Last year I started a new tradition. Instead of making New Year’s resolutions on January 1st I’d make them on my birthday (which was yesterday), in celebration of my own “new year.” I was feeling pretty smug about that decision, and if you’re curious to read what my resolution was last year here’s that blog. (2014 Resolution follow up: I’m still a work in progress on that one.)
Resolutions are a great way to focus on habits or behaviors that we want to change. But there’s something inherently negative about the whole thing. Like, “there’s something wrong with me and I need to fix it to be a better person” kind of mentality. And it’s easy to fall into the trap that we constantly need to work on self-improvement. I do this all the time and it leaves me feeling overwhelmed with all of the changes I aspire to make. Sometimes I fail because my goals are too vague (i.e. “I want to be more generous.”) or because they’re not realistic. (i.e. “I will stop going to Starbucks.”)
But underlying the whole exercise is the idea that I’m doing something wrong or that I’m inadequate.
As I head into my 54th year I’d like to think that I’ve learned a thing or two about happiness and success. The most important thing I’ve learned is that you don’t achieve either one by beating yourself up. Just as we don’t teach / inspire others by criticizing them, we don’t create anything positive in our own lives by berating ourselves to be “better.” (Whatever that even means.)
So here I go, headed into my personal “New Year” with a lightness and calm that comes from knowing that I am enough, just the way I am. Instead of coming up with a laundry list of self-improvement items, I’m going to take stock in my best qualities and spend a few moments appreciating how (forgive me if this sounds immodest) freaking amazing I am.
The payoff for this little exercise is that, not only do I feel better about myself when I take the time to acknowledge that I am a good cook or a loyal friend or a disciplined exerciser, but by focusing on my own positive attributes I am much more likely to see positive attributes in others. Seeing the best in others, always assuming that they’re doing their best, is the pathway to self-acceptance and self-compassion.
Holy. Freaking. Cow. That’s huge, as Oprah would say.
Even if you don’t have a birthday coming up, take a moment to take stock in your own wonderfulness. When you do so, take a deep breath and feel the calm that it brings. Inhale the unique gifts that you bring to the world and exhale the feeling that you’re not enough. Cause you know what? We’re pretty damn awesome just the way we are.
Happy new year!