New Year, New You?

It seems like every January there’s a million articles about “New Year, New You!” that include all of the things you should change about yourself. You’re encouraged to make resolutions about losing weight, improving relationships, and fulfilling all of your lifelong dreams. There’s so much pressure to pick something to work on and the only time you can start is January.

Why should you suddenly have to change everything about who you are just because the clock strikes midnight and the year bumps up a number? Instead of “New Year, New You!” we should say “New Year, Still You!” Because the world doesn’t need a new you. Who you are now is exactly who you need to be. The fact that the calendar changes doesn’t alter how amazing you already are right this very minute.

That isn’t to say that having goals and seeking to make yourself better isn’t a worthwhile thing, because of course it is! We’ll talk more below about how to find goals and intentions that will be meaningful to you on your healing journey. But the pressure to choose certain goals on that exact day/month can be overwhelming. And the appeal of procrastinating by saying “I’ll start that next January” can give you an excuse to avoid addressing the things that you know are getting in the way of your healing.

If you are already feeling discouraged about who or where you are today, the pressure or allure of a “new you” could lead to feelings of shame or worthlessness. It’s easy to get caught in a downward spiral of all the things that are “wrong” with you, especially when you’re being constantly bombarded by messages that imply that you’re not enough as you are.

New Year, Celebrate You

Before you spend one more minute worrying about what you need to “fix” about yourself, take a minute to celebrate who you are right now! This last year you had some amazing moments of growth, success, and learning. Whether you recognized them as such at the time, you can definitely recognize them now. We like to call these moments “triumphs,” and they are 100% personal to you and your healing journey. Here’s an example of one survivor’s triumph:

Roxie* wanted to take better care of her body. She knew, logically, all the benefits it would bring if she exercised more, but it seemed like she could always come up with an excuse not to do it. When she mentioned to a friend that she was having a hard time getting moving, her friend suggested that she start small. “It’s all about the little wins,” she said. And Roxie turned that into her mantra. She made a list of ways that she could bring more movement into her life. It included things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking over to talk to someone at work instead of messaging back and forth, parking a little farther away from the door at the grocery store, and doing stretches before bed every night. Once she started noticing the little ways that she could “win” at her goal, she made it a priority to do them as often as she could.

Maybe it isn’t the storyline of an inspiring Hollywood movie, but Roxie’s experience was an amazing triumph for her. She found a way to take sustainable steps toward her goal. In her book, Body Kindness, Rebecca Scritchfield says, “Each positive choice you make is a little investment in your health and happiness.”

Now it’s your turn. Think through five personal triumphs you had in 2019. Use the worksheet below to write them down. Or, if you need more space to write about what happened and why, use a journal or a notebook. Take as much time as you need to write the story of that triumph and celebrate what you’ve done. After seeing the triumphs you’ve already accomplished, then it’s time to think about how you want to grow in 2020.

New Year, Grow You

Think of your personal growth like a plant. Different plants have different requirements, but they almost all need good soil, sunlight, and water. Just as plants can grow at different speeds, there may be aspects of your own growth that shoot up quickly (like bamboo) and others that seem to take a lot more patience (like a White Cedar tree). Give yourself the things that you need to succeed, and trust that your growth is happening—even if it seems slower than you had hoped.

This growth perspective is especially helpful when it comes to things that you’ve struggled with in the past. If you’re someone who has tried a new diet every year, maybe it’s time to take a different view. Maybe, instead of focusing on limiting your food or trying to lose weight, you could start with loving your body. Maybe instead of using exercise as a way to “punish” your body, you could see it as a way to thank your body for all it does for you. Take those “normal” new year resolutions throw them out the window. Instead, make your goals something you want to do as an act of self-care and self-love. And, better still, you don’t have to wait until January, you don’t need to label them as resolutions, and you don’t even need to tell anyone about your goals if you don’t want to!

As you work to “grow” the parts of your life that will lead to a more positive everyday experience for you, don’t forget your personal relationships. You can decide that now is the time to set healthy boundaries, learn to say no, work through your feelings of loneliness, or allow yourself to create a new tribe of supportive friends. Having supportive and loving people surrounding you can make all the difference on your healing journey.

New Year, Plan You

It doesn’t matter if you make new goals in January or June, but it’s helpful to know that one of the most important aspects for creating real, lasting change comes in the planning. Whether you decide to create a vision board to hang in your bedroom or use one of our Monthly Planning Sheets to focus your efforts, planning can make a difference to think through what you want, why you want it, and the steps you’ll take to get it.

This may include educating yourself on how your brain works, so you can use that to your advantage when you take steps toward your goal. It can also help to recognize when you’re thinking self-defeating thoughts and creating a few positive affirmations to combat them. Maybe the best place for you to start your planning is with a good basis of self-esteem so you can realize how worthy you are of health and happiness.

Whatever you decide to do, begin by setting yourself up to “win” with easy first steps. For instance, instead of saying that you’re going to attend five new activities a week to help build a great group of friends, start with one a month. With that success under your belt you can plan the next step until you’ve created a pattern of triumphs!

There will be times, of course, when you fall short or fail or end up taking a step backward instead of forward. That’s okay, it happens to everyone. The important thing is what you do next. If you give up and say you’ll never succeed, then of course you won’t. However, if you forgive yourself and try again, then you’re giving yourself permission to do better next time. Be gentle with yourself; you’re doing the best you can.

New Year, Still You

As the sparkly dresses, 2020 glasses, and noisemakers come and go, make sure that you recognize who and what you are right now. You’re still you. And being you is amazing. Honor all the past versions of yourself that made it possible for you to be who you are today. Celebrate those triumphs and plan for more success to come. As you thoughtfully choose what (if any) opportunities for growth to pursue in the new year, think of this quote from Brené Brown: “I now see that owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”

*Please note:
Roxie's story is a combination of many survivor's experiences and is not meant to represent any individual directly.

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