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12 Monthly Self-Love Themes That Will Make This Your Best Year Yet

How about focusing on one thing a month in order to have an awesome 2021?

Inspiration

Something that my mother used to say is, "You can't really clean more than one room at a time." Whenever I reflect on that little pearl of wisdom, it reminds me of how a lot of folks tend to brag about how good they are at multitasking, when there is plenty of data to support that you can't really do more than two things well at one time. And honestly, I think that might be why so many people struggle with keeping their New Year's resolutions or even really making any progress at all in life—it's because they overwhelm themselves by trying to do way too much…all at one time.

In 2021, let's take a different approach. Let's "clean one room at a time" so to speak by breaking down each month into a particular theme. A way that I came up with how to do this is I revisited the history of the name of each month and how it came to be, along with some of the different things that each one specifically represents/symbolizes. If you want to make some real strides in your life, perhaps applying this approach to your own world can have you feeling really great about all of the developments you've made, by the time 2022 rolls around.

1. JANUARY: Gateways and Doors

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A popular saying that I hear folks say often, that absolutely drives me up the wall, is "When God closes a door, he opens a window." What in the world? So, the Almighty prevents something from happening (which is usually a blessing in disguise) and then turns around and replaces it with something less? Chile, please. What life has taught me is when a door shuts, a path tends to open up that is wider than I ever expected (Ephesians 3:20-21)! It might not be one that I predicted, yet sometimes, the surprise is a part of the fun.

That's why, to me, it would only be fitting that January, the start of a new calendar year, would be all about gateways and doors. A gateway can be an entrance to a structure (like a new office building or place to live) or even an entrance to a region (like moving to another state or continent). Also, a door isn't just something that you can open in order to get from one room to another; it's also "any means of approach, admittance, or access". So this month, take some time out to think about what gateways and doors the universe is shutting and, at the same time, making available to you. Trust me, it's better to walk through something that is wide open than to keep banging your head against a wall…if you know what I mean.

JANUARY'S THEME QUESTION: What gateways and doors are making themselves available to me at this time in my life?

2. FEBRUARY: Purification

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February is all about purification and I really dig that. The reason why is because purify is a really layered word. Freeing yourself from anything (or one) that debases you is a form of purification. Freeing yourself from anything (or anyone) that causes you to feel guilty or bad about yourself is a form of purification. Purging yourself of anything (or anyone) that is counterproductive, unhealthy or flat-out toxic in your life is a form of purification.

When you let all of this resonate, purification can be about detoxing your system, ending a relationship that just isn't good for you or breaking a habit that you know, at the end of the day, is only holding you back. Unfortunately, a lot of us are unable to progress in life because we skip a very important step when it comes to making that happen—purifying our mind, body and soul so that we're more capable of making strides, both personally as well as professionally.

FEBRUARY'S THEME QUESTION: What can I do to free myself from anything that makes me feel unhealthy or bad about myself?

3. MARCH: Making Peace

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There's a Scripture in the Bible that says, "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." (Romans 12:18—NKJV) That said, it really is crazy how a lot of people claim to be Bible followers yet they conveniently edit Scriptures out like God not being the author of confusion (and whew, this world is confused about A LOT of things—I Corinthians 14:33) and peace being something that God calls us to have within ourselves and make with those around us.

The thing that I adore about peace is the fact that the Hebrew word for it is shalom and shalom means a ton of things. It means to be complete, whole and safe. It also means to prosper, to rest, to rid yourself of agitation and discord. If you put all of this together, March is really about doing what you need to do in order to make yourself more whole, to be at rest with the people, places, things and ideas in your life and then to get out of a state of discord with those around you. For the sake of internal peace. And peace? There is nothing quite like it.

MARCH'S THEME QUESTION: What can I do this month so that I can feel more whole and complete?

4. APRIL: Love and Beauty

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Personally, I don't think there is anything more beautiful than a woman who truly loves herself. I don't mean that someone who says it because it sounds good. I mean someone who is comfortable looking at herself in the mirror. I mean someone who can go out of the house, with or without make-up on, and feel totally fine. I mean someone who is confident enough in how the Creator made her that she sees no need to be jealous of how others look. I mean someone who doesn't fear aging because she knows that one more day—let alone one more year—on this planet is a true blessing. I mean someone who gets that, at the end of the day, beauty isn't just about what is on the outside—it's also about having character traits like femininity, grace and a signature sense of style that is unique and unmatched.

Although the first day of spring this year is March 20th, it's typically April when this season gets into full swing. That's why, it would make perfect sense that, as the flowers are in bloom, we should focus on "blooming" too.

