So, it’s the beginning of a new year. All of the sins of the previous twelve months can be wiped from the record, cleaning the slate for the hopeful next chapter. We all make exciting resolutions; this is the year, we say, that we will get super – fit. Finally quit smoking. Transition out of the job we dislike to pursue that dream career. This is the year that it’s all going to happen.
Then, January truly hits home. Far from following through on those grand plans to completely overhaul everything that makes you unhappy, you’re at home while the world carries on without you, it’s pouring with rain outside, and you can’t bring yourself to leave the house, let alone transform your existence as per your radical proclamations of only a few days ago. Your mind begins to turn in on itself, telling you that you have failed already; that this is only the beginning of your latest screw up. It reminds you that in fact, you’re ridiculous for even allowing yourself to think that you deserve better than this inevitable failure. It says something that seems quite sensible to you in these dark moments – that you should probably throw in the towel before you humiliate yourself any further by making more stupidly ill – informed mistakes.
In these dark, winter months, it’s difficult to maintain a sense of perspective on pretty much everything. I am hit so strongly by the winter blues that getting out of bed feels like a gargantuan struggle – once I have fought that battle, I expend all of my energy on fighting the urge I have to go and crawl back into bed until the sun comes out again in a few months’ time. The phone rings, and I look at it, considering whether I really want to pick it up. When I don’t, I feel awful about myself for being so maladjusted, and the prospect of calling that person back becomes a looming presence in my day; the possible conversations that could ensue playing out in my mind in the most ridiculous and unrealistically negative ways. To reinstate some sense of dignity and worth, I promise myself that I’ll write that story I’ve had in my head for months, or that I’ll complete the coursework I need to do, or I’ll get fit – because intellectually I know that doing those things will make me feel better. It’s just overwhelmingly difficult to actually get up and find the impetus to do them.
So, I drift through the day, in a frustrated limbo. The end of the day comes. And I realise that I’ve achieved nothing.
Then, I feel like a worthless human being. The things that my self – esteem hinges on – the belief that I do stuff, follow through on my ideas and plans, and spend my days working tirelessly towards my artistic, physical and career goals, are in shattered fragments, piercing any glimmers of a positive sense of self that I may have had at the start of the day. At this point, I feel like I am nothing. And then, when I do forcefully command my tired mind and body to do something about it, I judge, question, and allow myself to be crippled by an indecisiveness that renders any positive action entirely pointless. Nothing gets done, because I don’t believe in the value of what I’m doing. And the gloomy cycle continues.
What I’m realising, however, is that it doesn’t have to. The power of this cycle can be mitigated if I am able to do one small thing. One small thing that I have struggled to do all of my life, and am finally learning is the key to unlocking the potential that I believe lives within each and every one of us. It is advice that I have read in many articles, yet the words have washed over me, perhaps because the dominant voice of my consciousness has chosen to dismiss this invaluable piece of advice until this point. So here I am, at almost 30 years old, stunned by the power of something so simple, and so irrefutably positive in all of its aspects. Such a simple concept, but one that I have cowered away from for fear that I will fall down some kind of self – indulgent hole and end up being a grotesquely hedonistic version of myself who does nothing, achieves nothing, and doesn’t deserve to live. I am stunned by the challenge of this simple task; but the more I do it, the more I enjoy it, and the more I truly believe that I deserve it.
The simple task?
Be kind. Be kind to yourself.
It’s not an easy thing to do, by any stretch. Our minds are wired to judge harshly when we don’t achieve every one of the grand goals that we have so unrealistically set for ourselves in the euphoric excitement of a new year, or in the heat of an excited conversation with a friend who wants to run a marathon too – but my personal view is that the first priority in life is to allow yourself to navigate it’s ebbing, flowing waters, with all of it’s unpredictable highs and lows, with a well – developed and absolute trust in your self -love and esteem. If self – love hinges on the realisation of unrealistic goals, or some conditioned notion of who or what you should be, of how you should get there, and when, that awful feeling of self – hate will continue to dominate and colour your outlook, and convince you that you are worthless based on skewed values. That crippling insecurity that stands between you and being who you truly know yourself to be will have the power to paralyse you into complete inaction, making you question your very right to be alive. I find it all a huge challenge, and will continue to do so for a long time to come, but I know that if I can learn to love and accept myself, no matter what challenges the weather, material circumstance or, most terrifying, my psyche throws at me, I will be able to keep going. And, in the end, quite a lot in life seems to be about the seemingly simple acts; putting one foot in front of the other, looking around, enjoying the scenery, and allowing yourself to be glad that you are you. The small of act of telling yourself, every day, that you deserve your own love and acceptance, whatever struggles you might be facing.
That’s my resolution for 2014. I’m going to be kind to myself, every day. I’m going to keep on telling myself that I’m doing just fine, and that no matter what happens, I deserve my own good opinion. Bizarrely, I’m scared of the challenge, but I’m going to do my absolute best to live the messages that I know to be true, rather than giving an inflated credence to that ever destructive Inner Critic that has become such a dominating force in my existence. It doesn’t sound as exciting as landing my first leading role in a feature film, or of having my first screenplay produced, or of running a marathon, but it’s the foundation for being able to allow those things to happen, if they are meant to.
Then again, if they don’t, it won’t matter. I’ll be having too much fun enjoying being Me and living life to worry about what “may” be (she says, hopefully!).
Thanks for reading!
An Ordinary Idealist