New years and new beginnings, eh. Aye well that is the tradition. So maybe you’re setting out to create a new you? A thinner, more attractive, more intelligent, more effective, more efficient, more dynamic and stronger version of yerself? The interesting question is why? Let me rephrase that, does it come from the criticism that you are always directing at yourself?
Let me explain what I mean and see if it resonates with you. Planning and change can be good things when they come from the right place, but when it comes from that place of disliking myself I’ve come to realise it will only undermine me further. I can get so focused on what is wrong or I dislike about myself I forget about what is working well.
An alternative is appreciating all that is already okay here right now, and how to act from there. So rather than trying to strive for an ideal of myself that does not exist, I have started this year with the intentions of self-care, gratitude and cultivating the good that is already here now. For me self-care is the key, and it is about cultivating mindfulness as an antidote to my habits of self-sabotage. Being my own best friend rather than my worst critic is revolutionary for most of us, well it is for me.
It is worth noting when our plans for transformation and a new me can be laced with self-criticism and shame. Constantly criticising myself – I am too fat, too thin, tall, grey, ugly … etc. does not create the conditions for health and well-being. It is the road to anxiety and low self-esteem. And the habit of self-criticism and shame cannot be resolved by setting a New Year goal that is unachievable.
I’ve noted over the years how this aspiration for a new me can create a benchmark to measure how inadequate I am at sticking to a diet, an exercise regime, not loosing my temper, looking handsome or being liked. That is when I know my New Years resolution is coming from the wrong place.
Oh the irony of creating a plan for good only to end up in a circle of self-criticism for not meeting goals. It is a plan that is doomed to failure, and provides fuel for further self-criticism and shame. It’s an exercise in self-loathing and self-sabotage maybe?
Self-sabotaging is defined as “Behaviour is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems in daily life and interferes with long-standing goals … act in a way that proves damaging to his or her own well-being”.
So what about self-Care – it is about taking deliberate action to manage your physical, emotional, and relational well-being towards a health and well-being goal/good. It is about self-regulation of the good and difficult bits of yourself that you are aware of already.
“the old you has survived every terrible day
Every hard thing, every awful circumstance
And every heartbreak you have ever felt.
The old you got you to hear and that is worth celebrating”
So maybe there is something worthy of gratitude and nurturing with self-care. Perhaps starting with accepting that there are parts of you that are a cause for celebration or to be grateful for the all that you are already before starting out on a path of transformation – even to see the Sacred in the everyday.
Indeed, that is the main point of the mindfulness and compassion training. Rather than meeting ourselves with self-criticism and self-loathing, mindfulness training encourages us to cultivate a kind and warm attitude so that we can meet all the different parts of ourselves. It is the difficult but fruitful path of turning towards our difficulties with kindness – to begin to accept ourselves as we are, not as we imagine. And it is this attitude that I have found can be transformational, even just acknowledging that there is a diamond in this body of mine that regularly needs the mud removed and needs regularly polished.
I have really seen the important to exhale and to let go of all the tension and tightness my body has accumulated over the year (s). I start with the Polyvagal Tuning to invite my body to let go of the accumulated fight, flight and freezing it has done to survive. I know the importance of practicing a little gratitude and taking in the good to acknowledge all that we are.
As mindfulness practitioners we are aware that there is the possibility of a new beginning with each breath. There is always the potential to pause, engage the awareness and to notice what is going on. When we rest there and become aware there is space. There can be enough space to notice clearly. I’d say resting in awareness to experience spaciousness is at the core of my mindfulness practice just now. I know that with practice we can be aware of our thinking, emotions, sensations and behaviour – to observe all of this rather than to be it consumed by these.
At the moment self-care comes down to cultivating and cherishing my daily practice and making plans to practice as a collective – a community. This bolsters my intention to be more present and to tune into my awareness. As I cultivate this habit, I’m more able to observe, and to rest in the space. Here I have the potential to work more skilfully with my thoughts, emotions and sensation. For me this means to create less suffering from my actions – for myself, my family, my friends and all other beings.
Self-sabotage normally comes from believing we are our thoughts, emotions and sensations. When we do our whole being contracts around these. We think that they are real solid things – we can think that is who we are. Freedom is to accept that thoughts, emotions and sensations are illusions of the mind and energy passing through the body. In this way, self-care is directly linked to the self-kindness practice for others and ourselves because we are all interconnected.
My New Years Resolution for 2020 is to practice seeing the space for self-care without spiralling into self-sabotage.
What is yours?