Whatever you need to do to feel more beautiful—both inside and out—this is what you should focus on. Nurture your self-esteem. Embrace more of what makes you a woman. Do things that make you feel more beautiful like getting a new lipstick color, updating your hairstyle or figuring out what you want to do to upgrade your closet. Relationships with other people don't matter if you don't start with loving yourself and feeling good about yourself. This should be what April is all about.

APRIL'S THEME QUESTION: What are the things that I can do to make me feel more beautiful so that I can love myself (even) more?

5. MAY: Greatness

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The late track and field phenom, Wilma Rudolph, once said, "Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us." You know what? She's right. At the end of the day, being great is about using your gifts, talents, personality and individuality to leave your mark on this world.

While you might think this means that greatness isn't achieved without becoming really popular or wealthy, nothing could be further from the truth. Some people are super successful because their marriage is healthy. Some people are super successful because their kids adore them. Some people are super successful because their reputation is intact. Some people are super successful because they are able to make a comfortable living off of their passion. Some people are super successful because they love their life and have very little regret.

Greatness isn't something that others can define for you. It's also not a measure that you can compare with other folks. It's simply focusing on doing what you feel, in your spirit, will help you to make your own special mark upon this world. In May, get clear on exactly what you would desire for that to be.

MAY'S THEME QUESTION: How do I define greatness? What steps should I take to embody that definition?

6. JUNE: Well-Being. And Marriage Preparation.

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I know, right? It does seem like June is kind of all over the place, but if you really stop and think about it, not really. Actually, let's tackle this one in reverse. Knowing that one of June's focuses is marriage preparation, that actually makes sense considering the fact that June and October continue to be the top months for wedding ceremonies. And listen, I counsel far too many women who were more interested in being a bride than a wife—meaning, they put more into making sure their day went off without a hitch than their actual relationship…and now they are paying dearly because of it. So, if you desire to be a wife someday, using this month to get whole from past break-ups; to get clear on what you want in a spouse while becoming that person (so many folks ignore that last part); to put your finances in order; to take your purpose to the next level; to spiritually elevate; to feel better about your body image—all of these things can put you in the position to become an awesome complement to your future king.

And what if marriage either right now or ever (check out "Single-Minded: So, What If You Like Dating But DON'T Desire Marriage?") isn't on your priority list? No worries. A lot of what I just said will still help you to become your best self, right? Devoting your time, effort and energy in June to doing whatever you can to become a better person overall is something that is well worth the investment. Spouse or no spouse.

JUNE'S THEME QUESTION: What should I do to significantly improve my overall health and well-being?

7. JULY: Youth

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July comes from the name Julian and Julian means "young at heart". When I thought about that, the first thing that came to my mind was tending to your inner child. As someone who grew up with a fair share of abuse, I realize that there were certain things about the little girl in me that was not only mistreated but was neglected too. For instance, I had a female family member who would say things to me like I wasn't as attractive as someone else; sometimes she even used derogatory words like "slut". And yes, I was an adolescent when she said it.

Growing up, I spent so much time trying just to shield myself from that person that I didn't realize how much those words hurt and I allowed myself to be around others who were also verbally destructive. And so, during a lot of my 30s and 40s, I made it a point to reflect on the things that were said to me that not just affected but infected my psyche. Then I became intentional about tending to those places so that I could really heal.

I say it often because, for better or for worse, it's true—adulthood really is about surviving childhood for so many of us and it's hard to be a thriving adult when areas of your childhood are fragmented. Using this month to tend to the parts of your youth that could use some healing? You won't regret it. I didn't.

JULY'S THEME QUESTION: What is my inner little girl lacking and what can I do to get into better touch with her, so that she can become healed and whole?

8. AUGUST: Self-Care

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So, when I read that the emperor of Rome, Augustus Caesar, decided to name this month after himself, at first, I thought, "Gee, wasn't he full of himself?" and then I thought about how sometimes, when we put the focus solely on us, while at first it can appear to be a selfish act, oftentimes, it's actually an act of self-care. This is what August should be all about—things that are good for your mind, body, spirit is what deserves your undivided attention.

Read some self-help books. Go on a social media fast. Make a doctor, chiropractor and nutritionist appointment. Don't skip out on at least a couple of mani/pedi appointments. Put "me time" on your planner. Leave work at your scheduled time. Soak in a bubble bath (or take a shower with nothing but lit candles; it's really relaxing). Tell people who drain you "no". Write yourself a love letter. Upgrade your bedroom and/or office. Cook for yourself more (and learn a few new recipes). Give yourself a scalp or foot massage. Purchase some art. Upload some new podcasts (and actually listen to them). Cultivate some habits (and boundaries) that will de-stress you. Meditate. Binge-watch nostalgic movies or television shows. Create a weekly self-care regimen. RELAX.

