New Year, New You? Why could this mentality be damaging? Time to change the dialogue? But... why?

New Year, New You? Why could this mentality be damaging? Time to change the dialogue? But... why?

Written by Psychotherapist Tina Rawlings

We are, into the third week into the new year. There is always the pressure of self-improvement. ‘New year, new me,’ we say and try valiantly to stick to new exercise, diet regimes, or introduce self-punishing behaviours that seek to adjust who we are or how the world views us. It is natural to review or take stock of what we like and dislike about ourselves to drive us ahead in life or towards future goals. As appealing as personal or professional reinvention may be, here is a new or maybe a very old idea. What if the thing to change is an inner perspective on oneself?

The paradoxical theory of change noted by famous psychotherapist Carl Rogers, opposes wholesale reinvention. He said, ‘The curious paradox is that when I fully accept myself as I am, then I can change.’

This is perplexing but true, because any strategy for changing oneself is dreamt up by the old you, and focusing on a future me that is better, fitter more productive and slimmer means I will feel a failure as I am now. When we do not feel good it is harder to maintain motivation anyway, so the pressure to be someone different will always fail. This is not to say that we should not keep learning – quite the opposite – but how about learning who we are at a deeper level and learning to live with and accept what makes each of us unique. Start appreciating what makes you …you?

This is a psychotherapeutic truth, that people come to therapy with problems to solve. They may find surprisingly that the therapist does not attempt to blast them with tools and strategies to change themselves, but gently begins to mirror back who they are to them until they can begin to see and to accept themselves just as they are, beyond image, appearance and contemporary pressures from culture, family, and society. This does not mean of course colluding with harmful behaviours but to look at what is trying to be expressed as a meaningful expression of selfhood and to respect that first, before making choices to detach from redundant patterns.

If for example, I am socially anxious, accepting that this is how I am and looking after this part of me that can feel overwhelmed in social situations, I don’t feel so bad, can relax a little more and paradoxically be around others socially because I am confident that I can attend to and look after this part of me in a healthy way.  This may mean accepting I need space and to take more breaks away from others.

“Once you accept the fact that you’re not perfect, then you develop some confidence.” says Rosalyn Carter

Try practicing radical acceptance of yourself – exactly as you are – at any size, shape, or level of productivity and the changes you want to make will seem redundant anyway? Or you may start to shift in ways you could not have envisaged, and you will like yourself more and be happy and more at peace!

Written by Tina Rawlings BA (hons.), MBACP

Other national sources of support for mental health and well-being services and to find a therapist near you. 

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