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As we endure another pandemic crisis rapidly unfolding in most countries, a lot of us have our doubts regarding what 2022 holds. It seems like every year since 2020, we have held out hope of a year that we could claim as #livingmybestlife.
Despite the unfolding crisis of the pandemic over the last two years, many of us have been bombarded with photos on social media of parties, large group gatherings, and achievements under the banner of #livingmybestlife.
“We are not letting Covid run our lives”
“We are tired of the doom and gloom”
“We will not live in fear and let this virus take away our freedoms”
“Our mental health depends on life returning to normal”
And then there are those who are proceeding to live their lives cautiously, who don’t have a lot to post that will compare with the glamourous lives that others seem to be living. Filters might help, but I am sure they pale against the champagne glasses and broad smiles of beautiful bodies dancing to the song, “It’s My Life.”
Mental health that depends solely on “freedoms” and “a return to normalcy” disrespects millions who endure the generational impact of oppression and social injustice. It overlooks freedom fighters who died in the name of the struggle, never experiencing freedom. It undermines sacrifices made for the greater good of communities and emancipation of the oppressed. It forgets millions of children living in poverty and suffering from complex developmental trauma. There are inspiring achievements displaying resilience and strength against all odds which are rarely captured on social media. To think that those who have known real oppression and trauma aren’t #livingmybestlife is a fallacy we need to challenge.
We have no guarantee that 2022 won’t be sh*ttier than the last two years. What if we say it will be sh*ttier and go from there? What if we approached it with no expectations of returning to normalcy? How can we ensure our well-being without expecting our circumstances to change?
No, I’m not writing this as a doomsday prophecy but rather to engage in a new conversation of how we can ensure our health and well-being without demanding that the world around us change for us to live our best lives. I’m honouring the genuinely oppressed, marginalized, underprivileged who can teach us how to harness the power within and the social connections that are protective factors through adversity. I am recognising how many have survived adversity due to the wholesome goodness of their values.
In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), the term values are used to refer to activities that give our lives meaning…values are like a compass—they help us make choices based on the directions in which we want our lives to go.
“Values are who we want to be and what we want our lives to be about.”
I have chosen to share nine values that erode the superficial culture of #livingmybest life, by bringing depth and sustainability to the mantra.
Please feel free, in your own reflections to fine-tune this list, including values not on this list, and clarify your own unique compass.
1. Acceptance: to be open to and accepting of myself, others, and life
We can embrace the life we have even if it is not the life we want. Positivity in the absence of reality does not allow us to make informed choices. Reality might suck but we can only make meaningful decisions and choices when we see things clearly and not through “Pollyanna” designer glasses.
2. Authenticity: to be authentic, genuine, real; to be true to myself
When we are real with ourselves and others, we will be attuned to environments that support our authenticity. We can choose relationships, places, work environments that provide the opportunities for us to be who we are. When we genuinely live our authentic goodness, we meet opportunities that extend that goodness. We glow, we connect, and we thrive in time.
3. Contribution: to contribute, help, assist, or make a positive difference to myself or others
When we live close to our authentic goodness, we naturally gravitate toward making a valuable contribution to the lives of others. We share, we reciprocate, we consider the bigger picture. The culture of “it’s about me and my family to the exclusion of others” is empty. Our families can be social agents of change. We can raise children who have a social conscience. Given that all social issues from climate change to the pandemic are connected, the contributions we make collectively bring change to larger societal issues. No contribution made is lost.
4. Courage: to be courageous or brave; to persist in the face of fear, threat, or difficulty
The business of change often occurs within the context of distress and discouragement. Persevering with our values can mean the loss of relationships, popularity, and increased difficulties. We need courage, we need bravery, we need perseverance even when our circumstances look like they won’t budge an inch. No individual or societal changes can be made without courage.
5. Kindness: to be kind, compassionate, considerate, nurturing, or caring toward myself and others
Be clear but be kind to ourselves and others. Kindness is an underrated value in this life. Just read the comments on social media of angry, disrespectful, arrogant, opinionated individuals to see how underrated it really is. Kind individuals know when to challenge but also know how to challenge empathically. When you are in the presence of a kind person, everyone glows. The after taste of the interaction allows us the space to reflect.
6. Respect: to be respectful toward myself or others; to be polite, considerate, and show positive regard
Disrespect has an emotional charge. It is oppressive, aggressive, and in more overt forms, violent. How can we be mindful when we say things? How can we demonstrate our respect for others? How can we honour ourselves in the choices and decisions we make?
7. Responsibility: to be responsible and accountable for my actions
We row our own boats in our personal lives. The choices we make determine how that boat will respond to adverse conditions of the sea of life. But when we row, we need to be mindful that there are other boats sharing space in that same ocean and not all are equipped with the bells and whistles. Our actions have impact for those on our boats and the boats around us. When we recognise our special connectedness, we are less likely to be selfish.
8. Safety: to secure, protect, or ensure the safety of myself or others
Our nervous system craves safety. Our smart brains go offline in the absence of safety. We connect with self and others when we are safe. How are we creating safety for our families, for our schools, work, childcare centres? How are we showing that we keep ourselves and others safe through our actions?
9. Spirituality: to connect with things bigger than myself
Oxford Languages defines spirituality as “the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things’ ‘the shift in priorities allows us to embrace our spirituality in a more profound way.” In a world filled with the pursuits of material gains, we are drifting further away from our spiritual essence and cannot connect with our human spirit. Ubuntu is a Zulu South African term meaning “humanity.” It is sometimes translated as “I am because we are.” What can we do more of to connect with our humanity? Why would the human spirit be of greater importance now than ever?
We have no guarantees that 2022 won’t be sh*ttier than the last two years. However, when we are guided by our value-based compass, we can use that to guide how we respond to an uncertain world, desperately in need of socially conscious humans who tread mindfully through the world.
In the words of the great Desmond Tutu, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
Maybe we can even create a society that replaces My with #livingOURbestlives.