Every year I consider making some New Years resolutions. Here’s my list for this year–“I am going to get in better shape”; “I am going to be kinder in my relationships”; “I am going to learn a new hobby.” While these are great and lofty goals, the potential cost of not meeting them could be devastating for me if I am not already accepting myself with quirks and all.
I am not suggesting that setting goals is bad thing. In fact, I believe quite the opposite. Goals usually come from some desire to improve yourself and/or life circumstances, and this desire is a healthy impulse. However, if you have a history of setting up goals and feeling like you have failed if you let them fall away or short of your ideals, perhaps it could be useful to look at what about yourself that you are currently not liking, not enjoying, or feeling deficient in? Do any of these hit a chord that brings up guilt, shame, or fear of failure? The unconscious has a way to work against your conscious wishes if your core (and often unconscious) belief is that you are not worthy of improving yourself.
One of the interventions that seems to help clients with discerning what if any goals they want to set is to help them decide if the goals come from a place of self-compassion. Self-compassion is a fairly simple idea, but it can be difficult to hold for ourselves. The basics of self-compassion is to turn your ability to empathize towards others to yourself. For many people, feeling warmth, compassion, and understanding for suffering of others comes naturally. However, turning this same warmth, compassion, and understanding when we are suffering may feel foreign, impossible, or dangerous. Our ‘inner critic’, perfectionism, and self-worth get in the way.
What would it be like to have a goal in the New Year of cultivating more self-compassion? While there are many self-help books, online resources, and practices that can help with this, a trained therapist can greatly help. Having another human with you on a regular basis to make space for this, provide some guidance, and hold compassion for you (when you may find it difficult) seems like a very kind act of self-care. I use a form of mindfulness-based counseling, called Hakomi, to help clients develop self-kindness, acceptance of their human imperfections, and awareness of their negative thought patterns. The process of Hakomi uses mindfulness to access core beliefs (such as self-worth), allows you to have a reparative experience (such as having a visceral/body experience of feeling worthy), and supports you being able to bring this reparative experience more into your everyday life. You can learn more about the services I offer or contact me for a free consultation to discuss how I can help you give yourself more self-compassion this year. I also highly recommend Dr. Kristin Neff’s website to learn more about self-compassion and for additional resources.
Stuart is a Registered Licensed Professional Counselor Intern in the state or Oregon. He works with individual adults, couples, and runs a men’s therapy group. He specializes in using mindfulness-based therapy to help people who are experiencing depression, grief, relational stress, trauma, and co-dependency. You can reach him by phone 971-266-1693. He provides free 30-minute consults either in person or on the phone.