Resolve to Love Yourself First
By Gina Lee
The New Year starts with the best intentions:
This year, I’m going to finally lose weight… stand up to my boss and ask for a raise…start eating better and take charge of my health…volunteer more…quit smoking…get out of debt…
Insert your resolution here. The basic premise of a resolution is clear: make a change to your habits or lifestyle that will be positive and healthy. Resolutions usually involve something with our external world and habits and we start off with the fresh energy and determination. We also attach unrealistic expectations by wanting to see results right away and we think that if we throw ourselves headlong into the new habit it will stick like going to the gym every day or quitting smoking cold-turkey, vowing not to eat ANYTHING that isn’t healthy, making lunch to bring to work every day to save money.
Why is it so hard to keep a resolution empowered and to make lasting positive change? Making resolutions are not the problem. Setting unrealistic expectations and attaching to specific results is.
Some of the problems with our common resolutions are that they are externally oriented, i.e. losing weight or making more money to get out of debt. The primary drive to do these things is superficial, “I want to look better” or “I want to save up enough money to go on vacation or buy a new car”. At first glance, these things seem like perfectly good goals but if you scratch the surface you will quickly come to the expectation attached, “If I lose weight I will look better and I will be happier.” “If I save money and get to go on vacation or buy that new car I will be happier.”
The assumption is that if we achieve these external goals we will be happier. The reality is that we need to face the question, “Would this external goal really make me happier in a permanent way?” The answer is no. It might make you happy for a little while, but it’s the fleeting kind of happiness that can be taken away as soon as you lose it or it changes in some way. The resolution is that we are seeking more happiness, not the external goal. What we really need to do is learn how to shift our perspective within ourselves rather than to seek happiness from external things.
Yoga teaches us that we can be happy in our life right now, exactly the way it is with the circumstances as they are. The practice of santosha (sahn-toe-shah translates to contentment) teaches us to be grateful and content with all of the things that we already have, to love our selves and our lives exactly where they are. It’s OK to have goals but we should not attach our happiness to them. We learn to embrace our flaws and the time that it takes to change because it is difficult to break bad habits and it requires compassion to forgive yourself if you lapse occasionally. The road to success is studded with potholes and occasionally we will trip up. The Warrior’s Path in yoga is to stumble, forgive yourself, and carry on, to pick up where you left off and to start again. You are lovable right now. You have everything you need to be happy. There is always something to be grateful for. You are enough. You have enough.
When you accept where you are with compassion you have more strength to make sustainable changes in realistic ways rather than burning out quickly. You will start to see that you have more strength than you realize and the healthy changes come easily because when you are whole you naturally make better choices. You stop self-medicating with eating, drinking, shopping or smoking when you are stressed, eating bad foods because you are lonely or bored. You choose to go to yoga class or to the gym because it makes you feel good, not because you’re punishing yourself for not being good enough.
Be happy today. Love yourself now. The rest is just icing on the cake of your life.