While I don’t remember the last time I made a new year’s resolution, I appreciate what they are and what they represent.
We love milestones.
We love new beginnings.
We love fresh starts.
For so many of us, though, these “fresh starts” fade away within weeks or months, and we return to our old patterns.
It’s a cliche in the fitness world that gyms are slammed for month of January, and then tend to thin out by the time February rolls around.
Why is this?
Why do so many people choose to improve their bodies – a wonderful goal, IMHO – at the beginning of the new year, only to quit shortly thereafter?
Why do we start and stop, every single year?
It’s not because our diet isn’t working.
It’s not because we aren’t seeing progress in the gym.
It’s not because we aren’t feeling any healthier.
Sure, these things may play a role in why we give up.
Nobody likes to put in the work, day in and day out, for nothing in return.
If the problem were our tactics or strategies, we’d simply change our approach and keep plowing away.
Yet we quit.
We call it a day, wait until the next year, and repeat the process.
Year in and year out, we make these resolutions.
Year in and year out, we throw in the towel.
Even when we do start seeing progress towards our goals, we often quit or put our resolutions on the back burner.
The thing is, the problem is rarely the diet, the workout program, or anything else that we are or aren’t “doing”.
The reason we give up is because, deep down inside, we don’t think we’re worth the effort.
We don’t think we’re enough.
Our unhappiness with our bodies is often only a reflection of our unhappiness with ourselves, and we will lose enough weight, drop enough sizes, or build enough physical strength to love ourselves.
Changing your size or shape will never be “enough” because they aren’t the problem.
This isn’t about your weight.
This isn’t about your size.
This isn’t about your performance.
This isn’t about any of the things that we typically chase after, thinking we’ll have “made it” once we achieve them.
This isn’t about your career.
This isn’t about your friends list.
This isn’t about your bank account.
This isn’t about anything you own.
This isn’t about who you’re seeing, dating, or sleeping with.
This is about what’s going through your head.
This is about what you feel in your heart.
When there’s nobody else around, and it’s only you and your thoughts.
The real problem is you.
It’s yourself that you’re not happy with.
You don’t recognize your worth.
You don’t recognize that you’re already enough.
You don’t recognize that you’ve always been enough
You don’t recognize that you’re the only thing that will ever be enough.
If you don’t recognize your worth.
If you don’t recognize that you are already enough.
That’s where you need to focus your efforts this year.
Putting effort towards anything else without first understanding that you are already enough is like building a house on a foundation of sand.
Soon, it will all come crashing down.
Resolve to love yourself.
As you are.
That’s your resolution for 2019.
I understand that’s a tall order, and that building self-worth isn’t so straightforward.
I’ve been working on it for nearly a decade and am still putting a tremendous amount of effort into accepting that I am enough.
It’s really damn hard.
While I can’t tell you everything you might need to do to restore or build your sense of self-worth, and what one person needs to do will vary from what another person needs to do, I can share with you a few things that have helped me along the way.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these five steps should help you get on your way towards finally finding that satisfaction – that peace – you’ve been so desperately chasing.
1. Give thanks.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting more for yourself.
There’s nothing wrong with seeking continuous improvement.
However, it’s important to acknowledge the ways you’ve already been blessed.
Somebody, somewhere, would kill to be in your shoes for one reason or another.
Find something – anything – and say “thank you”.
Your biggest bang for your buck in terms of building self-worth will be to find something about yourself – maybe your favorite physical trait, a skill you have, or an aspect of your personality – to be thankful for.
If you’re not there yet, though, that’s totally cool.
Some of us just can’t think of anything about ourselves that we like.
If that’s the case, you can look for something else.
It doesn’t have to be anything major, either.
Maybe you’re grateful that you have access to clean water.
Maybe you’re grateful that you have a bed to sleep in.
Maybe you’re grateful that you have food in your refrigerator.
These are all things we can take for granted so easily, yet somebody somewhere would give everything to have.
You don’t have to thank God, the universe, or anything or anybody in particular.
You can if you want to, of course, but if not, you can just take a step back and say “I’m grateful for this” to nobody but yourself.
You might be surprised at just how big of an impact saying “thanks” will have on your quality of life.
Even if this step doesn’t directly improve your sense of self-worth, it will at least improve your outlook on life while you put in the work elsewhere.
2. Give back.
One of the most effective ways to remind ourselves of what we’re worth, and to make our own lives better, is to make somebody else’s life better.
