon…

Love yourself first. (Also the meaning of the Arabic tattoo on my inner arm). As selfish as it sounds, the only way you can truly help, serve or share yourself with others in a way that doesn’t completely drain you is to take care of you and learn to put your needs first sometimes. Without self-love, confidence in your own abilities and an acknowledgement of the essence of who you are, you will never be able to truly appreciate many things or people, and often end up settling for less than you deserve. I may have taken years to learn this and definitely have done so the hard way, but I’m sure glad I did.

Take care of your temple. Yes, I know you’ve heard this a million times, but do keep in mind that all the great plans you have require you to actually be around to accomplish them. You also need to be at your best to function optimally in whatever sphere so it’s a no-brainer, really. I’m one to talk since I currently kinda suck at this, but at the very least, I realise and am working on changes every day — eating properly and on time, drinking more water, getting more rest etc. as mentioned in my #40daysbetterme post. It just makes sense, otherwise your body and brain will continue to fail you. Trust me, I know.

Know when to let go and walk away. Detachment has been one of the absolute hardest lessons for me to grasp over the years but so, SO valuable! The funny thing is, we all have intuition within us and it’s definitely there for a reason. We always know when something is off or if things aren’t right for us – whether it’s a job, a significant other, a friendship… the problem is most of the times we don’t heed the warning because we’re doubtful… but why? You can save yourself so much time, energy, heartache, headache, money – and I could go on – just by going with your gut. Why not start listening to it?

Forgiveness is everything. Being an empath makes me highly sensitive. I’m also really passionate and tend to as a result of these things take FOREVER and a day to get over what really hurts me – let alone people… until now. I spent the majority of my life being angry or sad all the time, mad at a lot of things and people. Guess what happened? It damn near destroyed me. I just couldn’t understand the whole forgive and forget theory until one day I asked my grandma and she explained this; the ‘forgetting part’ doesn’t mean you’ll never think about it, but that when you do, all the bad feelings it usually stirs up no longer comes back because you’ve already made peace with them. Such a lightbulb moment! The sooner I realised walking around with a chip on my shoulder affects nobody else but myself, the better off I was! That insight allowed me to forgive everything and everyone, releasing all the tension, heaviness and toxicity for good. Try it.

Your happiness is entirely your responsibility… regardless of any external factors. It really is that simple. Things will always happen in life, people will always do foul things, but what determines how things go afterward or whether or not you absorb the lesson is your response. It is not necessary to acknowledge everything you notice, think or feel. Change is the only constant in life besides death, so the sooner we accept that and move on the better life will be for us. As some famous person who’s probably already dead once said, ‘the problem is not the problem, the problem is your attitude to the problem’. It might sound like gibberish but hey, it actually makes sense.

Neuroplasticity and word-sound-power are very real. This is basically the science of positive thought and speech (as explained in The Secret and countless scientific research documents) – you can train yourself to think positive thoughts and by extension, become a more positive person. It takes some time, especially as our brains are wired to better record the negatives for evolution purposes, so you really have to make the effort to be positive, but I’m doing it right now and it’s been helping tremendously. Pay close attention to the things you say and do. What energies are you transmitting with your words and body language? What kind of thoughts are you nurturing in your mind? What music are you listening to? Who do you keep around? Where do you go? Look for negativity in every aspect of your life and filter it out until it starts becoming second nature. It works.

Try as best you can to NOT be a dick. You know what, it’s not very difficult to be a non-asshole. You can start by being polite, respectful and kind to everyone you come across, even and especially when they’re being douche heads. Yes, I know it’s hard, but I’m fractious as hell and I’ve somehow managed to learn how to do it, so can you. While you’re at it, show support to the people who always love and root for you. Be there for someone who needs it when they least expect it. Show up when you know you should. Keep your word. Shut your mouth if you’re only going to say negative shit. These simple things go a very long way.

Learn to curb your reactivity. I cannot stress enough how much this new found skill has impacted my life for the better. It really is not necessary as I said above to acknowledge everything you experience, let alone respond to it. We are all human and very prone to ‘hitting back’, our whole global culture right now hinges a lot on responsiveness as we’re in the Internet Age, and while that can be good, it can also be horrible. (Case in point, Warren Weir’s fat tweets). Whatever you need to do to learn how not to clap back right away, but to instead stop and think first, do it. It’s a skill you’ll come to depend on in many areas of your life.

If a man wants you, nothing can keep him away… if he doesn’t, nothing can make him stay. I say this not to offend persons who aren’t heterosexual, so please feel free to apply it to your scenarios as well. The fact remains, there is nothing you can do to make someone actually want you and continue to feel that way. We prioritise what’s important to us and will often go to great lengths shuffling things around to get what we want and be comfortable with it, so the tired, busy, ‘it’s not you it’s me’, I’m emotionally unavailable or host of other excuses we like to spew around really do not matter. Do yourself a favour and stop being a decoding dingbat. If you feel like you’re always bending over backwards but you’re still not really ‘it’ for the person in question (based on what you see or feel in your gut), walk away. When someone is into you, you know… you’ll feel it, always.

So what are some of the things you guys have learnt on your journey? How do you feel about mine? Feel free to sound off in the comments below and thanks as always for reading!

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