I have not been able to write much lately, but I wanted to be sure and write a little about New Year's Resolutions. Everyone has just made it through the holidays which are often fraught with stress, family drama, and a complex mix of memories, expectations, excitement, and disappointment. Then, when that is over, we are supposed to launch into bettering ourselves (because we've just been reminded of how much we need bettering). I want to suggest a different resolution this year. The resolution to end all resolutions:
"I will practice valuing myself."
There is very little in life that won't be improved by valuing ourselves more. This is not about spa days and bubble baths or buying ourselves flowers (although it can be). Instead, really valuing ourselves means that we start from the premise that we are completely and totally enough EXACTLY as we are right NOW. We won't be "better when…," because we are enough right now.
If, like so very many, you are uncomfortable with the very thought that you might be totally and completely enough right now, then this is probably a good resolution. Often, we are afraid to consider that we might be good enough right now because we fear that all motivation for change will fly away and we will just get fatter, lazier, more in debt, and just more…less. Yet, when we look deeply at the things we might like to change, we often find that these problems exist because we haven't truly practiced valuing ourselves.
What if, instead of believing that "we must be thinner in order to be worthy, so we start a diet/exercise program hoping that a New Year's fairy comes and sprinkles us with permanent commitment-and-dedication-and-willpower dust, only to end up in failure and demoralization," what if we instead recognized weight/debt/a messy house as symptoms of our solutions to another problem?
We have a problem, so we eat. We have a problem, so we spend. We have a problem, so we ignore the mess. We have a problem. What is it? The problem is that we live with fears and feelings that are triggered a thousand times a day and they are so uncomfortable and we feel so powerless. So, we eat. So, we spend. So, we ignore the mess. So, we escape.
In the moment, these are good solutions to the problem. We feel better. We are wired to feel better when we eat, when we acquire things, when we avoid and escape. For a moment, we feel better. We might feel a lot better. But, then the feeling passes (they all do), and then we again uncomfortable and afraid. We have not even recognized the problem and certainly not found a solution that works, so we need more of what worked a little bit ago (food, things, escape). We are baffled when we are then overweight, in debt, and things are messy. We are even more confounded when we make a commitment to change these symptoms, and…can't.
The problem is that we have not valued ourselves. We have not known our true worth. We have not valued ourselves to recognize, respond, and attend to the very real experience we are having right now. We have not valued these feelings, but instead tried to change them, squash them, obliterate them with whatever works. But, what if all of these feelings were not to be feared? What if all parts of ourselves were worthy? What if we practiced attending to all parts of ourselves with love and compassion? What if we fed our souls with self-kindness, compassion, healing? What if we knew, "I am enough right now? Right in this moment?" Maybe then, in time, we would hear the call of extra food/things/escape less and less. Maybe then we wouldn't need another resolution.
Karen J. Helfrich, LCSW-C
As a therapist, mother, daughter, partner, and seeker, I am always on the journey toward a more peaceful, authentic life. I hope to share knowledge, insights, and the ongoing unknowns I find along the path...