By Susan Parmelee
When you Google the phrase “change is hard,” there are over 122 million results. Some results are just validating what we already know, and other results give some decent advice about how we can all make a real effort for lasting and effective change. As we start out a new year, armed with our resolutions, congratulate yourself for potentially wanting to change behaviors but consider simplifying your efforts by focusing on self-acceptance. This approach can lead to more happiness and is an excellent example to set for your children and other people in your life.
Accepting oneself packs compassion, esteem, love and unconditional positive regard into a package that can lead to an increase in contentment and more positive and healthful behaviors. To fully gain self-acceptance, it helps to stop identifying your flaws and to start to tolerate your imperfections. In today’s culture this can be a challenge and even more difficult than a New Year’s resolution, but the long-term benefits make the challenge worthwhile.
Consider carefully what affects your self-image. Are you spending too much time on social media—posting, evaluating other posts and waiting to see comments and likes? Should you take a break from media images, which are likely retouched and perhaps cause you to focus too much on your own imperfections? Is there someone in your life who does not hesitate to provide unnecessary advice or just straight-out criticism? Finding ways to distance yourself from negative influences can lead to more contentment and is excellent role-modeling for your children and other youth who may look to you for examples.
Another path toward self-acceptance is to practice more gratitude. Starting or ending your day with a gratitude journal in which you list three to five good things in your life is a practice I recommend to many teens who are struggling with self-esteem issues. I am not suggesting that one can banish all negative thoughts or experiences in their lives, however it is important to then move on and to not dwell in these negative moments. Bad days and imperfections are part of being human.
Bad things and bad moments are going to happen—someone is rude to you, a car cuts you off on the freeway, you are just not happy with your appearance—and when they do, think about how you might counsel a friend or your child. Most likely you will console them, tell them it’s not their fault or it’s not that bad and you might even give them a hug. Give yourself that same compassion, treat yourself like you would treat your child and allow yourself some gentle mothering and a nice piece of dark chocolate.
Letting go of trying to be someone you are not could be the most liberating part of the path toward self-acceptance. Once you have freed yourself from a list of things you want to change, you will have a lot more time to enjoy all your accomplishments. It may be the best gift you can give yourself in 2017.
Susan Parmelee is a mental health social worker and one of the founders of the Wellness & Prevention Center, San Clemente. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.