Written By Skyler Clark
It’s a New Year! And there are always so many promises we want to make to ourselves, so many changes and resolutions we want to stick to. It can be a perfect storm for guilt and negative self-views to creep in.
The beginning of the New Year feels like the perfect time to create so many changes that we’ve been telling ourselves we want to make. We are going to eat better, move more, engage more in our faith, or be a better person in some way. We create these big plans for big shifts and then often when we feel we somehow aren’t meeting these goals it becomes an easy way to spiral into negative self-talk about how we can’t ever achieve what we would like to. It ends up setting us up for discouragement.
What if the problem is less about us and more about how we approach these changes we want to make? What if it’s unrealistic to expect to make such sudden and major life changes and it doesn’t mean you’re a failure when you can’t keep up with these expectations?
We don’t often leave room in our plans to fail. We plan to meet these goals with the expectation that we will just somehow be motivated and push ourselves into new habits. This motivation may last for a while but old habits and the busyness of life creep in and we fall back into what we are more comfortable in.
So how can we protect ourselves from feeling worse about ourselves and overall discouraged?
First, maybe it would be helpful to list out all your goals big and small. All of the things that you wish you could change and improve. Sit with these for a moment and ask yourself why you would like to make those changes. Is it because you feel that you are worthy of those goals or is it more out of a place of feeling unworthy unless you succeed at changing? Your worth doesn’t have to be dependent on your goals! Remind yourself that you have worth even if nothing about you ever changes.
Next, maybe pick one or two things you wish to change and think of how you would like to change that in your life. This time make sure to leave room to make mistakes and be flexible with yourself! It is so hard to make lifestyle changes. You are changing habits and mindsets as well as examining things such as thoughts and beliefs that have held you back from these changes in the past. It is hard work! Find compassion for yourself to make mistakes. If you expect to carry out these goals perfectly it may feel incredibly frustrating when you fall back into old patterns. Falling back into old patterns is part of the process but you can still continue towards your goals each time this happens. It’s less about how perfectly you do this and more about how consistent you are in keeping at it even if those efforts feel very small.
Many times, it helps to take a step back and simplify your goals. If your goal is to exercise more, perhaps instead of trying to go to 4-5 days of movement you can start with 2-3 days of movement. If the movements you try are so strenuous that you find no enjoyment in them then maybe it would be helpful to find exercises that feel more enjoyable such as dances, walks, and stretching. You are allowed to find what works best for you and sometimes this is trial and error. Expect part of your process to be an exploration of what works best in your life for you at this time. Also, remember that what works best now may shift as things in life shift and you’re allowed to make changes as that happens.
Be mindful about how you feel when you carry out your new changes. How rewarding does it feel? How does it benefit you? How does it improve your life? This helps to recognize that the benefits of those changes begin to grow bigger than the benefits of our comfort zones. Don’t be afraid to cheer yourself on! This is hard work. Feel proud of yourself for even the small things you accomplish. Even if it’s not a regular part of your routine yet or it’s not to the level of change you want yet- still give yourself credit for the process. You’re allowed to take time to reach big goals! It’s normal for the process to be messy. Don’t hold off on feeling proud of yourself.
Most importantly, remember again that you are worthy no matter what changes you are making or struggling to make. It is so normal to struggle to make big changes in our lives. It can be helpful to work to examine what beliefs we have about ourselves that make it hard to change. Many times we want to push ourselves to more and more goals and what we really need is rest. Other times we are trying to make changes in order to feel worthy and there’s a lot of shame surrounding us and holding us back each time we feel we fail. Get curious instead of judgmental of yourself when you are having a hard time sticking to new things.
We are worth taking a step back to figure out how we can more healthily make these changes. Sometimes that can be working with a counselor to examine our thoughts and beliefs that hold us back before we begin to work towards other goals. Sometimes that’s stopping to ask ourselves what we need and exploring how we feel.
Let’s be gentle with ourselves this year, let’s grow in self-compassion, and let’s change the way we tackle goals and changes in a way that takes care of us as a whole. You are so worth it!