With a new year comes the pressure of new year’s resolutions. The pressure to be sober, to be vegan, to lose weight, to exercise more, to be more organised, to be more successful. Although these resolutions vary from person to person they all follow a pattern. We resolve to have more, give more, do more, be more. The message is ‘you are not enough’.
That message is powerful and it does have an impact on the way we think about ourselves and our worth. Forcing ourselves to stick to a resolution like this is a little daily reminder that we do not like ourselves as we are. More than that, these resolutions set expectations that are mostly impossible to reach, so we set ourselves up to fail and then condemn ourselves for failing. That’s a pretty awful way to start a new year.
The Power of Kindness
It can be a wonderfully powerful thing to identify the areas of your life where you would like to see development, but for this to be sustainable and actually lead to the results you want it has to come from a place of kindness. There is an important difference between punishment and discipline, between driving hostility and kind encouragement. People can change, I’m lucky enough to see it first hand every day, but change comes from kindness.
Is the goal you want to achieve coming from a place of kindness? Do you want to be an ideal version of yourself because you feel flawed or do you want to work on why those feelings are there and try to change them? Do you want to exercise because you feel the way you look doesn’t meet society’s beauty standards or do you want to exercise because you value your health and you want to be active enough to play with your grandchildren in years to come? Exploring your motivation to see change in yourself is a good place to start. It can be helpful to think about your values, the things that mean the most to you, and think about how your goal aligns with your values.
Is your goal achievable? When a goal is coming from a place of ‘I am not enough’ it is easy for the goal to be unachievable. When the underlying motivation for change is not liking who you are, then the standards and expectations we set become unattainable. If you feel your goal is rooted in these feelings, then maybe a better goal to set would be starting to work on your self-image and liking and accepting who you are? This again is a huge and unwieldy goal. So maybe there is a way to break this down to make it achievable? Starting with practicing self-kindness (because it does take practice) can be a good place to start and there are strategies that can help with this. Starting to practice treating yourself as you would a best friend can be a useful way to access kindness, as usually we would say much crueller things to ourselves in our heads than we would ever dream of saying out loud to someone we love. Ask yourself, if I wouldn’t say that to a best friend then why am I saying it to myself?
It’s Ok to not be Ok
This year especially, given how difficult the last couple of years have been, many of us are starting this new year feeling burnt out, stressed, depressed and anxious. It’s ok if you feel that you are just getting through each day at the moment. The pressure of New Year is that it feels like this should be a fresh new start for everyone and that is just impossible.
Some of us are struggling in jobs where we feel overloaded, under resourced and undervalued. Some of us are feeling depleted from supporting family members going through difficult times. Some of us are adjusting to a new role as a parent. Some of us are awaiting test results and living in a constant uncertainty. Some of us are daily visiting the hospice bed of a loved one. Some of us have just had a first Christmas without someone they love. The New Year doesn’t find us all in the same place. We are not all feeling energised and ready for something new. Some of us are just surviving, and that’s ok.
What support do you need? Try to be kind to yourself, to look after yourself as much as you can. Think about how to improve your sleep and make sure you are eating enough. Think about when you could take five minutes to get some fresh air outside by yourself or take a moment to take five deep breaths. Most importantly, remember that you are not alone. Think about who you could reach out to, which friends or loved ones could be there to support you. If it feels as though you need more than this, you could consider getting some support from a professional and details of services that can offer additional support can be found on our Crisis Numbers page.