Stop Making Resolutions that Leave You Disappointed
Six ways to be a firm but loving parent to yourself
Posted Dec 28, 2017
An ambitious, overachieving client of mine often berates herself when she doesn’t meet all her goals for the week, even when she encounters setbacks beyond her control. Although I counsel her to be gentle with herself, she worries that cutting herself slack is just an excuse for not doing enough.
It’s an understandable concern, especially in the new year, when people feel a call to make meaningful changes in the areas of their life where they feel dissatisfied—perhaps their diet, work, relationships, or living situation. Yet, while some believe that mental self-flagellation will spur them into action, it usually leaves them feeling zapped of the precious energy needed to push forward.
That’s why every new year’s aspiration should also accompany a resolution to be gentler with ourselves, especially when progress doesn’t happen on our timetable. The question, of course, is how do we discipline ourselves without becoming our own worst enemies? And how do we be kind to ourselves without lapsing into complacency?
The key, I think, is to become a firm but loving parent… to yourself. Each of us has a voice inside our head that motivates, disciplines and rewards us for good behavior. The source of this voice can often be traced back to our parents or caregivers - either because we internalized their standards of performance or rebelled against them.
Imagine that you could record that voice and play it back to yourself. Would you sound like a firm but loving parent or a tiger mother? If the latter, here are some universally recognized good parenting practices you can try applying to yourself. By treating yourself the way you wish you had been treated by your parents (or aspire to treat your children) you can strike a balance between discipline and compassion.
1) Recognize small accomplishments: A firm, loving parent recognizes the small victories. So give yourself mental gold stars for the baby steps you make towards achieving your greater goals.
2) Be Encouraging: A good parent provides comfort and encouragement to keep their children moving forward, even in the face of obstacles. So when the going gets tough, play inspiring music, find a positive affirmation, or call a friend who’s always cheering for you.
3) Regard Yourself with Unconditional Love: A good parents sees the best in the children and is forgiving of their human foibles. Commit to be kind and loving to yourself no matter what. Did you meet your goals? Great. Celebrate your successes. But if you miss the mark, as people often do, remind yourself that you are still loveable.
4) Practice Patience: Change takes times. Sometimes we expect change to happen faster than it actually does. Giving time for events to naturally unfold can help us stay on track without getting discouraged.
5) Establish Accountability: Set realistic, achievable goals and check in with yourself regularly to see if you are meeting them. If not, try to figure out what got in the way and make adjustments. When you slip up, or get sidetrack, acknowledge your missteps without lapsin into self recrimination. Once you’ve reflected on where you went wrong, rededicate yourself to your task, resolving to do things better this time around.
6) Be Flexible: Sometimes, we need to adapt our goals as new situations arise. If your approach isn’t working, try a different approach.
If your inner tiger mother refuses to step back, ask that part what it fears would happen if it wasn't pushing you so hard to achieve? Is it afraid you might not be admired or loved? In such case, try to send your inner child some TLC, letting it know you will love her or him no matter what, with or without the achievements. Because that is what a good parent does.