So you have made it through the stress of the holidays with the best mental health possible. The new year is upon us again. Some see this as a “fresh start,” making tons of resolutions in the interest of being the best possible version of ourselves: more fit, more successful, more likable, sexier. Some may see the new year and groan, thinking “here we go again, different year, same bullshit.” Still, others may enter the new year all YOLO, ready for the next adventure. Look forward to a new year with new views in 2022.
The point here is that everyone has different feelings toward 2022, what it will bring, and what they can do with it. I have a different way of looking at the new year. This year, beyond resolutions, pessimism, optimism, or adventures, we must, not just for the year, but every day for years to come, gain a greater acceptance of ourselves, neurotypical or neurodiverse. New year, new views, starting in 2022.
Resolutions Are Agents of Failure
I hate to break it to you, but resolutions set you up for failure and produce a more negative image of yourself, which is typically a bold-faced lie. You may resolve to go to the gym every day or lose 10 pounds. You may resolve to stop smoking or read more books.
The thing about resolutions is that they are ideas and actions you think you need but mostly that you very much want. I say “think” because if you really wanted to better yourself, your best bet is to start now, not just on this day of days that ultimately means nothing but a new work calendar. Maybe this new calendar will have flowers on it this time. One year, work issued to me a plain old desk calendar. No pizazz whatsoever. Confirmation that my workplace was where my soul went to die. Dicks.
I digress. How can we resolve to be “better” when we do not, first, accept ourselves? I believe that resolutions fail so epically because most of us are so focused on who we want to be instead of accepting ourselves as we are. With mental illness, self-acceptance is particularly difficult. Everyday seemingly simple things can suck the life out of you. You may be in the “new year, same bull” boat. I know I have been in previous years. ‘Round about February for the last 3 years I go careening into a psychosis. Let me tell you, that is a hard thing to accept about myself.
New View: But last year…
Last year, however, was the first year I made no resolution. I only decided to work on, not just accepting, but radically accepting who I am, including what I could potentially go through.
If you are one that suffers from a psychiatric disorder, then you probably get why just accepting that is a more than daunting task. Hell, you can’t even think straight, may have delusions, hear voices, and hardly know what’s real anymore. So how does one accept this? You accept it by being in it. Acknowledging where you are in it, be it in a psychosis, on the severe end, or in a rough spot in a relationship or at work. It is all part of accepting facets of who you are little by little.
Self-Improvement is still OK
So far you may be thinking I’m a bit of a negative Nancy. Like “gawd who pissed in your champagne?” I promise I’m not just negative, and I am 99.9 percent positive that no one has peed in any of my drinks. I don’t know, I’m always kind of paranoid so who knows. Everything has tasted fine thus far. Oh no. I’m not going down that rabbit hole in the middle of my post.
ANYWAY, the real point that I am attempting to make is even though you may not resolve to go to the gym, run that marathon, or prove to yourself that you can go without mental breakdowns, you can choose to better yourself. You can start today and celebrate on January 1st, accepting yourself first. If you get to the gym and run that marathon and find coping mechanisms that make you mentally stable, good for you!
You must remember self-improvement comes from a place of self-acceptance. If you are trying to lose those 10 pounds so you can call yourself perfect or try to deny your mental illness in the interest of seeking normalcy, you have not accepted yourself. And with the attitude of always being just so far away from the person you have always wanted; you will never be satisfied.
When you accept your curves, accept your natural levels of energy, or accept your diagnosis and the symptoms that come with it, you can move on to a more fulfilling year. That’s what the aim is. A year of fulfilment and reasonable self-improvement, not of the disappointment that inevitably comes when you have set unrealistic goals.
Surrender to the Process
For me, I have had to surrender the fact that sometimes I fall ill, be it depressive episodes, mania, anxiety, or full-blown psychotic episodes. I have learned how to love and treat myself better. In treating myself well again, I lived a better life in 2021, even through an enduring psychosis. There is no reason not to continue to aim for self-improvement through self-acceptance in 2022.
I have read a quote in a million places that asserts, “the only constant in life is change.” Change can come at a moment’s notice or slowly over time. Either way, a full year will have some change. Surrendering to the process of who you are becoming and how you deal with things can help you get through difficult changes. That can mean accepting that you do not deal well with said change and finding ways to cope more positively. This type of surrender can and will make you more adaptable and more flexible. With flexibility of character comes a great deal of peace when you can take what comes at you and face it from new and varying perspectives.
