Saturday, 15 January 2011

Accidental Resolution

I didn't intend to make any New Year's resolutions this year.

In my young adult life, I made the conventional kind of resolution - eat healthier food, take more exercise, become a tidy person overnight - and, like most people, I dropped them in the first few days of January. As I hit middle age, I got better at the whole resolution thing. Mostly I stopped making resolutions, and when I did, I made only resolutions that I could keep and which would improve my life.

I remember two in particular. The first was that for a whole year I wouldn't buy any black clothes (not including underwear). This came about because I opened my wardrobe one day and realised it looked like a funeral outfitters, and around the same time I realised black didn't suit me as well as it had when I was younger. I had fun changing my shopping habits, and by the end of the year my wardrobe looked like a rainbow.

My second, and best, resolution was to take a sensible amount of time off from work. This came after years of building my own business, doing postgraduate study, and working through most weekends and holidays. I decided I would take weekends off unless I had an urgent deadline, and that four weeks' holiday a year would be 'a sensible amount'. This resolution saved me from becoming a complete workaholic.

This year I didn't have anything in mind, but in the first few days of January a resolution crept up on me. I'm not entirely sure why, or where it came from, but I'm loving it. And here it is: I resolve to be easier on myself.

I'm a great one for internal self-criticism. If I want to spend Saturday morning in bed with a novel, there's a little voice which says things like, 'You shouldn't be so self-indulgent, what about all the housework, and you haven't phoned your mum in ages, what makes you think you have the right to lie around reading novels?' If I fancy a glass of wine on a weekday evening, the voice pipes up again: 'You have no self-control, you lush, you know you shouldn't, it's bad and wrong, and what's more you'll be an alcoholic any minute and then where will you be?'

This year, I plan to give up destructive self-criticism. And so far, it's working, mainly because I've stopped listening to the little voice (which, frankly, after all these years, can sod right off). I'm not planning to give up the constructive kind, because I don't intend to lose my self-discipline - I need that as a writer and as a self-employed person - but I'm learning to tell the difference between self-discipline and self-flagellation.

My new mantra is 'I can if I want to', which sounds rather Violet Elizabeth Bott, but I'm finding it helpful in working out what I really do want rather than arguing with myself. After all, I'm mostly quite nice to other people, so I don't see why I shouldn't be nice to me.


Bernadette said...

Sounds like a good plan to me!

womagwriter said...

That's an excellent resolution, and I can certainly vouch for it, having made the same one myself last year.

I'd had a tough time at the end of 2009 and knew there'd be tough times in 2010 (mother-nursing and work deadlines) so resolving to make no further demands on myself seemed like a good idea, and it was.

Except that I put on several kilos through eating too much chocolate and drinking too much wine, as the usual self-restraint was overruled by the resolution!

Debs Carr said...

What a brilliant idea, and one that I'm going to follow too.

Alice Turing said...

It's a marvellous resolution, well done you! And it's a little like a resolution which has similarly crept up on me. I don't generally bother with resolutions any more because they are always trite, never kept, and mostly just excuses to berate oneself.

But this year it just so happens that I had a major wake-up call via a singularly disastrous and traumatic day at work last week, after which I realised that my negative and self-critical thoughts had reached such a level that they were in danger of destroying my life. So I have been practising positivity and optimism.

This was not a luxury, it was a necessity. The alternative was that I lived in a state of permanent anxiety, created by catastrophic thoughts, and meaning that I couldn't function in any useful sense.

In the space of a week, by countering negative thoughts with positive ones via a constant internal dialogue which at its simplest went "I can't do this" "Yes I can. I can, I can I can. I can do it. I can do it. I can do it"... I have become a different person.

I highly recommend.

Gemma Noon said...

I think that's a fab resolution, and one I could do with following myself. Seriously, I'd punch anyone who spoke to me the way I spoke to myself... but I think that's (sadly) true of most of us.

HelenMHunt said...

You are absolutely lovely to other people, so definitely should be so to yourself x

Jenny Beattie said...

I could learn a lot from this. And Alice is right: I can do this; Yes I can. Yes. I. Can.

Thank you.

Karen said...

That's a very good resolution and one we should all make. Women seem to be their own harshest critics when it comes to lazing around!

St Jude said...

Like you I've spent far too much of my life being self critical and listening to the little voice. For me it was a stroke in September that gave me a new little voice. I spent all of Sunday morning this weekend in bed reading the paper and eating toast. Ok so I spent Sunday afternoon trying to get the crumbs out of the bed. but hey ho!!

Leigh Russell said...

It's a question of balance, but you have a duty to yourself as well as to others, and you have to look after yourself. Good resolution!

Jen said...

It's a very grown-up thing, I think, to be kind to ourselves.

There's a line from Friends when Phoebe is asked to do something-or-other... 'I would,' she replies, 'but I don't want to.'

Too much time is spent beating ourselves up and doing unnecessary things. Your plan sounds very good indeed.

Pat said...

I don't think you would ever lose your self discipline and I think taking it a little easier on yourself is a good thing and sound sense.
One of the better things about getting older is acquiring the ability to relax into life.

Talli Roland said...

I love that mantra! In fact, I might just borrow it. :)

Anonymous said...

Excellent! And you are VERY nice to other people.