Every year we whip out our journals or phones and make long lists of all the ways in which we are going to heal, change and become better people when the first of January comes around. These resolutions have become spells that we hope will cast away all the habits and behaviors that are holding us back from becoming the best versions of ourselves. We commit ourselves to yoga challenges, juice cleanses, changing our jobs, giving up meat, saving more money, running a marathon. We fling ourselves onto the January train running at top speed on the fuel of the obsessive transformational energy that seems to pump through all of our veins.
Reflecting on 2017 might have brought to light the fact that it was a difficult year. That you didn’t achieve all that you wanted to. Maybe it felt as if at some points the universe was working against you, and you struggled to pull yourself together and get things done in the way you had planned and hoped for. Even if it was a great year, you might find yourself nit picking on all the little ways in which you could’ve done things better. Most of us are perfectionists and so we struggle to rejoice in our achievements because something might not match the pretty little picture we have in our heads. And so, when the New Year comes along and we see the first as a day that’s meant to wash us clean, we cling onto challenges and extreme lifestyle changes out of desperation because we can’t stand the thought of having another bad year.
And so, if you feel yourself stumbling or maybe even tumbling out of 2017, holding onto nothing but your long list of affirmations meant to make you better, fitter, healthier, kinder or more successful. Take a break. Just pause for a minute, there on the ground where you lay. Whether you tripped on your way to sprinting into the new year, or 2017 chewed and spat you out, take a minute to feel the ground beneath you. Dust, dirt and all. Realize that you are the common denominator in all of this. That the power lies in you when it comes to setting the intentions that will lead you to the life you want to live. And also realize, that if these goals and intentions are not planted in a solid foundation, they will crumble. Becoming a long list of things you forget about by the time February comes along.
Let’s look at a common resolution setting scenario
In 2017 I was fat. I didn’t like the way my clothes looked and I was constantly self conscious in social situations. I hate the way I ate and used food as emotional comfort. I can’t be the same in 2018. In the New Year I am going to lose weight so I can be confident and feel good in my body, I’m going to eat healthy and go to the gym so that I can slim down and finally look the way I’ve always wanted to. I want to be able to fit into a size x dress and wear a bikini. My stomach rolls and cellulite will disappear and I can finally be confident and happy.
That thought pattern might then lead to resolutions that sound like this.
Lose 10 kilograms
Go to gym 3 times a week
Cut out all processed food
Run a 5k in September
In this case, the goals are not grounded in self love. At face value the resolutions seem to be thoughtful goals that would lead a person into a healthier lifestyle and possibly see weight-loss, but the roots of those goals are grounded in soil filled with self hatred and negativity. When this happens, a person isn’t fully absorbed in their habits but rather is just going through the motions to see through the end goal of being slimmer. Balance and consistency go out the window because they might reach to unrealistic lifestyle changes to speed up the process and give up only to start again when they don’t see results (we all know that dieting struggle where you go off track and promise yourself that you’ll start again the next Monday only to mess up again). The habits you instill in your life are flaky and you can’t maintain them because at their core they are there to punish you for not being good enough and are rooted in self hatred.
I use this example because I think most people find themselves trapped in the January diet culture; ready to make extreme lifestyle changes that often need them to cough up large amounts of money. When the first and most important thing that needs to be on their resolution list is to love and accept themselves. Because once you love and accept your body, fitness level and eating habits for what they are, you can begin to move forward in a positive way and stay committed to your goals because you love yourself enough to want to be better, being kind to yourself on the journey there.
I recently read You can heal your life by Louise Hay (which I highly recommend that everyone reads) where she has an affirmation exercise where you finish the statement:
‘I love myself therefore…’
I think that this is the perfect way to tackle the challenge of rethinking your resolutions and grounding them in self-love. I suggest completing the statement and then setting mini goals that will help you see it through.
“I love myself therefore; I acknowledge that I have unhealthy eating habits. I am willing to dig deeper and heal myself on an emotional level so that I no longer have an emotionally dependent relationship with food”
Start going to therapy
Open up to my partner and voice the pain or pressure I might be feeling in our relationship
End my friendship with x as it is toxic and no longer serves me
At this stage, you haven’t dieted or jumped on the treadmill, but are nurturing yourself through self-love which could see you move away from unhealthy eating habits. The weight might come off if the pain you were holding onto is what made you hold onto the weight too, or it might not. Either way you love yourself fiercely and take care of your emotional wellbeing.
“I love myself therefore; I feed my body with nourishing whole foods”
How wonderful it is to approach vegetable not as some ‘disgusting diet food’ you have you munch on to get a slimmer waist, but as a way to nourish and fuel your body and cells with nutrients. It's amazing how everything changes when we come from a place of love. You are not eating to punish yourself for not looking a certain way, but to fuel your body and live in a vibrant and energetic way because you accept that you are worthy of feeling good and eating healthy, regardless of what your body looks like.
Here’s how I’ll be rethinking some of my resolutions
Read a book a week
I could easily wiz through this treating it as a chore or wizzing past the books not properly digesting them all for the sake of being able to say that I did the challenge.
But, “I love myself therefore; I challenge myself and open my mind to the wisdom, lessons and beauty that can be discovered through reading. I realize that I have time on my hand that I usual waste on social media or with meaningless tasks and I care enough for myself to want to make the best out of my life and time, using it effectively, growing and learning along the way”
Get clear and healthy skin
This isn’t about spending lots of money on ‘quick fix miracle’ products or punishing myself with 3 liters of water a day meant to give me Beyoncé like flawlessness, but accepting that I am not my skin and that blemishes don’t make me less acceptable. It is about caring for my body, not just how it looks and realizing that it might be crying out for some TLC through my skin.
“I love myself therefore; I accept my skin and acknowledge that my body may be crying out for some nurturing that is deeper than expensive products. I eat foods that make me feel good and give me all the nutrition I need. I stay hydrated and care for my body enough to get a good nights rest and stay away from stress. I pamper myself and stay consistent with my skin care routine and choose to love myself regardless of how I look and focus on taking care of myself.”
Your resolutions are not there to punish you for all the ways you faltered and failed in the year before. They are meant to challenge you, foster self-improvement and bring you closer to being the best version of yourself, living in the way you’ve always wanted to. It’s not just about being able to tick things off your list at the end of the year. The process of changing, becoming better and seeing goals through can be a beautiful and magical one. Ground in self-love and do everything through love. When you love yourself, you want to stay committed to your goals in a wholesome way, you don’t accept a painful life, job, relationship or financial situation and most importantly, you don’t beat yourself up when things don’t go as planned.
And so, amidst the crazy storm of January goal setting, remember to start by loving yourself first. And if it’s the only thing you ‘achieve’ this year, beautiful things will come to you and you will change and grow in ways you never thought possible.