This might even be considered to go hand-in-hand with practicing gratitude.
We use your own blessings to provide blessings for somebody else.
Find an opportunity to volunteer.
Help a friend move to a new place.
Take on a mentee at work.
Give regularly to your favorite charity.
Find some way to make somebody else’s life just a little bit easier.
Find something bigger than yourself to contribute to.
Even a small effort on your part can mean the world to whoever you are helping.
3. Connect with others.
It’s counter-intuitive that, in a world in which we’re all so “connected” with our devices, we’re becoming more and more isolated.
It’s this isolation, however, that I think is at the root of why so many of us feel empty.
Unfortunately, a pattern of isolation can be one of the most difficult to break.
Not only do we have other commitments that preclude social interaction, but putting ourselves out there can seem daunting, especially for those of us who are more introverted in the first place.
It’s worth the effort, though.
Call an old friend to just hear their voice.
Better yet, Skype or Facetime them to see their face.
Even texting a family member to check up on them can be a great start, if that’s all you’re comfortable with right now.
Ask a coworker about something completely unrelated to work.
Make eye contact with and thank a cashier.
Smile and say “hello” to a stranger.
The only way to have a friend is to be one.
Even the smallest steps to connect with others can help break a cycle of isolation.
4. Work towards something.
There’s a certain satisfaction that comes along with getting better at something.
It’s why people put so much time, energy, and effort into hobbies like wood working, knitting, playing a musical instrument, or taking classes for no reason other than to learn.
As a matter of fact, it’s one of the primary benefits to lifting weights, running, or taking up other quantifiable fitness endeavors.
Sure, out offers the physiological benefits that improve how we look and feel, but training also offers us the opportunity to better ourselves.
It offers the opportunity to learn a new movement, perfect it, load it, and get stronger or faster.
We don’t just build physical strength and stamina, but strength stamina that carry into other areas of life.
Learning to push through physical challenges helps us build the grit required to push through mental and emotional challenges.
It’s been said that fitness is that gateway drug to self-improvement.
I can’t disagree.
While I’m using this as an opportunity to pitch physical fitness, you can choose anything that requires continued improvement.
Learning and honing a skill is a fantastic way to bring some meaning to one’s life and building a sense of self-worth.
5. Find (and learn to love) “you”.
Practicing gratitude, finding ways to contribute, connecting with others, and building new skills can do wonders for one’s sense of self-worth, or at least one’s quality of life.
Yet, often, they aren’t enough.
In many cases, they might even serve only as distractions from the emptiness we feel when we’re all alone, with nothing but our thoughts and feelings.
These things, while they can bring meaning to our lives, still don’t define us.
What if, all of a sudden, all of your friends, your job, your family, your home, your money, and your possessions were taken from you?
What if they all just disappeared?
Who’s the person you are when everything else is removed?
Who are you?
What are your beliefs?
What are your values?
What are your goals?
Separate from everybody and everything else?
These are the answers you need to find and make peace with.
If you’re not happy with the answers, work on them until you are.
This will likely mean letting go of some serious baggage.
You may need to let some people go.
You may need to forgive some people.
You likely need to forgive yourself.
This isn’t about making any grand outward gesture, or reaching out to those you’ve wronged (unless, of course, you think that’s necessary).
This is about letting go for yourself, and nobody else.
Strip away the layers of pain, guilt, and shame you’re using to beat yourself up.
Strip away the layers of fear, anger, and hate you’re using to protect yourself from others.
Strip it all away until you find your most basic self.
The self that you understand makes mistakes.
The self that you know is imperfect.
The self that you know can heal.
The self that you know can love.
Get to know that person.
Learn to love that person.
In the end, they’re all that you’ve got.
They’re the one thing that can never be taken from you.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take steps to improve your eating habits, be more physically active, or improve your body.
Those are worthy efforts.
However, if you aren’t doing these things because you love yourself – if you’re doing these things because you hate yourself – you have other work to do.
You’ll never “fix” a body you hate, and your unhappiness with your body is likely a reflection of your unhappiness with yourself.
Changing how you view yourself on the inside is infinitely more difficult than changing how your view yourself on the outside.
But you’re worth the effort.
If you find that hard to believe, it’s even more important that you take these steps.
Put in the work.
You’re worth it.
You’ve always been enough.
You’ll always be enough.
Do the work.
You’ve got this.