Well here we are, getting into the end of January. Are you still making good on your New Year’s resolutions? Have you fallen off course? Are you good so far but dreading the moment when it all falls apart? I’ve always thought it was odd that we collectively decided that January would be the time of year to get started on making things bigger and better. It’s winter after all, and if we follow the natural order of things, meaning the weather, we’re usually inclined to hunker down and be cozy, which often includes a lot of stillness and snacking, not so much leveling up our motors for achievement and improvement. So here we are, promising ourselves that we’ll stick to new routines that will tighten our waistlines and fatten our bank accounts, when all the while our hearts are yearning for cuddly movie nights with vats of buttered popcorn. I’m sure aliens looking down from space find us silly humans infinitely entertaining.
So I ask you, what would it be like if we changed up the script and allowed ourselves to enjoy our wintering instead of using what might be a really peaceful time of year to put pressure on ourselves to be something other than what we are? What if we dropped all the other resolutions and replaced them with one resolution to be kinder to ourselves?
Make a resolution to be kinder to yourself.
If you automatically felt a tightening in your chest when you read those words, you might go toward that tightness and investigate a bit. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that we are not good enough as we are. I think probably most people feel this way. The whole narrative of dying and going to heaven reinforces this idea, right? Regardless of what you believe happens to us when we die, many of us live our lives with a quiet (or sometimes not so quiet) voice in our head that’s always planning our improvement. When I get a raise, when I lose ten pounds, when I buy a house, when I double my savings, when I run that marathon, then I’ll allow myself to relax and be happy. We set goals, we make plans, we tell ourselves “keep going, try harder, don’t be a quitter!” And sure, it’s important to have a direction in life and to strive toward something meaningful, but I think it’s worth getting curious about this constant yearning to be better.
So how about this year, as your New Year’s resolutions crumble and you find yourself shamefacedly surrounded by the rubble of your once lofty ambitions for the next 12 months, consider setting up a new goal, a goal of kindness toward yourself. Maybe you start to notice when you judge yourself, or speak harshly to yourself, put yourself down, feel the need to hide because you feel unworthy. You start to notice how this feels in your body- you feel it in the pit of your stomach, your chest tightens, your throat constricts, your heart races, your palms get clammy… When you start to notice these things, you can practice being kind to yourself instead of mean to yourself. You can cultivate the compassionate witness in yourself, so the parts of you that try and fail don’t feel so alone. They’re being watched, not by a drill sergeant, but by your kindness. If you back up a couple of steps from your judgment of yourself, you can connect with a softer more wise and flexible part of you that knows how to create safety and patience. That’s your true seat of consciousness. Your kindness. Let’s practice finding our kindness this year and generously giving it not just to others, but to ourselves.
“The more you Nurture yourself, the more you’ll find you’re living from your future self—the best of who you are.” -Tara Brach