It is January, the time of year when many are in a space of goal setting, resolutions, and planning.
While planning for progress and improvement is great, I dare to put out a different thought for this time of year.
This thought is for anyone who has ever doubted their worth or value, and for that reason, tries to validate their existence in the world, by constantly making plans to change who they are. It’s for everyone who struggles with a sense of identity, hence endeavors to cover up the feelings of insecurity, by bashing through to-do lists and pursuing material gains.
My challenge to you for this year is this…. Self-acceptance.
LIFE BEFORE DISCOVERING SELF-ACCEPTANCE
A life without self-acceptance manifests in many ways. It may look like one always searching for the validation of likes when you post on Instagram. It may be starving yourself as you feel your body just isn’t acceptable. It may be always dressing in clothes that are dark or completely hide your body. It may be buying things you really can’t afford, just so people can see that you have them.
Not all manifestations of a lack of self-acceptance are negative. Many manifestations of this lead to one making positive life changes such as getting physically fitter. But the issue with actions, even positive ones, taken without self-acceptance is that even when the set goal is achieved, the underlying issue of a lack of self-acceptance is still felt, along with the unshakable feeling of emptiness that comes with it.
No conquest or achievement can overcome the issue of a lack of acceptance of one’s self. Self-acceptance does not mean you throw away ambition, or the desire to pursue self-improvement. On the contrary, self-acceptance grows your self-esteem, as it releases the power of loving yourself irrespective of what you achieve. It gives you the strength to pick yourself up with love and move on, even on the inevitable days when you fail to meet the goals you set for yourself, rather than berating yourself with self-deprecating thoughts when things don’t go to plan.
LIFE AFTER EMBRACING SELF-ACCEPTANCE
So how might the beginning of a new year look different when one approaches this from a mindset of self-acceptance?
Firstly, it may look like allowing yourself some time to recover from the year you have just had, and reflect on it with gratitude, without the pressure of the “new year new me” rhetoric. There is no real reason to aim for complete transformation on the first of January.
Secondly, take the time to do a review of any goals you made last year. A year in retrospect, do those goals still speak to the person you are now? Which were you able to achieve, and which did you not? What helped you achieve those that you did, and what held you back from achieving those that you did not?
Finally, don’t overdo it. One goal for each major area of your life is fine. What may be more practical is to pick two or three specific areas of your life which you want to improve, and set one goal for each of those areas. Keep it manageable. You can then set a quarterly or half-year review with yourself to review those limited, specifically selected goals. If they are achieved by that point, you can decide to add some new ones. If not, you can re-assess your approach if necessary. The point is, goals can be assessed at any time, and new goals can be set at any point in the year.
This may sound like a counterintuitive approach to starting a new year, amid a culture that glorifies constant rush and pressurized goal setting.
But counterintuitive might just be exactly the approach that helps us relook how we prioritize our energy, as we accept and love ourselves for who we are.
If you are reading this, you survived another year. Go you! Cheers to a new chapter. All the best in 2022