The Black Woman's End-of-Year Guide to Self Reflection

by Bee Quammie

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” —Zora Neale Hurston

Ever since I read that particular Zora Neale Hurston quote, I’ve used it on my birthday and at the close of each year to reflect and measure how far I’ve come. Here we are at the end of another year. While thoughts will soon shift to 2015 goals, resolutions, and vision boards, it’s imperative that we each take time for reflection.

“My recipe for life is not being afraid of myself, afraid of what I think or of my opinions.” —Eartha Kitt

Looking back at 2014 compared to past years, there seemed to be an undeniable blossoming of self-assurance that occurred. I started accepting things about myself, and started to utilize my voice. I’ve always been more comfortable expressing my thoughts and opinions in writing instead of verbally, but this year I found myself hesitating less and less to say – literally – what was on my mind. Whether speaking out against the societal injustices that plagued 2014, speaking up to defend myself in situations where I would have previously let things slide, or hopping over hesitation to raise my hand and snatch new opportunities, I decided to stop being afraid and to start being assertive.

Reflecting on this personal development is crucial. What do you know about yourself that is undeniably true? Reviewing this in the context of the past year gives a certain foundation with which to enter the new year.

"God, make me so uncomfortable that I will do the very thing I fear." —Ruby Dee

This year I found myself in a number of situations where I grew so uncomfortable with my status quo that the fear of taking a risk paled in comparison to the fear of staying the same. The fact that I’ve not only survived these risks but thrived within many of them means that I am leaving 2014 a very different woman than the one who entered it.

Questions to ask yourself as 2014 winds down: What risks did you take? How did they change you? What in your life was stagnant this year? How will you change that?

Ruminate on these thoughts and see what goals you’re ready to make for 2015. Perhaps you didn’t take any risks but you’re ready to do so next year. Maybe you took a few, crossed items off of your bucket list, and are thinking of new things to add. Either way, you won’t have a game plan for what will be without assessing what was.

“I really don't think life is about the I-could-have-beens. Life is only about the I-tried-to-do. I don't mind the failure but I can't imagine that I'd forgive myself if I didn't try.” —Nikki Giovanni

What did you do this year? Sometimes time flies by so quickly that we never take a moment to sit still and really take it all in. From the biggest accomplishment to the smallest attempt, we have all done things or tried to do them, and those efforts should be celebrated.

My big accomplishments? Becoming a first-time homeowner. Being nationally published and an award-winning blogger. Becoming a mom.

My small attempts? Working on being more punctual and organized. Taking better care of my hair and skin. Trying to tame my temper when it fires up.

Looking back, I have to ask myself: Did I celebrate sufficiently when I got my first national byline? Did I celebrate sufficiently when I actually made it to all three of my appointments on time last week? Did I celebrate the fact that even if I wasn’t successful at something, I at least tried? Now is the time.

Check in with yourself as well. Have you patted yourself on the back for what you’ve done or tried to do this year? Have you even taken note of all the things you did/tried? Part of knowing what you’re going to do is knowing what you’ve done, so make sure you take a moment to reflect.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” —Maya Angelou

A book I re-read this year, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, lists “Always do your best,” as one of its key tenets. Doing your best doesn’t necessarily mean you’re perfect or successful, but it means you’re putting everything you have into what you do. I’ve tried to internalize that at every turn—asking if I was truly doing my best, and either adjusting or being satisfied with the answer. If my response was “I’m doing the best I can,” I dedicated myself to learning how I could do better. I learned a LOT this year.

I learned ways to be a better writer. I learned how to cook some spectacular dishes. I learned how to keep a 3-month-old calm on a plane ride. Learning is a continual process, and one that has opened up new doors and new confidence this year. Learning aids growth, and growth is an active process – one that sometimes leaves you with bumps and bruises before you get to do and be better. The moments where I learned by stumbling first may have been painful, but they were also extremely necessary.

What have you learned this year? How have you made your “best” even better?

When measuring my year against Zora’s quote, 2014 has been a year that has largely answered. Certain questions I had about life have found their responses over the past 12 months, so the culmination of this year is bound by a feeling of calm. I already see the questions that are presenting themselves for 2015, and that gives me a feeling of anticipation. Before you start that vision board or list of resolutions, ask yourself where your 2014 lands. You cannot make room for what is new until you put the old to rest. So reflect, release, and realign yourself for what is to come.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Bridget "Bee" Quammie is a Toronto-based healthcare professional, writer, social media consultant, and founder of Recognized by Black Enterprise and the 2014 Black Canadians Awards for her digital work, Bee aims to live '83 To Infinity's motto: "It's never too late to learn something new, do something new, or be someone new." Follow her on Twitter at @BeeSince83.

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