I’ve already seen them. The Instagram reels. The tweets. The posts. The morning talk show interviews about hundreds of pounds lost. All of them talking about how to set and make your goals for 2023.

I’m sure you’ve seen them as well.

Recently, I was facing a surgery for a benign tumor in my parotid gland ( a salivary gland). I was assured by my surgeon that he was 97.5% sure there was no malignancy, but it was fantastic to have that confirmed.

But there was much more to be grateful for. I didn’t lose any ability to communicate which was a potential complication from this operation that can last weeks or months. This would’ve drastically changed my life – as it would anyone. I tried hard to stare that fear in the face. I came down to the belief (which wasn’t tested I realize) that if that was what life was going to bring me, I’d try to face it courageously.

So, how much does this strengthen what I believe is important about entering a new year?

Quite a bit.

There’s so much we cannot control. So it dismays me, when talking about a welcome change or a goal you might aspire to reaching, much of the emphasis is on where you’re going to find more control.

“I Need to Get In Control!!!!” 

A program. A pill. Changing a daily habit. Believing that you’ve got to whip yourself into a mindset of ultimate control – hearing the “Rocky” music in your ears from when you rise until you crash.

Change doesn’t begin with shame. Let me say that again. Change doesn’t begin with shame.

“I hate that I….”. “I should never have let myself get……”. “I’ll never fit in unless I…”. “Why am I so far behind….?”. “What’s wrong with me that I can’t do what …. is doing?” “I hate that I’m so anxious….’ “This is the year I’ve got to….”

Do-able change begins with self-acceptance in the moment. Accepting where you are. How you got there. Recognizing your strengths and your vulnerabilities that all make you – you.

You start from acceptance.

What does self-acceptance sound like?

“I can go up one flight of stairs. (Not 17).”

“I am not going to hate myself for being anxious. I’m going to accept that I’m anxious and begin to compassionately understand and work with it.”

“I’m not going to compare myself – instead I’m going to be inspired by others and realize they also have struggles.”

“I’ll look for where I fit in now. I’ll be more of a friend, while recognizing how and why that’s been hard in the past.”

Acceptance isn’t resignation. It’s approaching yourself kindly.

If you want to set goals in 2023, do it. Fine. But start with compassion. Maintain a sense of acceptance. Take small steps toward the path you want. Realize that trying to seize control – to push and pull and tug yourself into a space where you’ll find acceptance – isn’t going to work long-term.

Why not?

Self-hatred will find another target, no matter your “success.” 

Maybe you need to learn this lesson again. Maybe you’ll feel the need to “get control”  Maybe you’ll do exactly the opposite of what I’m suggesting and you’ll tug as hard as you can to change what you despise in yourself.

If you wake up to inner voices of self-disdain or self-loathing, voices that pummel you with shame, no matter what change you make, no matter how much self-control you muster, your self-hatred will find another target. Because self-hatred is the real problem.

Self-acceptance isn’t resignation. It’s learning how to accept and then work with your vulnerabilities. Things you want to change. Even things you want to have more control over.

That’s been my resolution almost every year now for quite a while.



You can hear more about mental health and many other topics by listening to my podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to my website and receive one weekly newsletter including my weekly blog post and podcast! If you’d like to join my FaceBook closed group, then click here and answer the membership questions! Welcome!

My new book entitled Perfectly Hidden Depression has arrived and you can order here! Its message is specifically for those with a struggle with strong perfectionism which acts to mask underlying emotional pain. But the many self-help techniques described can be used by everyone who chooses to begin to address emotions long hidden away that are clouding and sabotaging your current life.

And there’s a new way to send me a message! You can record by clicking below and ask your question or make a comment. You’ll have 90 seconds to do so and that time goes quickly. By recording, you’re giving SelfWork (and me) permission to use your voice on the podcast. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!

Photo by Tomas Anunziata.


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