As we all reflect on this past year, feelings around 2022 are going to vary. Some of us may feel grateful as we look back on 2022. For others, 2022 may have been disappointing or heartbreaking. It is reasonable to find that this reflection brings up a mix of emotions. It is a cultural norm that the countdown to January first brings with it wrap-up lists, talk of resolutions, retrospective comparisons and progress check-ins, and more. You may be someone who feels that the hanging of a new calendar (metaphorically speaking, in this day and age) is a fresh start. You may be someone who doesn’t get what all the fuss is about. You may feel nostalgia for the year or say to yourself, “Good riddance!” It might seem to you that, no matter how you feel, you’re surrounded by people who feel the opposite way. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, a new year is a great time to reflect and set intentions.
As we are getting ready to end the year, checking in with your feelings around change and time is important. Do you get more stressed around this time of the year? Do the conversations around new year’s
resolutions anger you, or cause you to self-reflect? If you identify that change is a stressor, are you able to separate it from the concept of the new year?
If you like the idea of change, or even if you’re trying to like it, you may view the new year as the time to create a new or different reality for yourself. It might invigorate you to brainstorm a schedule and self-care routine that works well for you. And you might be more than ready to say goodbye to habits that don’t serve you. Whether you send them away enthusiastically or begrudgingly, there are three habits that are best to leave in the past when the new year dawns.
1. Comparing yourself to others:
Comparison is absolutely the thief of joy; that’s why it’s a saying. With the constant use of social media, there has been an increase in the comparison trap. We falsely compare our lowest points to someone else’s highest points and make skewed conclusions about our lives and our worthiness. We compare what we know in our most private and secret thoughts with the happiness that others choose to highlight online. If we take the time to think about it, we realize that we know that only very few people are posting their uncensored lives for the world to see. But at times, it can be hard to remember. These times tend to occur when we have had a terrible day, suffered a disappointment, or been let down, and we open up an app on our phones to see someone achieving something great or celebrating what a wonderful day they’ve had.
The solution is to learn to do things at your own pace; learn to celebrate your progress. Oftentimes, we get too focused on the outcome we want. The outcome is a moment; the journey is longer. Learning to enjoy the part of the process that takes the most time makes the most sense. If you are a perfectionist, you may find that to be a difficult concept. You might be hard on yourself and rarely think you deserve praise; this might have been the case since you were very young.
The key to being able to focus on yourself and not get caught up in comparing yourself to others is to trust yourself. When we are first born, we listen to our bodies and intuition – we eat when we’re hungry, stop when we’re full, sleep when we’re tired, and basically follow our internal cues. As we grow, social dynamics begin to come into play. We are taught that the way to succeed is to override our intuition. If we feel shy meeting someone new, we force ourselves to cover it up. If we are tired but there is work to be done, we drink more coffee and muscle through. Some of these are the necessity of functioning in the adult world. But as a side effect, we end up distrusting our intuition and disconnecting from ourselves. This doesn’t allow us to trust ourselves to know what is right and best for us. When too many of our habits and patterns are dictated by external forces, how can we possibly be in touch with and proud of our inner guidance? When you stop comparing yourself to others, you are forced to tune in to yourself. And when you tune in to yourself, it is easier to stop comparing yourself to others.
2. Being your own worst critic:
Did you know that about 80% of people report not liking themselves? Often, the number one reason you may not have the best relationship with yourself is that you are your worst critic.
No one judges you as harshly as you judge yourself. No one is watching over your every move as diligently as you do. We see this at our therapy practice in Woodland Hills when people struggle with anxiety, depression, or codependency and do not treat themselves kindly and fairly. This self-criticism may have started when you were very young. The people who raised and/or mentored you might have had very high expectations, you may have participated in competitive activities like sports or performance, or you may have experienced sibling rivalry.
The way to combat this rampant self-criticism is to have compassion for yourself. Self-compassion isn’t about pretending that everything is perfect; in fact, it’s the opposite. In showing yourself compassion, you accept that things won’t always be exactly as you might choose for them to be ideally. You make space for errors, missteps, and setbacks.
