New Year, New You?

I’ve been enjoying a quiet Christmas and New Year. Happily not as quiet as last year, but enough so to be remarkable. It’s the time of year where we’re encouraged to ‘fill in the gaps’ in our calendars with acts of heroic self-flagellation. Resolutions to lose that, get better at this, achieve these and give up those.

So taken was I, with one of the many New Year articles I read over the weekend, that I wished to share an excerpt. I’ve always enjoyed the Rebecca Seal’s writing. Her podcast – The Solo Collective – is also fabulous, so more on that another time. Today, the section at the end of her article felt timely and relevant to our work.

“Approaching yourself with as much kindness as possible, with as much love as possible, is really, as far as I can see, our only choice, especially now,” says Jeffrey Marsh. Marsh is an activist whose life-affirming videos have been watched over a billion times, and author of the bestselling How to Be You, part memoir of growing up non-binary in rural Pennsylvania, part manifesto for global self-acceptance. “If you hate your guts into losing 20 pounds, will you end up 20 pounds lighter? Maybe, maybe not. But what you will have practised is hating your guts.”

How do we learn self-kindness? “To me, the essential question is: will I be able to be kind to myself? Self-hate is the engine that drives most people’s resolutions. It’s easy to say, ‘I’m going to lose 20 pounds.’ It is unfamiliar to say, ‘I’m going to deeply love myself, no matter what.’ It may be the hardest thing to learn in one’s lifetime, but it can also be the most loving, beautiful, fun and exciting process of one’s life.”

Self-compassion is not new. Most of us can relate to loving ourselves being a positive choice – one that improves the experience of those around us, too. But applying this to resolutions caught my attention.

A doughnut gaffer-taped to a cabbage
Images © Kellie French/The Guardian 2022

Because the new year so often dupes us into the mindset of needing to change ourselves for external factors. And at this time of year, a lot of effort goes into convincing us that these external factors are what really matter. That if we can only align ourselves with them, the world will see us differently and everything will come right.

The driving force behind that intention is so important. A desire to change ourselves out of a feeling of inadequacy can never be a self-interested choice. A lot of money goes into trying to convince us otherwise, of course, but it’s simply not possible. And whilst a lot of that is focussed around the start of the new year, that external pressure continues to be internalised without us evening knowing it.

Let’s think about speaking in this context. We’re here, together, because we’ve all had negative experiences of speaking up – whether it’s a speech that didn’t land, an interview that bombed, or a conversation that didn’t go to plan. So those experiences carry a lot of weight for us. Probably more than we consciously realise. Although our experiences are different, they’re all linked by a feeling of inadequacy driven by external events.

Many of us will have tried to change our speaking behaviour because of that very feeling. A breathing technique, copious preparation, practising with friends. All of them are useful tools. But when we use them because we don’t feel we’re enough, the effect cannot be transformational. This deep change can only happen when we approach this work from a place of self-love and compassion.

And that’s why I believe so deeply in the power of community. It brings us together to do this most challenging work. To witness and encourage; to champion and cheer. When we love ourselves as we do this work of self, it radiates out to everyone else here. Jeffrey Marsh puts it so beautifully above:

It may be the hardest thing to learn in one’s lifetime, but it can also be the most loving, beautiful, fun and exciting process of one’s life.

It’s going to be a great year. I’m so excited.

For me, for you, for us all.

Happy 2022.

If this has got you thinking about the way that you speak, we think you’ll love our approach at Join The Dialogue. We nourish the power of everyone to speak with confidence, to say what they mean, and to be more compassionate to themselves and their audience. It’s great fun and it becomes a way of life.

You can learn more and join us at Join The Dialogue.