I have been a licensed clinical psychologist for exactly one year today. I have no idea where the time as gone, but also feel like there is so much time ahead of me. I’m so excited about all I’ve learned so far and everything I plan to learn and accomplish in the future. December is the perfect time to reflect on the past year and what is to come. This is something I tend to do every year, but this year feels slightly more special to me because 2016 was such a dynamic year. I have really enjoyed writing and sharing information about mental health, self-care, Black psychology, etc. However, this time I wanted to get more personal and share with you my process of reflection near the end of this year and my preparation for 2017.
Year-End Review...What Happened?
At the end of every year, one of the first things I do is to review all that I’ve accomplished or anything that has significantly changed in my life. It is really easy for life to pass us by and for us to not even realize what has happened until several years later, but slowing down and tracking the events of life can help. Personally, I believe life to be too precious to pass by without any awareness or acknowledgement of what is happening. Living is such a gift, and taking the time to pay attention to the experience is one way that I honor the events of my life.
A lot happened in my life this year but what stands out the most is:
Lessons Learned in 2016.
After determining what has happened in the course of one year, I then determine what lessons I have learned as a result. This year was full of great lessons:
Take risks and dream big. Too much time of my life has been spent negotiating the amount of risk I wanted to take in order to move forward. Thinking in terms of risk has always brought me some anxiety, but this year I learned that when I took the biggest risks (i.e. relocating without a sure plan of employment, launching a website as a new and young professional, applying for jobs I didn’t believe I was qualified for, negotiating salary and occupational responsibilities, etc.), I usually received the biggest return. Most of the risks I took this year, I have benefited from tremendously. I have even been surprised at what I have been able to achieve or gain after initially believing I was asking for too much. I’m thankful for every risk I had the courage to take this year.
Celebrate yourself and never dim your light. I realize I am not the only person who has struggled to celebrate themselves or to even take pride in their work or success. Unfortunately, many of us are taught that taking pride in ourselves is selfish, or “bragging” but this year I learned that isn’t true. It has typically been very uncomfortable for me to share my accomplishments or to showcase my talents but this year I forced myself to do more of it and I don’t regret it. I realized that dimming my light to make others feel more comfortable does not benefit me in any way and I’m only compromising my own personal, spiritual, and professional growth in doing so. Celebrating myself has helped improve my confidence and assertiveness. Instead of dimming my light, I’d rather share my success and talents, in the hopes that it may encourage and inspire someone else to work toward becoming their very best self too.
Take your time and trust the process of life. Those who are closest to me know that the first half of my 2016 was full of doubt, dread, and very little hope, passion, or motivation. I had not yet found a job in my field that I felt passionate about and it was miserable. In those moments, I often needed to remind myself that it was temporary and my time would come. Needless to say, my time did come and I now have a job that has given me so much joy and happiness. I can very easily apply this lesson to so many other moments from this year, including moving through emotional discomfort from changes within my relationships, adjusting to relocation from Ohio to Tennessee, and growing and nurturing my relationship with my fiancé. All of these events have taught me to take my time rather than rushing through life and to put absolute trust in the process of life. I firmly believe that life unfolds as it should, and I never want to rush that process.
are helped and supported. Therefore, care for yourself should always come first. Self-care isn’t selfish. Self-care isn’t difficult. Self-care isn’t a trendy cliché or something to just talk about. Self-care is simple and needs to be prioritized and taken seriously. For me, taking care of myself is the literal foundation of everything I have done so far and everything I will be able to do in the future. Taking care of myself is not optional, but required and I am committed to continuing to improve that during 2017 and the years to come.
Dear 2017, Whats Next?
The final step in my reflection process involves planning for the upcoming year. This usually isn’t an extensive, step-by-step plan, but more so a broader summary of my hopes and desires for the next year. So what’s in store for me and my 2017?
Ultimately, one significant theme of my year has been gratitude. I’m thankful for everything that has come my way in 2016 and eagerly await what is to come in 2017.
Thank you for allowing me to share myself with you in 2016! Please feel free to share your process with me and continue to share this process with others you love.
Happy New Year!
Dr. Amber Thornton
Clinical psychologist with a passion for family, community, culture, and diversity.