New Year BEST You
By Marinelle Reynolds, LCSW
It’s that time of year again…the time for New Year’s resolutions. We hear slogans of a New Year, New You. They speak to us to lose weight, eat healthier, to be a better mom, a better partner. We tell ourselves things like “this year I’m going to finally wear that bikini” or my favorite “I’m going to be like those other women I see on Instagram who have perfect lives."
Here’s the thing about resolutions, we really don’t need reminders that we aren’t enough. In a world of social media and comparisons, we see and feel them every day. We hear the mixed messages of you need to be skinnier and prettier but not too sexy especially if you have children… except with your partner and… only with your partner. We hear the push pull of you need to try harder and do more but… don’t make it look like you are actually trying. The reminders speak to the sometimes loud voices in our hearts that tell us we are not enough…we need to do more…to be more.
I’m not saying that having a New Year’s resolution is a bad thing.
Goals can be helpful.
They can help us to become the best version of ourselves.
But, when we lose the balance between self-improvement and self-acceptance, we run the risk of feeding the voice that screams “you are not enough.”
That voice is never helpful.
That voice pulls us away from others, makes us feel alone and takes us deeper into shame. Nothing good comes out of shame and we definitely don’t become better people from shame. But, when we practice empathy and compassion towards ourselves, we grow.
Here are some tips on how to balance self-acceptance with your New Year’s Resolutions:
Stop comparing – In a world of Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparisons. But, what many of us fail to remember is that we only see what others’ allow us to see. We see a glimpse into their world but we often don’t see the whole picture. We all have challenges; we all make mistakes and we all have messy parts.
There is no such thing as perfection and striving towards it is a sure fire way towards feeling inadequate and alone.
Comparing tells us we should do more and more and BE more and more. Stop comparing!
Tell your story, live your truth. You are imperfect, we all are, but you are worthy of love and belonging just the way you are. YOU ARE ENOUGH.
Focus on strengths – We are a society that focuses on faults and short comings. When we think about goals, we often focus on areas where we are weak. However when we work from a place of strength, we are less stressed, more likely to meet our goals and we are a whole lot happier (Wood, A. M., Linley, P. A., Maltby, J., & Hurling, R. (2010)).
Let me be clear, I’m NOT saying to ignore areas of weakness.
Being aware and having a realistic sense of your weakness is an important part of personal development. What I am saying is, start from a place of strength. When we work towards a goal with our strengths in mind, tasks are easier and we experience triumphs quicker.
As our confidence grows our motivation to keep working towards a goal also grows.
For example, if your goal is to lose 15 lbs and you love to cook but hate working out, working from a strengths perspective would take your love of cooking and focus on creating healthy meals that help you step towards your goal. In time, as you eat healthier you will lose weight. As you lose weight it will increase the confidence that you can achieve your goal thus making working out seem less daunting.
To find your strengths, think of the things that come easy to you.
Think of the things you have heard friends and family tell you that you are good at.
What are the things that you enjoy?
Starting from strengths will influence your motivation and drive to tackle the more challenging steps towards your goal.
Take the time to know your “why” – Take a look at the intention behind your goal. Knowing why you want to reach a goal can be instrumental in not only meeting your goal but also in balancing self-improvement with self-acceptance. Knowing your “why” can give you the motivation to keep going when things get tough. But, it’s not just about knowing why. Knowing where your “why” is coming from can give you perspective, especially if it’s around a resolution that keeps breaking.
“What am I hoping to get out of meeting this goal?”
“What does it mean about who I am if I meet or don’t meet the goal?”
Be brave. Be courageous; don’t be afraid to shine a light into dark places.
Your “why” will shape your thoughts.
Your thoughts will shape your behavior.
And your behavior will determine if you meet your goal.
Use a compassionate and forgiving heart – Most of us would never talk to our friends the way we talk to ourselves. We would never let a friend beat themselves up over a mistake. Yet we often are not even aware of the constant voice in our own heads that tells us we are not good enough or that what we want for our lives is unimportant. Approach yourself with the same compassion and empathy you show others.
Change is hard. It’s full of ups and downs, backwards, and forwards.
Meaningful change is not a linear and upward line like many of us believe. When we are working towards a goal we will fall. It’s a part of the journey.
Instead of beating yourselves up and giving up, learn from it and move forward. When you notice your thoughts going down that self- degrading path, stop, take a breath and re-state what you are telling yourself. Only this time say it as if you are talking to your best friend. Ask yourself kindly:
“What were things that made me vulnerable?”
“What are some things I can put into place to reduce those vulnerabilities?”
Instead of letting those hiccups derail you completely, understand that we all make mistakes. We are imperfect, we are human and that’s OK.
Forgive yourself and allow yourself to fail forward.
Instead of beating ourselves up over our short comings,
let’s try some self-compassion and vulnerability instead.
I challenge us to stop comparing, start from a place of strength and set goals that come from an intention of growth.
Instead of a New Year, New You let’s commit to a NEW YEAR, BEST YOU.
Practicing self-compassion isn’t about settling or letting go of ambitions. Self-compassion is about balancing the need to change and grow with accepting who you are wholeheartedly. It’s moving towards a better version of yourself knowing that YOU ARE ENOUGH.
Wood, A. M., Linley, P. A., Maltby, J., & Hurling, R. (2010). Use of positive psychological strengths leads to less stress and greater self-esteem, vitality, and positive affect over time: A three-wave longitudinal study and validation of the Strengths Use Scale.
MSBHC seeks to connect military spouses with their peers in order to gain and give support and to share knowledge and best practices with each other.
What are the strengths you can focus on for the New Year?
Marinelle Reynolds is a LCSW who graduated with a Masters in Social Work from Michigan State University. She has over 15 years of experience helping individuals & groups learn to find their authentic self, thrive in life’s transitions & build resiliency against stress. You can connect with this proud military spouse (with two active littles and a sweet but stubborn dog) and her small private practice here online.