Affirmations, Not Resolutions
I used to celebrate New Year’s Eve in the accepted and conventional manner: I’d stay up till midnight, fortify my resolve with champagne, and vow to live cleaner, work harder, and sustain a calm, orderly, life.
I’d make these resolutions at midnight, and in the morning – just hours into the New Year – I ‘d break them. Then I’d think I was a failure, and that the year was off to a bad start and could only get worse so really, why bother?
It didn’t matter if it was a modest resolution I’d failed to keep, like putting the clean laundry away, or a grandiose one, like writing a novel by the end of the week, or a perennial one, like losing a few pounds, or a hopeful one, like being kinder and more generous.
All resolutions do is set me up for failure.
I’m done with that!
This New Year’s, I’m making a list of affirmations, not resolutions.
Affirmations are positive, true, statements that offer encouragement and support. They confirm the good I’ve accomplished, regardless how miniscule. Each affirmation is a pat on the back, a boost, and another lap in a positive feedback loop.
Sure, I want to be a better person! But it’s hard when I’m shoulding all over myself, scolding myself for what I did wrong, chastising myself for what I could have done better, quitting because I didn’t get it right the first time.
Affirmation: I’m practicing kindness, starting with positive self-talk.
The truth is, I’ve spent a lifetime telling myself stories about how I’m not thin-, smart-, creative-, athletic-, organized-, productive-, caring-, fill-in-the-blank- enough. The list goes on. Repeating these stories just makes me feel bad, and resolving to change myself so that I’m somehow, magically, impossibly, different, just makes me feel worse.
It’s not just the stories I tell myself; it’s also my tone of voice, a voice I wouldn’t use on a stray dog nosing its way through my trash. No wonder I used to flinch when I looked in the mirror.
For years, I blamed my mother for how I felt about myself. Affirmation: My mother, may she rest in peace, did the best she could. I hope my kids will some day know that I did too.
Affirmations can be aspirational, like certain yoga poses I can’t quite do.
Affirmation: I speak kindly to myself.
Affirmation: I speak kindly to others.
The theory is that positive feedback begets positive behavior.
Affirmations are carrots; resolutions are sticks.
Carrots are good for you.
Sticks are for beating yourself up, unless you’re a dog, in which case sticks are something to fetch. But if you’re a dog, you’re not reading this.
Affirmations promote kindness and self-care.
The kinder we are to ourselves, the kinder we’re likely to be toward others. And by kindness, I don’t mean self-indulgence, but compassion, concern for others, especially those who are less fortunate than ourselves.
Affirmation: With kindness and compassion, we can make 2017 a good year.
Deborah Lee Luskin blogs about Living in Place, The Middle Ages (50-75+/-), Lessons From the Long Trail, and Vermonters by Choice at www.deborahleeluskin.com
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