It’s the time of year when people are talking about New Year’s resolutions.
You search with renewed determination to change behaviors that make you unhappy; maybe you’re successful and this will be the year that you’ll maintain that resolve. If so, that’s wonderful.
But if February rolls around and you’ve slipped back into your old habits, then you’re likely to struggle with shame. You have one more reason (or at least so you tell yourself) to beat yourself up. Once more, you tried and you failed.
These thoughts are not only not helpful, but damaging. Change that’s set up for success cannot begin with hatred or self-loathing. You need a more positive context. What do I mean by that? You have to accept yourself for where you are and understand the difficulty of change,
Three steps to set up the chance of successful change.
First, accept don’t deny.
This may seem contradictory at first. How can you accept yourself exactly as you are if your goal is to change? However, consider this: you haven’t denied that you have a problem, which is a huge step right there. It’s denial that keeps people stuck because they don’t define a problem as a problem. And so nothing happens.
The first step is then assessing yourself, just the way you are. And it’s from that stance that you can begin to chisel away at change.
Second, be compassionate with yourself — don’t add hate or shame to the mix.
So you’ve accepted you have a problem. You have looked at it squarely in the eye and decided to do something about it. Congratulate yourself on taking those steps while reminding yourself that changing behaviors and maintaining those changes is no walk in the park. It’s going to take time, effort and understanding when old habits want to creep back in.
This seems simple but folks get acceptance confused with resignation, “No! I can’t accept it. I want to change it. I HAVE to change it. I want it gone!”
Many of the things you want to change about yourself are things you hate. Or feel ashamed of their presence. And when you hate yourself for the problem or struggle, it actually lends that problem more power. You feel shame that you have created the problem or are part of the problem still existing. You feel you’ve been too weak. Or you’ve procrastinated. Or you’ve justified. Or you’ve been afraid of change.
All of those things make you human.
Take responsibility and make a plan that begins with small steps.
At the same time, whatever has caused the issue — there’s likely some part of it that you need to claim responsibility for. Not blame. Responsibility. And since you’re taking your fair share of responsibility, then you can begin to work within the confines of your situation or your life to take the small steps that will lead you where you want to go.
And if you do it in small steps, then those fears or justifications will be easier to work with, as again, you treat yourself compassionately.
You are worth it. You’re more than worth it. And if you risk change, perhaps this New Year will bring you belief in yourself as you find your courage.
Courage isn’t the lack of fear; it’s keeping going when you are afraid.
Happy soon-to-be 2020!
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Post originally published on December 30, 2017 and then republished on December 27, 2019.