The transition to a new year is an inevitable time of self-reflection. Looking back on this past year, I found myself thinking about what I can do better, more of, and just how next year will be different. But then, I had a thought: What if next year the focus shifts inwards in an effort to cultivate more understanding, acceptance, and self-compassion? Our focus is so often spent providing these for others, but we notoriously struggle to do the same for ourselves. Inevitably, the vulnerable part of ourselves, that inner voice that says “we’re not good enough” creeps in and overpowers us, and we get stuck in the trap of noticing all the bad and discrediting the good.
Our inner critic can be very loud and very convincing. It tries to take credit for our accomplishments and claims to be our driving force and motivating factor. It wants us to feel trapped in the cycles it creates, of doubting our worth and downplaying our successes. When we listen to our inner critic, we are driven by shame, fear, and a belief that we’re never good enough. This critic can be so strong that it seeps into our interpersonal relationships, causing either-or us to shrug off praise, downplay our accomplishments, and use self-deprecating humor. If we believe this critic, we might find ourselves in toxic relationships because we don’t believe we are worthy of more. We’ll make excuses for why others let us down and learn that we can’t rely on anyone but ourselves. When we don’t value our own self-worth, we’re willing to overextend ourselves for the people in our lives and spiral down an unsustainable path toward burnout. This new year, I invite you to do something different. Listen to that voice with compassion and understanding, and accept that your accomplishments have not been because of that inner critical voice, but rather despite it. Let yourself replace “either - or” with “both-and”.
Self-care is often mislabeled as “selfish” or “egocentric”, but I keep going back to the truth, that we can’t give what we don’t have. If we are not understanding and compassionate with ourselves, how can we expect to do this for others? If we lean in with radical self-acceptance and allow ourselves to truly be authentic (flaws and all) this creates an environment in which others can truly get to know us. Only then, can we foster deep connections, with others and ourselves. Here’s my second invitation: see compassion, understanding, and acceptance as forms of self-care; a way to fill your cup and share the good with others. And just for good measure, add a sprinkle of gratitude in recognition of the strengths that have gotten you to where you are at this moment.
If you only take one thing away from this post, then let it be this question: How can I culture loving kindness to myself in this new year?