Tag: Life

Why Screwing Up Your New Year’s Resolutions Could Change Your Life for the Better

At the start of December 2015, I was preparing for my full transformation into an organized, energized achiever. The me I’d been my whole life—the woman who wore perpetually hot sauce-stained jeans and had developed a charming rash of unknown origin on her left ankle—would step aside, and let a kitten-heeled, Economist-reading, compost-making goddess take the reins. She’d be capable and organized, and I bet she could whip up a holistic remedy for that rash too.

I suspected that this transfer of power would be a hostile takeover, so I spent the better part of the month preparing myself for the challenge. I mapped out the life I wanted for myself, writing down more than 100 resolutions across fourteen categories. My goals ranged from the grandiose (write a memoir!) to the mundane (organize the apartment!).

In Google Drive, I created my own utopia, with pie charts to map my progress, a color-coded daily schedule, and fourteen folders full of possibilities. Go ahead, check out a few of my completely achievable life goals for 2015:

RESPONSIBLE LIVING

Screwing Up Resolutions Chart 1

1. Take an online class on sustainability.

2. Make my own toothpaste (cross-check with “Physical Self” folder for how many times per week you’re supposed to brush your teeth).

3. Start an online magazine about sustainable travel.

4. Figure out what sustainable travel actually is.

5. Make compost.

Dividing Line

PHYSICAL SELF

Screwing Up Resolutions Chart 2

1. Become a yoga teacher.

2. Go to yoga two times in a row without feeling like you’re dying.

3. Wear more red lipstick (cross-check with “Sustainability” folder for vegan makeup brands with recycled packaging).

4. Make your own clothes.

5. Find all the buttons missing from three of your coats (cross-check with “Home” folder for where the f*ck those buttons might be).

6. Learn how to sew on a button without massive blood loss.

Some of the resolutions were more poignant. Another folder was full of longing for closeness with my clan, which was—and remains—spread across three continents.

Dividing Line

FAMILY

Screwing Up Resolutions Chart 3

1. Call grandma in Russia once a week.

2. Take guitar lessons with Dad over Skype.

3. Plan a trip to see Cousin Anya in Amsterdam before she has the baby.

Dividing Line

With so many hours spent anticipating the enormous successes that were just around the corner, New Year’s Eve felt miraculous. “Bring it,” I whispered as the clock struck twelve. And the next morning, I got to work: I clung to my schedule, ticking off boxes of fulfilled obligations. My apartment was practically spotless, I went to yoga, I signed up for an online course entitled “Introduction to Sustainability,” I called my mom almost every day, and I started a new editing job. I even made my boyfriend breakfast, although it was admittedly a kind of pumpkin mush that he could only describe as “not soup.” The first few weeks were promising… at least on paper.

How I actually felt was a different story. Obsessing over getting through my daily to-do lists, I barely left my apartment. Unplanned meetings with friends or long meandering walks were out of the question. I called my grandma out of obligation, usually as I hurried to a yoga class. Keeping the apartment spotless left no time for lipstick or kitten heels. I was stressed and disconnected, feeling only the occasional jolt of relief when the day was over, never in the process of actually performing the tasks I’d decided were so important.

Week by week, I began to slide into a full-on, slow-motion resolutions failure. It was like tripping on the sidewalk, taking an embarrassing, wobbly five steps, then hitting the pavement full force. Within nine weeks, the pie charts and the schedule were abandoned. Yoga soon followed, as did the “Introduction to Sustainability” course, as well as any attempts at homemaking.

I’m still afraid that they don’t know the real me, and one day they’ll discover that the person they love is actually twelve weasels in a Masha costume.

Having invested so much time, energy, and hope into this transformation, I felt devastated and guilty. Why did sticking to my resolutions feel just as terrible as abandoning them? Why in the world was there no joy in becoming who I wanted to be?

