Self-Acceptance Must Come Before Change

th-1Sick of making New Year’s resolutions only to forget what they were a month down the road? Why is it that we start the year with all good intentions to get organized, lose weight, be a better parent, relax more, join that gym, etc. only to once again fail so we can beat ourselves up and tell self-deprecating jokes about that resolution that never came to pass?

The reason is because we set ourselves goals rather than taking a hard look below to see what we need in order to do what we want. Goals are external motives and work only as long as our internal intentions are connected to the goals. As the saying goes, our hearts must be in it. But it’s not really our hearts that drive our follow-through. It’s what lies in our unconscious—what we really believe about ourselves, and what accomplishing that goal would really mean.

Dr. Michael Bader of the Institute for Change said in his article on Huffington Post, “The reason that New Year’s resolutions don’t work is that we have unconscious resolutions not to change. For every conscious resolution to lose weight, stop drinking, save money, call your Mom more often, control your temper, or finish that project, there are unconscious commitments to keep things exactly the way they are.”

You might even be unconsciously afraid of meeting your goals or expectations if it means moving out of your comfort zone or fearing you could hurt someone or leave someone behind. If you think you’ve got what it takes to do what you want, then you’re faced with having to do it.

Our highest aspirations are often undermined by the beliefs we hold in our unconscious that have roots in our childhoods and the messages we came to believe about ourselves and others. Those messages, if they are negative, keep us self-critical.

How often do you criticize yourself? How does it feel when you do? When you get down on yourself, don’t you find that you send that same energy out and get critical of those around you—and actually blame others for the way you feel? Children get that blame regularly and then learn to feel responsible for their parents feelings.

Does self-criticism ever motivate you to do better? Poor actions can work as wake-up calls, but for the most part when we get down on ourselves, we sabotage our intentions, become highly vulnerable to getting our buttons pushed, feel like failures, and go back to the stuck position that resolutions are meant to get us out of.

So instead of making New Year’s resolutions or setting arbitrary goals, work on self-acceptance. The truth is we must accept ourselves or at least certain aspects of ourselves before we can improve in that area. And that means saying to yourself, “I accept that I am feeling really down about my weight” or whatever you want to improve. Stay with the feelings instead of masking them with some form of distraction or a goal you will likely fall short of making. Once you can make peace with yourself, you are in a better place to choose what you want to do about it.


2 thoughts on “Self-Acceptance Must Come Before Change

  1. Bonnie, these are wonderful tips and I plan to add them to the ones I already have from you (which help my relationship with my daughter so much!). May I suggest an addition to #8 about expecting appreciation? You said, “your child hasn’t had another family to compare you to.” Foster kids HAVE had another family or families to compare a parent to, so perhaps noting that exception would help foster families feel more included. As the parent of an adopted child, I see assumptions like this everywhere, that all families are birth families, and they are not. (:

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