Haven't we all seen that phrase somewhere in recent weeks? The classic New Year's call for self improvement and re-creation. This and similar phrases are used by gyms, fitness centers, life coaches, personal organizers, diet/weight loss groups, spas, hairdressers, and so many more venues, and all for the same purpose. These kindly organizations want to be there for you and me, and help us be the best we can be, right?
Wrong. They want to help themselves to our wallets. Mind you, many of them do have honest, positive motivations as well and do actually want to help others, but what about the message that they send, especially when it's one that is so heavily backed with marketing dollars? Not to mention the whole "self-help" section of the bookstore that is ever-present but highlighted right now. Is there anything wrong with that message to improve one's self? Inherently, no, because as humans, most of us have at least some self doubts and confidence lows. The problem comes when we're bombarded by this message that we *need* to improve ourselves, offering solutions that are a small fortune with little to no evidence, and those offering solutions are bombarding us with false images with which to compare.
Surrounding us are images of not just models whose livelihood relies on being beautiful, but models whose beauty is often not even real, but airbrushed, Photoshopped, sculpted, and made up. And I'm sure that at this point in the game, you all know and understand this on the intellectual level. Of course, there's a big divide between our immediate reaction and what our brain tells us. That divide is often big enough for our wallet and their product to get through that gap, just in time for buyer's remorse to set in. I'm sure I'm not the only one who- in a moment of weakness- has added to their collection of diet cookbooks, exercise gadgets and videos, nutritional supplements, self help books, or make up products (pick your favorite poison).
Even if you feel comfortable in your skin and don't fall prey to bodily self-improvement methods, you've probably made some resolution about spending more time, being more patient, cooking healthier, cleaning better, or some other area where you aren't quite up to snuff. It's OK, we've all done it, and while we can all do a little better, it's also important to accept who we are. Last year I found out that I'm on the autism spectrum, and while I still try hard to not use that as a crutch of some sort, it's also given me (in my mind) a reason to not beat myself up when I don't quite fit in or don't quite understand someone.
Don't get me wrong, it's still frustrating when I just can't seem to coordinate with another person, but I don't take it as an inherent failure on my part. My brain says that I don't need this or any reason to not beat myself up, but my self says that a reason makes a big difference. I don't think I'm alone when I say that I tend to hold myself to a higher standard than I do others, and I find it much more simple to frame everything as "I should have..." or "Next time I'll..." which places the blame on myself instead of the other person. I'm not advocating that we start blaming everyone else for what we do, but be a little nicer to ourselves. Maybe chalk more things up to no fault, or simply an accident.
And yes, I've just become the the person I railed against at the beginning of this piece- telling you where you could improve. At least I'm not selling you anything, I suppose. As much as I generally try to avoid new year's resolutions, this year I'm making (a belated) one. In 2013, I resolve to be a little nicer to myself, because regardless of the multitude of memes declaring how our children/partner/relative/friend holds our heart, in all honesty we are the ones who hold our own heart. If we don't take care of that person holding our heart, how can we expect anyone else to do it for us? And how can we expect to care for someone else' heart if we can't care for our own?
Will you join me?