Traditionally, New Year’s resolutions are about changing oneself to become better. My impression is that people break these promises to themselves about as often as they hang clothes on their home exercise machines. Making New Year’s resolutions and not following through on them just makes people feel bad about themselves, and doesn’t make anything better, just as buying home exercise equipment doesn’t help improve health when it’s only used to hang clothes. In fact, when broken New Year’s resolutions cause people to be very self-critical and decide they are failures, these resolutions are actually destructive, and can contribute to depression. Of course making realistic (really realistic) goals for changing things you want to change can be very helpful. Keep in mind this only works for you though if it has a positive effect on you.
New Year’s resolutions are usually based on the principle that something is wrong with you, and the implication is that if you change it, you’ll be more valuable—more attractive, more lovable, more worthy of your job, etc. An alternative approach would be to assume there is nothing wrong with you and make resolutions based on accepting yourself as you are. This is helpful with self-esteem, and especially helpful with things that are not going to change. Trying to change things that cannot be changed will just be an exercise in self-attack. Below is my brainstorm of examples of New Year’s resolutions focused on accepting myself as I am. Please feel free to share any other ideas you have for all of us.
This year I resolve to do at least one of these often throughout the year:
- Find a part of my body I like and focus my attention on enjoying it.
- Look in the mirror and smile at myself the way I would at someone I love, and enjoy how I look when I’m smiling with love.
- When I think something about me is disgusting or a failure or unlovable or not good enough, think about what people would say about these things at my funeral.
- Treat myself the way I’d treat a child, niece, or pet I adored.
- Remind myself there’s nothing wrong with me, and any voice that says differently is voicing a lie from an unreliable source (consider the source, if you can find the original one).
- Find out what people like about me.
- Forgive myself; do whatever it takes to forgive myself.
- Let go of feeling bad about anything I can’t change.
- Decide what’s really important for me to do in my very short time on Earth, and do it. On my last day of life, looking back, what will I be glad I spent my time doing?
- Think of as many things as I can that I like about myself, and keep noticing them.
- Notice something I’m proud of about myself.
- Notice other people’s vulnerabilities and find compassion for them.
- Think of something amazing I’ve done.
- Think of something loving I’ve done.
- Think of something I would feel good about doing that is clearly within my reach and do it.
- Go on a romantic date with myself.
- Write about what I am/would be/have been like as a parent of a person or animal on my best parenting day, and appreciate myself for it.
- Think about what I would do with my child self if I could go back as an adult and be a loving adult for that child. Imagine doing that.
- Think about the most loving moment I gave someone and do it again.
- Think of things I’m good at, no matter what it is. Count it—it counts!
- Remember myself in reverse chronological order, and go back until I find a time during which I unconditionally like my young self. Think about what I like about that child/baby/fetus.
- Give myself permission to be human—to be messy, make mistakes, fail, be selfish be vulnerable, etc., knowing that human is all anyone can hope to be, and human is very imperfect and yet amazing.
- Imagine living life with a big mother nurturer holding me whenever I need it, loving me unconditionally, seeing and understanding me thoroughly, and enjoying what she sees—offering comfort and protection, validation, forgiveness, compassion, patience, support, and never ever leaving me.
- Thank myself for everything I do that I would thank someone else for if they did it for me. Think how grateful I’d be if someone brushed my teeth, cooked for me, washed me, did my dishes, went to work for me…
What would you add to this list?
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Cynthia W. Lubow, MS, MFT, therapist in El Cerrito, California
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