Resolutions, I’ve decided, are for the young, those who still believe in the power of will and determination. I, on the other hand, am approaching the latter part of middle age and beginning a journey more clearly defined by acceptance and contentment. There are many nice things about growing old like grandchildren, having more money, and eating ice cream for dinner. But the nicest part is self-awareness. As a young woman I struggled with self-acceptance, more specifically, feelings of being inadequate and inferior. So, January meant a new beginning, a chance to make everything that was wrong with me, right!
As one year would end and another begin, I’d determine to become a better version of myself. The season was a reminder that I was not good enough; not thin enough; not healthy enough; not spiritual enough; not giving enough, not reading enough, not productive enough. Would I ever be enough?
Probably not. But, as I’ve grown older, I’m learning to be ok with that. I prefer now to resolve each year to accept my failures and affirm my successes. I want to recognize my individuality as a strength and stop trying to be something I’m not. I want to determine to love myself in my natural state.
However, this isn’t any easy task, far harder than any of the resolutions I’ve ever made in my lifetime. Even as an older, wiser woman I wrestle with the distorted values engrained in me as a child. Beliefs that lay hidden in my unconscious psyche often emerge to impair my progress and serve as constant subtle reminders that “I’ll never be good enough”.
Everyone has their own journey to self-acceptance. Mine has been impacted by a belief that I must fit into a mold sculpted by the society in which I grew up. My interpretation of that mold and my ability to fit into it has defined me in part. The unspoken assumption that torments me is this image of the perfect woman, physically attractive and appealing to men, intellectually stimulating but not overpowering, nurturing, and devoted to husband and family. Couple that with the latent expectations for a “Godly woman” in my Christian circles and I never seem to measure up.
Unfortunately, I’m confident I’m not alone in this struggle. Many women, like me, view themselves from the gaze of a man. We are programed as little girls by media to determine our self-worth based on the appeal we have from a man’s point of view. And those who have broken through the self-imposed barriers of being objectified, often determine their value based on how they are perceived by other women. Few of us accept ourselves as worthy in our authentic state. We try to become what we perceive as the desirable version of ourselves, striving to be better moms, better professionals, better lovers.
Weary of the inner turmoil and constant re-imagining of myself, I’ve finally determined to evolve into the best version of my authentic self. The evolution begins with putting resolutions to rest and learning to love the good, the bad and the ugly parts of myself.
This new year instead of resolving to lose weight, exercise more, pray more or even spend more time with my family, I’ll acknowledge my failures and give myself permission to let them go. I’ll admit my disappointments and view them as a normal part of life. I’ll forgive myself when I feel inadequate and find joy in my humanity.
My goal for this new year will be to find the courage to let go of self-imposed personal expectations that crush my self-worth and leave me in a perpetual state of unworthiness. I will strive to be the best version of myself using the gifts that God has given me to love others and make a difference when I can. I will embrace life and enjoy each moment I’m given without self-analyzation and focusing on how I could have done better.
Resolving to embrace who I am and what brings me joy is life giving. It seems to be a natural part of growing old but a truth that can be learned at a much younger age. I wish I had found the freedom to love myself when I was younger. I used to think I had to make resolutions like joining a fitness club and work out every other day. Now, I enjoy long walks in my neighborhood and hiking adventures. I used to think I had to cook every night. Now, I enjoy ordering pre-made healthy meals and having them delivered or finding a favorite restaurant to frequent. I used to think I needed to read more, now I listen to books while I’m driving or taking a walk. I used to think I needed lots of friends and many social engagements. Now, I invest in a few and enjoy nights at home watching a good movie.
There is freedom found in putting resolutions to rest and leaning into self-acceptance. A freedom that can provide peace to a mother who already carries the weight of managing a household, the emotions of children and the demands of day-to-day life. Women by nature or by learned behavior compare, evaluate, analyze, and pronounce judgement on themselves too often minimizing our uniqueness and individuality. Before you set your new year goals, commit to letting go of unrealistic images and lofty expectations. Give yourself the gift of self-acceptance.