Devoting 31 days to nothing but self-care practices is a great way to get used to doing it, so that it will be almost like breathing, once it's time to focus on the next month.

AUGUST'S THEME QUESTION: What should I do to become better at pampering myself and promoting self-care?

9. SEPTEMBER: Playfulness

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Do you even know how to have fun? I'm serious. When is the last time that you did something, for no other reason, than the pure enjoyment of it? If you're struggling to find the answer, use a couple of months prior to September to create your own nothing-but-fun bucket list, then devote at least a couple of days each week in this month to check things off. Try a new flavor of ice cream. Play some board games. Spend a day in the city closest to you. Rent a luxury vehicle for the weekend. Order food from a high-end restaurant. Spend the night at a swanky hotel (whether you're with someone or not). Do something for the first time. Try a liquor or weed strain that you've never had. Celebrate your birthday somewhere else. Host an adult field day with some of your friends. Change your hair color. Whatever it is, try not to overthink it. Remember, the focus is having fun. Safe, smart and not-ruin-your-life-come-October fun. Yet fun nonetheless.

SEPTEMBER'S THEME QUESTION: What are some fun things that I can do? All month long?

OCTOBER: Celebration

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October is personally my favorite month of the year. I like the fall weather. I like how it's the 10th calendar month (10 is all about completion and perfection). It's also when my late father and fiancé had their birthday, and they were two of my favorite people. So, when I say that October symbolizes celebration, I definitely sat up and took note.

I don't observe holidays. I think a part of the reason is because I've always been a Seventh-Day Sabbath observer and, in Hebrew culture, that is all about celebrating creation (Genesis 2:1-3). And since Friday sunset to Saturday sunset happens every week, there is no need to long for Christmas or any other holiday; a "special day" happens all of the time.

Regardless of what your faith perception may be, I think this is a similar mentality that we should take on when it comes to how we live out our lives, in general. What I mean by that is, if you're paying even a little bit of attention, there is always something to get excited about and/or praise. If you set a goal and reached it, celebrate. If you just made a big choice (or sacrifice) that you know is gonna ultimately be for your betterment, celebrate. If you've noticed that you've been feeling better about yourself, celebrate. And during the month of October, try and celebrate one thing, every single day. Even break out a bottle of wine, on some of those days because, from what I read, October started out being all about wine consumption too. Wonderful!

OCTOBER'S THEME QUESTION: What is something that you can celebrate, each and every day of this particular month?

11. NOVEMBER: Love and Affection

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The birthstone for November is topaz and that symbolizes love and affection which is why I went this route for this particular month's theme. When I think about love, it's not what Disney and Hollywood say that comes to mind. It's the Love Chapter in I Corinthians 13. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn't envious. Love endures a lot. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, I personally believe that since God is love (I John 4:8&16) and we are made in his image (Genesis 1:26-28), life is all about learning how to become the literal embodiment of love. And that is something we will do until we die. As far as affection goes, that is merely an expression of love. While it can be physical like kissing, hugging, holding hands and cuddling, affection literally means devotion.

In November, think about who you claim to love and also who professes to love you. Does the love resemble the Love Chapter? When it comes to affection, when you say, "I love you" (or when you hear it), is there heartfelt devotion that is attached? Something that I am extremely cautious about, now more than ever, is just throwing the "love" word out there. No, I do not "love" ice cream like I love my godchildren. So, to avoid devaluing the word, I say I enjoy ice cream instead. Love and affection are extremely sacred. Use this month to think about who is worthy of your love, if you are appreciative of the love that is bestowed upon you and if affection is both felt as well as given.

NOVEMBER'S THEME QUESTION: Am I loving, being loved and showing affection in the best ways possible?

12. DECEMBER: Starting Over

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While January is usually the year when people begin their New Year's resolutions, I actually think it's best to start applying some of your new plans in December. Not only does it take some of the pressure off (since so many other people talk about switching things up in January), it actually gives you time to ease into a new routine so that, come January, you're already in the swing of things.

Use December to ponder what you did over the past 11 months. Then think about what you want to bring into the next year and what you leave behind, always remembering that one of the beautiful things about time is it keeps moving which always gives you an opportunity to do what? START OVER. Never forget, you can always start over.

DECEMBER'S THEME QUESTION: What about this year do I want to forgive, release and start anew? What steps do I need to take in order to make that happen?

Two of the main things that keep us from making the most of the time that we have is 1) not making plans and 2) putting so much on our plate that we overwhelm ourselves and quit. That's why I definitely think that you should consider breaking up categories and hitting up one of them at a time. Knowing that you are focusing on clearing one path at a time can open up things for you in a way this year that will help you to thrive like no other, sis. Happy 2021. Walk it out. One month at a time.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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