Lessons from 2022

Lola Oguntokun
6 min readMay 3, 2023

For the past couple of years I have been sharing my lessons from the previous year.

Last year was a little different. I experienced a lot of drastic changes, I stood up for myself in ways I hadn’t for some time, I took chances and I remembered some truths I’ve always known but buried. But I didn’t get the chance to properly reflect until the end of the year… and to be completely honest, I’m still reflecting now.

Some topics, I am still fluctuating on on a daily basis. Others, I’m doubling down on. I always thought I looked out for myself, but last year, I realised that even though I try to be my authentic self… I did water myself down to be palatable to people who did not care about me and who did not take care with me. I slowed down to keep up with these relationships. When I look back now, I realise 2022 was about breaking away from people I had outgrown or was no longer in alignment with and valuing myself enough to stand up for myself. I was constantly trying to please others and move at their pace, and by doing so, I was denying my own needs and not truly owning my life. This did not happen overnight, I had been conceding for years, and before I knew it, I was looking in the mirror and not recognising myself.

This is why these lessons are coming later than usual. These major moments of reflection and realisation can be pretty overwhelming, both mentally and physically. I’m still working on myself, healing, rebuilding and creating anew. But I don’t want to take any longer sharing the lessons I have discovered so far.

Trust Yourself

When you’re silent and alone, you know deep down what is right for you. What makes sense for your life, what makes you feel yourself and content. We often distract ourselves with things we have been raised to believe are important, and it gets in the way of people knowing themselves. I do feel I have known myself for a long time, but I’ve lived in a way to placate and fit in enough to not be too disruptive.

I’ve slowly become unhappy not listening to myself deep down, maintaining states, jobs, friendships and relationships that don’t feed me — in anyway sometimes. When I wanted to walk away, I told myself I need to try harder. The problem with this is, when you’re the only one trying, it is f*ck!ng exhausting, and my “try harder, try to make this work” tank depleted last year… and it wasn’t pretty. But I’m glad it happened. Not having anything left slowly freed me.

I know everyone wants to fit in. We have a herd mentality, and we lock ourselves in “safe” lives we can’t escape from. Some people are happy with this, some know nothing else, others can’t imagine anything else. I want something else. I don’t even know completely what that is yet but I’m stepping towards it… but like a baby deer taking her first shaky steps. It’s scary, it’s exciting and necessary for my survival. I am learning to trust myself again, try things, take risks, use my voice and not apologise for doing so… I am learning to LIVE and not simply exist.

Let Go of the Outcome

My generation and those before have grown up in the school of, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. Keep going at it, until it works or turns around. And I honestly feel this is a great skill to have, perseverance and persistence… Golden! But then a time comes when your perseverance and persistence turns on you, and you lose yourself because you don’t want to “lose”, you don’t want to give up or walk away. You see this as a failure.

This links back to the first point around trying harder and trying to make things work… but I’ve learnt, sometimes, it doesn’t work because it’s not meant for you. Something else out there is.

We all get caught up in the boundaries of our lives, and often think there is nothing else, no other way, no other option, but by thinking this way, we limit ourselves. I took a risk last year, taking a role I thought would have been a very short term gig, and it ended up lasting longer than I imagined. It was the first time in many years I took a role without overthinking it and I wasn’t attached to the outcome. I went in with the “Let’s see how it goes” approach and it was the new start I didn’t know I needed.

When something isn’t working, and you feel you’re in an unhealthy loop, it’s important to create some distance in order to gain perspective. Don’t let your ego hold on to an outcome that may only exist in your imagination. When you’re able to step back, you’re able to see the bigger picture and gain a better understanding of the situation. When you then see it’s doing more damage than good, keep on walking. It’s not a loss, it’s a lesson and an opportunity for something new and better to bloom.

Protect and Preserve Yourself

I have been in uncomfortable positions both inside and outside of work, putting others’ comfort above my own. In some instances, I was explicitly told to do this, in others I did this to maintain relationships and cultivate harmony.

I realise now, if I truly love myself, I have to put myself in spaces where I feel valued, loved and cared for. If and when that is not happening, I need to exit or create distance. Previously, I was afraid to disappoint people so I’d show up, irrespective of my anxiety around the whole scenario and how it would make me feel. I didn’t want to appear to be difficult or selfish. There was even one scenario, where I would verbally reduce myself in order to make another feel more comfortable and secure. Lo and behold, this didn’t work. Well, not for me, anyway. Words have power, and this may sound a little dramatic to you, but I was destroying myself with these words, which in turn impacted how I was showing up and perceiving myself as a person and a professional.

So be careful. Don’t absorb other people’s judgments, unhappiness and insecurities as your own. They are rarely anything to do with you. Please know the words you use to describe yourself have power. Protect yourself from the views of others, and preserve yourself through positive self-talk.

Validate Yourself

I had a big decision to make recently. I already knew what my answer was and what I would do next, but I needed reassurance. So I went to someone who means a lot to me and told them my plans, and guess what happened…. I didn’t hear what I needed to hear. This really saddened me and set me back.

But I quickly understood, we all have our own paths and perspectives, and not everyone is going to understand yours or give you the words you need to confidently take a risk. If I’m to be honest, the person I spoke to is risk-averse by nature, so what did I expect?

Anyway, sometimes you’re going to share news with people and their reaction won’t be what you hoped for. Be sure before going into any conversation with anyone outside of yourself, that you have already validated and reassured yourself. You don’t need permission to live your life according to your judgment.

I’m still on the road to rebuilding myself and building myself anew. I am so grateful for the opportunity and the journey to come. I hope you also have the opportunity to work on what means most to you and achieve your dreams this year.

& it’s not too late to say, I wish you a wonderful 2023. 🥳

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Lola Oguntokun

I help build, shape and champion innovative companies and culture.