01/13/2014 11:30 am ET Updated Mar 15, 2014

What I Learned About Myself Last Year

The first month of the year is upon us. Here are five personal lessons to take away from 2013 to carry into better times:

It's okay to cry, or not to cry.
This past year, I did not deal with death or divorce but significant personal loss. Some days I was doing really well, foraging onwards. But looking back at my notes at the time, I realize in other times I was singing such a soft, sad tune. Out of hopelessness, arose determination. I didn't change my hair right away for a dramatic change or to make a statement. I didn't feel the need to ask myself or anyone else for closure. Still, there seems to be a natural process to things. In the Kübler-Ross model, you can bounce around DABDA: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. My nursing friends tell me people can stay in one stage longer than another and come back to it again.

Be yourself. Reframe.
You don't have to convince others, everyone or anyone to like you. The one thing that matters is that your closest circle has your back and you're happy with yourself. Happiness shows. Happiness is shared. Happiness is attractive. The people who exude inner confidence are easier to relate to. Instead of being self-conscious, be self-aware. For example, having a lot of interests doesn't have to mean unfocused. Think well-rounded. Practice this alone or out loud with others. It can help you with your resume or self-definition.

Treat work like a relationship and vice versa.
There's all the talk about having a work-life balance. Sometimes work becomes life and vice versa. In either case, one enters into an unspoken or contractual agreement. Where there's mutual affection, admiration and appreciation, there's growth opportunity. First impressions and beginnings are more significant than you know so don't get off on the wrong foot. It's important to keep the relationship light; be able to have a laugh as well as a serious conversation. You have to also know when it's time to leave.

Being okay with being alone.
My girlfriends recently talked about just going to the movies, separately and solo. Who cares who you're sitting next to in the dark? In the holiday season, it might feel especially lonely -- even more so when your family lives two oceans away. It's harder over the holidays but I've learned to adapt. I'll sit at the bar for a meal sometimes and silently toast to what life will bring.

Mottos work.
They're a dime a dozen. They're corny. But motivational phrases can be effective, whether we know it at the time or not. Last year, I started posting life quotes onto my Tumblr blog. I used to think all those Pinterest boards splattered with scribble were silly but the positive encouragement is refreshing as it can be reinforcing. My favorite is self-branding a la Nike's "Just do it." Just. Go.