Leftovers: Resolute self-awareness

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Haven’t we all made brutal, self-sabotaging New Year’s resolutions? And haven’t we done it year after year after year? It’s painful just to think about them, much less consider them again.

I’m not referencing the kind where we look inward and vow to do and be better to others and our planet. That’s a perpetual, day-to-day goal in progress. I mean the resolutions that become unrealistic because of the fine print we attach to them, either literally or figuratively. Like signing an annual gym membership contract for $10 a month…but only going there three times. Or, like joining a book club and finding excuses not to read the book even though you championed that very title. I could go on, but these are examples of well intended resolutions gone awry. They keep good therapists in business all year long.

Natalie Haberman-LaddThe reasons why resolutions can set us up for everything from minor self-scolding to advanced self-loathing are plentiful, but I’ll leave that to the aforementioned professionals. I’m more interested in identifying resolutions that enable me to feel better about myself. And to stop citing the same stuff everyone else cites. I don’t need to listen to another self-help podcast (although I am not above learning new things) or put stock in someone else’s journey. The greater lessons may be universal but it’s still someone else’s journey. 

Instead, I’m taking a radical approach to resolutions this year. I’m going to look at a few things about myself that bug me and figure out how to either accept them as part of my charm or become more conscious of them. When I encounter them, I’ll mentally take note and react accordingly. Afterwards, I’m going to reward myself in some small manner to reinforce that awareness.

fluffernutter fudge from Old Port Candy Co.
Fluffernutter fudge from Old Port Candy Co. tops the list of positive reinforcement for Natalie’s new approach to 2023 New Year’s resolutions. (Courtesy of Old Port Candy Co.)

Doesn’t that sound so much better than telling yourself how bad, wrong or (insert negativity here) you are? And, did you notice there isn’t one peep about anyone else or their reaction to you? It’s more than okay to be self-ish here. 

Sharing the top three things that bug me about myself would be TMI. Instead I’ll share three rewards I plan to give myself for positive reinforcement when gently confronting those pesky bugs. 

  • One of the best things about being an adult is eating whatever I want whenever I want it. But I’m taking it a step further and putting a chunk of fluffernutter fudge from Old Port Candy Co. on Fore Street on my rewards checklist. That confection has changed my life. 
  • I’m tired of balancing “age-appropriate apparel” with fun and funky items I really want to wear. And, just because I’ve embraced my now-silver curls doesn’t mean I can’t channel my inner-Cindi Lauper with a royal blue streak. It could happen.
  • As much as I want to try it, pilates intimidates me. So instead of jumping in, I’m going to take an introductory first-class-free offer someplace. Maybe I’ll be able to make use of the new gym stuff I used three times. 

The percentage of Americans who routinely make resolutions but don’t stick to them is dismal, but reporting those statistics in this pro-positivity column would be counterproductive. After all, why focus on what goes wrong with resolutions instead of thinking of other ways to approach yourself? Perhaps a reward system doesn’t motivate you like it does me, but the way we’ve been doing this resolution thing just hasn’t panned out. And that’s because even tiny degrees of self-acceptance aren’t part of the assignment.

Maybe 2023 is the year to ditch New Year’s resolutions altogether. Or to look at them with a radical perspective. Or to crank up Lizzo and make self-acceptance resolutions in the most self-ish way imaginable. It has to be better than watching ten self-sabotaging dollars disappear from your checking account each month. 

Natalie Haberman Ladd is an award-winning columnist, freelance writer, and Portland restaurant veteran. She loves Boston sports, California cabernets, and has never sampled a cheese she didn’t like. Reach her at [email protected].

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