To begin this process, you might feel silly at first. This is because self-compassion often requires a lot of vulnerability and gentleness, which can be uncomfortable. Many of the affirmations that will benefit you will line up with those that would encourage and support a small child. As adults, we tend to expect ourselves to be “beyond childhood things,” but that isn’t always the healthiest mindset. There is no reason why you can’t benefit from the same affirmations that a child would like to hear. If your issues with perfectionism began in childhood, you might need to go back and re-parent yourself in some way. This may include speaking to yourself the way you would speak to any child you care about now. “I did my best,” “Progress is progress,” “I deserve to rest and relax,” “I am not in competition with anyone,” “I have strengths and weaknesses like anyone else,” and on and on. They are simple phrases but not simple concepts. These ideas give you permission to be a human being, which means you are not perfect and will never be perfect. All you can strive to be is true to yourself, compassionate to yourself and others, self-aware, and mindful.
Whatever it is that you see as your failing or failings, chances are they are issues that are very personal to you. But they might also be things that feel personal but wouldn’t be if you took a step back and looked at your values. Part of self-compassion work involves figuring out your highest values and prioritizing your efforts based on that. For example, if you are being hard on yourself about how well you are doing at work but realize your values don’t align with your work, you might see why you struggle to achieve what you feel you “should” be achieving. This doesn’t mean you’re in a position to up and quit your job, nor does it mean that now you should just not try to do strong work. But it might shift your perspective about how and why you are so invested in being the best at something that doesn’t ultimately matter to you. What is missing in your life that you are using work to bolster or replace? What values are you unable to fulfill that make perfectionism at work an easy distraction? How can you find a way to honor those values?
3. Worrying about the past or the future:
It is impossible to leave the past behind when you are constantly thinking about it. And because we cannot change the past, we end up ruminating and replaying our mistakes over and over again. Similarly, when we worry about the future, we spend our energy needlessly; we cannot know what the future holds, so worrying about it is pointless. This doesn’t stop us, however. If our misstep was especially hard to deal with, or the stakes for the future are especially high, it is natural for us to expend our energy there.
To combat this, practice being in the present moment. This can be uncomfortable when the present moment isn’t pleasant, but it gets easier with practice. Try to accept the present moment non-judgmentally. Notice it, but do your best not to attach a moral value to it or begin to spiral in thoughts about what the possible repercussions might be or past times when you experienced something similar.
Utilize your senses to stay present. Take deep breaths to connect with your body. Allow your body to send you signals: are you holding tension anywhere? Are you hungry or thirsty? What can you do to make yourself more comfortable? What are your senses telling you? What do you see, smell, and hear? Can you touch anything to the ground and/or comfort yourself, like a solid piece of furniture or a soft item of clothing? As you use your senses to attach yourself to the present moment, remind yourself of where you are and what you are experiencing.
You may find that narrating to yourself helps. “I am in my vehicle. I can feel the steering wheel in my hands. I cannot do anything about the traffic. I can see the sun shining. I will get there when I get there.” In this scenario, you might want to turn the music up or change the song to give yourself something else to focus on.
It can be beneficial to have a consistent mindfulness practice. This may include guided meditations, journaling, and affirmations. As with anything, the more something is a habit, the easier it is to access. This is why it is important to practice mindfulness even when you are feeling emotionally regulated. The “muscle memory” will make it easier to utilize your mindfulness when you are in a state of stress or anxiety.
All of these tactics come down to treating yourself kindly and gently. We get so caught up in the pressures all around us that we convince ourselves that that is the only way to be successful
and to feel content. In actuality, because every one of us has different goals, priorities, needs, and boundaries, we should only be listening to ourselves. What is most important in our hearts should be the most important thing we focus on. What we really want to achieve should be our number one goal. We cannot live for others and expect to feel like our authentic selves. In 2023, leave the comparison, self-criticism, ruminating, and worrying behind. Embrace who you truly are, what you truly desire, and how you’re going to get there.
Anxiety treatment in Woodland Hills, CA is a personal time for you to work on having a better relationship with yourself, your feelings, and your ideal life. We offer individual, couple’s, or group therapy for adults at Embracing You Therapy.
Contact us today for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation with our Client Care Coordinators!
Meanwhile, check out our blog library for more readings on anxiety therapy!
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