Ditch the Toxic Positivity
Optimism and positivity can be wonderful qualities to have. To be able to see the silver lining or the brighter side of things is a gift. Unfortunately, positivity can turn toxic when you respond to stress and discomfort by using shallow and false reassurances like “good vibes only,” instead of approaching the issue with empathy and compassion.
You can be waiting for that promotion and look at the positives of your interview, be confident that it went well. Toxic positivity does not allow space for the possibility of failure. And if failure occurs, you may not be able to handle the weight of it because you cannot give yourself a break with self-compassion.
Old View: The Toxic Approach…
In the same way, some approach the new year with that good vibes only attitude. Here’s the rub with that attitude: the word “only” is an absolute term, like never or always. Only suggests that when you cannot muster good vibes, you must be falling short. There must be something wrong with you. This is the kind of lie that makes toxic positivity so, well, toxic. It does not allow you to approach yourself, your successes, and your failures with the same level of empathy.
When you succeed you give yourself all the kudos, you feel the good feelings that come with it. With toxic positivity, small failures deny that empathy and you begin to look down on yourself in relation to others. The truth is you are the same wonderful person regardless of material achievement when you allow self-compassion to enter your being. That means allowing space for some of the uncomfortable stuff too.
In moving into the new year, it will serve you well to ditch the “only way is up” and “everything is going to be ok” attitude. Leave space for your failures as much as your successes to grow in understanding and accepting of yourself. Otherwise, you may stagnate in the puddle of misery you find yourself in when toxic positivity doesn’t pull through. Spoiler alert: it often doesn’t. I find this especially true when I try to push out the reality of my mental illness and replace It with good vibes. Meditation and walks in the sunshine don’t do it for all of us. Sometimes we just need to accept and be empathetic toward ourselves even if we must rely on medication or therapy to keep us going.
Acceptance and Being Gentle with Ourselves
A new view is that I find the most positive approach to life is to proceed with something I like to call “cautious optimism.” If it happens the way I want it to, great! If it doesn’t, at least I have allotted space to be gentle with myself. We can be our own biggest critics. I know I am. When I perceive failure in myself, I give myself some serious mental beatings.
Allow yourself a safe space to grow and change as the year wears on. If you are struggling with a mental illness, grant yourself the grace you so often grant others. Allow yourself to have the down days and consider it part of the process. This is not only for people with mental illnesses. Everyone has struggles so remember to treat yourself with love and compassion.
Instead of a Resolution, Find a Theme
Last year I gave up resolutions as I referenced earlier in this post. Instead, I adopted a theme that was, and will be this year, radical self-acceptance. I decided that instead of actively doing something like working out or doing more therapy (which I end up doing anyway,) that I would try my best to accept everything that I am. And I mean EVERYTHING.
I accepted, maybe for the first time (which may be a surprise,) that I have a mental illness. I welcomed that I may be on medication for the rest of my life. I acknowledged the psychosis that came and endured. I am not saying that this acceptance was easy or came without self-judgments, but it helped me face life head-on, having a better understanding of who I am.
I encourage you to find a theme as well and ditch the static resolution. Maybe this year’s theme is kindness. Perhaps simplicity. Whatever the theme, it can become a way of life, not something you succeed or fail at, but only grow and learn from. By the end of the year, growth and knowledge are invaluable to further accepting oneself and being able to make healthy changes.
New Year’s resolutions are a fun tradition and ideal, but they are ultimately toxic. They trap you into a black-and-white world of either failure or success. The truth is, there is so much in-between. In choosing self-acceptance and living a theme, we are aiming to become the best version of ourselves, whatever that may look like.
Making resolutions puts you in a box of your own making. It can limit your growth and diminish your sense of self when the only two outcomes are failure and success. You will find that it is totally OK to seek self-improvement from a place of self-acceptance. It is best to do so being kind and gentle with yourself as you learn, change, and grow. So ditch the toxic positivity and focus on being the best you that you can be. Pick a theme for the year and live it, be it.
Resolutions are all about doing. But here’s a secret: we are human beings, not human doings. Breathe in the new year and all that it has to offer, not just what you want to take from it.
Have a safe and happy new year, loves. I’ll write you again in 2022