It's not about 'new year, new you' - it's about realising the 'old' you is pretty cool already
I used to take resolutions very seriously. Lose weight. Work harder. Be tidier. And because I was an angsty teen who poured all my feelings into a diary, I have written proof that I never lost enough weight, never worked hard enough, and was never tidy (full stop). I was starting each year fixated on what was wrong with me. And each year, I never quite achieved what I wanted, and was never quite happy as a result. Eventually I stopped making resolutions. I realised that setting myself up for failure wasn't making me feel good; that happiness had to lie somewhere else. And, over time, as I grew up, as I learnt to understand myself better, I became less angsty, less angry, I started to enjoy life a bit more.
But even now, I know there's more work to be done to fight that self-criticism. So this year, I'm pledging to be kind to myself. Obvious perhaps, but a pledge that requires conscious thought and work. And I urge you to join me in pledging this too. If we all treated ourselves with a little bit more self-compassion, then the other things we hope for would start to slot into place. I know so many talented, kind, beautiful women and men who speak so cruelly about themselves, it's heartbreaking. We may think 'tough talk' gets results, but kindness might just get us there quicker - and will leave us feeling more mentally healthy, too.
"People often mistake self-criticism as motivating, when often it can be just the opposite," says Dr Catherine Green, a clinical psychologist at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. "Resolutions sound good in principle (trying to change ourselves for 'the better') but often inadvertently end up focusing our attention on the bits of us we dislike and hence set us up for failure, shame and self-criticism, creating a bit of a vicious cycle. Trying to adopt a more compassionate approach to ourselves, and others, is a more healthy overarching principle to try and stick to, and should bring more of a lasting change to our wellbeing, both physical and emotional."
So, eat well, not to diet yourself into oblivion, or because you think your body is horrible or ugly, but because your body is wonderful and deserves to be healthy and strong. Exercise not because you feel guilted into it, or 'disgusting', but because you'll feel better for having more energy in your life. And next time you berate yourself for not doing something as well as someone else, remind yourself of all the things you do that are amazing.
Of course, being kind to ourselves doesn't mean a free pass to do whatever the f**k we want - I may initially think being kind to myself is eating an entire Terry's Chocolate Orange in a record-breaking 75 seconds, but really, if I'm honest with myself, I'm going to crash hours later and feel very sick for it. "People often confuse self-compassion with being soft on ourselves," adds Dr Green, "but actually it is about taking responsibility and confronting painful/scary feelings and situations, but in a way that is supportive and kind rather than self-condemning."
The new year frenzy of reinvention and a ten-day detox might promise more instant results, but amping up the kindness will make a bigger difference to your life in the long run. Need a bit of help to get started? Read on and let these kindness warriors inspire you...Read More