The bells are ringin’ out and a New Year has dawned. We emerge, blinking, from a haze of torn wrapping paper, twinkling fairy lights and feel-good romcoms, into the harsh light of unforgiving January.
Now is prime time to fall into the trap of making desperate resolutions of reinvention. Time to bemoan our myriad of flaws: pending obesity, mounting cheese addiction, binge drinking habit, below-average appearance, panic-inducing debts, floundering career, stagnant love life etc etc.
It doesn’t help that we’ve been comparing ourselves to others all year, scrolling through countless examples of apparent perfection. How does everybody else manage to be so successful while we’re struggling to find just one flattering self-image?
But wait, just hold the phone! Imagine, for a second, what it would be like to erase who you are and have to start all over again? A few months ago at TEDxBrighton, I listened to brain trauma survivor, Ben Clench, describe how it felt to come out of a coma and not recognise himself at all. He could hardly remember the man his family and friends told him he was before being hit by a car; the man who enjoyed music festivals and travelling, the man who liked to swim, the man who’d been in love with his girlfriend, Jazz, who sadly died in the accident.
Tears streamed down my cheeks as he told us how hard he fought to become Ben again. It suddenly struck me as tragic that most of us are in a constant battle to change. In a world of personal development goals and life coaching, we are rarely satisfied with our current state. What’s more, our increasingly disposable culture dictates that our improvements must be immediate. We want to be fitter, smarter and healthier but we want it in under 15 minutes please – we’re very busy people.
When I stop to think about how much I have to lose, the truth is, I don’t want to change much at all. Sure, I’ve done stuff I’m not proud of and I have definitely made mistakes but there’s a lot to be said for failure – you learn what is important to you. A few years ago I vowed to face my disappointments in front of my family and friends; it’s something I’ll never regret. After all, self-flagellating is exhausting and can prevent you from having rewarding experiences. The more you learn to accept that you can be a bit of a dick sometimes, the more you can deal with other people’s shitstorms. Compassion begins with the self.
The way I see it, if you’re at least trying to be a better person then you’re already winning. Let’s face it, we’re not going to miraculously transform overnight – we’re a constant work in progress. We will never be angels because we are, in fact, humans. Setting unrealistic annual resolutions that we won’t stick to will only make us feel worse. The good news is that we are all part of evolution – we grow a little bit every day, even when life doesn’t always go as planned.
So then, why not make 2019 the year you stop apologising for your inadequacies and start celebrating everything you like about yourself? Stop the negative self-chat and be kind. Keep doing the things you love that make you feel great. Ditch the stuff that stresses you out. You are already enough, Bridget, just as you are.