Did you know there’s a National Quitter’s Day? According to research, the second Friday in January is the day most people are likely to give up on their New Year’s Resolutions. Motivation falters, gym membership drops, and feelings of failure sky rocket. There are probably a million reasons these resolutions don’t stick but I’d like to propose that it is time, not to abandon your resolutions, but to quit 3 things that are holding you back in reaching your self-development goals.
- Quit Judging Yourself. I am referring to the negative self beliefs that pop up whenever we don’t meet our own or other’s expectations of us. “I could never…”, “I always…”. These beliefs can be limiting, self-fulfilling and are more than likely untrue. When we look at those more stubborn beliefs, it’s worth looking at where you remember hearing those words or feeling that before. Many times, those beliefs are carried with us from childhood experiences. Children internalize these messages from the things parents and other influential individuals say to them and the way they treat them. As we gain compassion for the child who was judged, we can start to release those negative beliefs that are holding us back today.
- Quit Shaming Yourself. Shame is slightly different than judgment but it’s root often comes from the same place in childhood. Shame is also not the same thing as Guilt. Where guilt says “I did something bad”, shame says “I am bad”. Shame is that voice that says “I’m a failure/stupid/lazy/_____” (you fill in the blanks). Shame leaves us paralyzed, depressed, and hopeless. It’s that pit in your stomach feeling that says you would never be loved if “they” knew.
- Quit Negativity. This could be negativity about yourself, your body, or just life in general. I’m not proposing putting blinders on and refusing to read any news, but in our society which is saturated with fear and negativity it’s easy to become consumed by this and have no room left to see the beauty around us. What I do suggest is to find a balance between being aware and involved and enjoying the life you have been given.
If you’re like me, you might be wondering, where do I even start to remove those habits? They pop up without warning and are so ingrained that to start seems overwhelming. What I know to be true is that it is much more difficult to quit an unhealthy habit then to add in a healthy habit to your routine. That’s not to say it’s not challenging, but let me just suggest that it is a practice, and not something that you should expect to accomplish perfectly overnight. Just like learning to play the piano, you start small and build upon what you have learned.
- Replace Judgement with Self-Reflection. Self-reflection has a different end goal than judgement. Where judgment says “I’ve failed,” self reflection asks the question “what can I do next time?”. Self reflection takes honesty, openness, and a willingness to not give up on ourselves. It may take the form of journaling, counseling, or a chat with a good friend or accountability partner. Self reflection moves us forward, judgement holds us back.
- Replace Shame with Self Compassion. The opposite of shame is not confidence, but rather, self compassion. Shame comes from a place of disappointment. It may be misplaced disappointment, where we are shaming ourselves for the actions of another, or it may come from a place where we are disappointed in our actions towards another person. Either way, self compassion is the antidote. Self compassion can say “You did the best you could with the situation you were placed in” or it could say “Your mistakes don’t have to define you”. It doesn’t negate the hurt we have caused to another but in approaching ourselves with self compassion, we have the opportunity for that self reflection and growth. Shame says “I am bad”, self compassion says “I understand why I made that choice and I can choose differently now”.
- Replace Negativity with Gratitude. Gratitude has an enormous impact on the symptoms of depression and anxiety. As you create a practice of gratitude in your day, you create less space for negativity. You start to seek out the beauty around you. You begin to see the people around you in a more positive light. The more gratitude you have in your life, the less space you will have for negativity. I’m not suggesting a rose colored glasses perspective. I’m suggesting that in the darkest of situations, there is always at least a tiny sliver of hope. That might be a person who is there for you or the strength inside you to just keep going. If you’re not sure where to start, begin by writing down 3 things or people at the end of each day that you are grateful for. As each day passes, you might find your list growing and your perspective changing.
Hannah Lindsay, MSW, LCSW-C, provides individual and family therapy in our Sterling, VA office. Call or email to set up your first appointment or a complimentary telephone consultation with Hannah.