I always find this time of year an interesting one. As we sit at the start of a new year it can be a natural time to ponder on what we want to bring into this year ahead. The parks become filled with out-of-breath, newbie joggers, the Christmas excess is replaced by dry January and gym memberships go through the roof.
Although it's easy to be cynical about New Year resolutions there is something in their energy that I love. I love that as human beings we have an innate desire to change, to grow, to be the best person that we can be.
What feels essential though (and often missing) is learning to balance our desire for transformation with cultivating self-compassion and acceptance for where we are as well.
We can often have an image in our mind's eye of the happiness and peace that will come to us when we are fitter/richer/thinner/smarter (the list can go on). Our desire for change can all too easily stem from a belief that we are somehow deficient or inadequate as we currently are. When this is our starting point and driving force, I don't feel we can ever truly be happy.
Through practicing self-compassion we learn to accept, embrace and find kindness towards where we are now, with all of our imperfect humanness. We can see the goals that we wish to move towards, but not berate ourselves when we fall short of perfecting them.
I for one, was initially a little deflated when I returned to London and reached for my journal only to find that the things I had planned to build more into the year ahead were the very same things that I had writted down for the last 2 years! My inner critical voice quickly stepped in with a "Well ... clearly you didn't do very well with that!!".
But then I remembered a piece I heard on the radio many years ago where someone talked of change being like waves as the tide comes in; that change is a process that takes place over a long time, not all in one go; that we may take 3 steps forward and 2 steps back, then 3 steps forward and 2 steps back, but slowly, gradually, we move forward towards our goals.
I stepped back from my list and realised that although I haven't 'achieved' or perfected these goals, I had done many small things that had begun moved me more in that direction. My 'inner critic' stepped back; a kinder, softer voice came forward. I could chuckle at myself and accept that I'm doing the best I can and that that is more than good enough.
In watching this happen I was reminded of how much it is practicing self-compassion - finding a kind and gentle acceptance of myself and all my strengths and imperfections - that helps me find the encouraging voice to keep moving forward despite my set backs and imperfections. In the words of Carl Rogers:
"The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change".
So if your 'inner critic 'is your driving force for change in 2018 see how it feels to find a softer, kinder more encouraging internal dialogue: one that can embrace that we are all doing the best that we can and that change happens slowly, slowly and needs to come with a big dose of self-compassion.