In the many months since, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out why my plan failed so miserably. I read books like Anita Moorjani’s Dying To Be Me, Wayne Dyer’s Inspiration: Your Ultimate Calling, and poured over Louise Hay’s website. I also tried meditation, and while that usually just turned into naptime, it also gave me space for introspection. In the end, I learned that my color-coded schedule was jinxed from the get-go. Basically, if my gigantic Near Year’s Eve resolution had been a building, it would have been condemned before I lay down the first brick.

Screwing Up Resolutions Aside from the fact that my New Year’s resolutions actively violated laws of time and physics, my biggest obstacle was this: I believed that once I became a person worthy of accepting, then I would accept myself. It seems logical, but there’s a catch—if I believed that I didn’t deserve to feel good, then how could I ever feel good? If I didn’t matter, then nothing I did could matter, either.

Once I made this realization, I looked to see which of my resolutions were jeopardized by a lack of self-love. The answer was “many.” One of the most raw and painful realizations came when I looked at my relationships. My family has always been on my side, offering support and love no matter what was going on in my life. But I still don’t talk to them as often or as intimately as I want to. Why? Because I’m still afraid that they don’t know the real me, and one day they’ll discover that the person they love is actually twelve weasels in a Masha costume.

This imposter feeling has kept me from my friends too. I convinced myself they were better off without me, despite their loving emails and phone calls. The feeling kept me from pursuing my writing, from experimenting with photography, making collages out of tissue paper… and a million other things. And that feeling has been my companion for a very long time.

One thing I do love about myself is my resilience. Once I untangled the mess I had made of my resolutions, I came up with a new plan, a better plan, with just one resolution for 2017: accept my value as a human being, just the way I am.

Why did sticking to my resolutions feel just as terrible as abandoning them?

So how does one go about learning to accept herself? I had no f*cking idea, so I began by accepting my love for ticking off boxes and making lists. I swapped out my folders of cross-posted resolutions for a small notebook, where every day, I write down the things that made me feel good, self-loving actions that I took, and any evidence I found that the universe doesn’t hate me.

Sometimes it’s really easy fill in the blanks: a friend paying me a compliment, buying myself flowers, receiving praise at work. Other days, I really have to scrape the bottom of the barrel (“took a shower” has made it on the list a few times) but without fail, every time I add something to the list, I feel better.

I’ve made small shifts that feel big. I tossed a pair of boots that looked great but made me want to chop off my feet to stop the pain. I leave parties the second I’m bored, raising a few eyebrows in the process. I’ve started to open up to my family about my feelings of inadequacy. Sometimes the most loving thing I can do is turn down a fun offer because finishing my work feels better than playing hooky. Sometimes I blow off work for an afternoon cuddle with my boyfriend and our cat. Anytime a panicked voice screams, “But what about all the things!” I remind myself that as far as self-improvement goes, my only job is to do what feels good.

I’ve also stopped defending myself. A year ago, had my boyfriend made an accurate observation about me being messy, I would have made him sit through a presentation on why that’s simply not true. These days, I gleefully respond with a “yep!” as I fish cookie crumbs out of my bra. It’s incredibly liberating.

You might also like {{displayTitle}} READ

My coats are still buttonless, I’m still using store-bought toothpaste, and I have come to accept that I will simply never make compost. But I did do some amazing things this year: I visited my cousin in Amsterdam and got to see bright tulip fields from the air, and I started teaching a writing class that has brought me more joy than I could have imagined… plus, I finally figured out the cause of that rash on my ankle. Ironically, the culprit was the desk chair where I had spent weeks planning out all of my failed resolutions. I’d sat there the same way every day, with one leg tucked under me, my ankle rubbing against the chair’s edge day after day. In chasing down an idealized version of myself on paper, I had left my actual, imperfect, real self bruised and rash-covered. So I traded in the chair for a floor cushion, where I can sit cross-legged in front of a coffee table, a purring cat in my lap… and I feel so much better.

Greatist RSS

Life After GreatistYou: Catching Up With Our Contestants

Welcome to GreatistYou, a new social experiment where we see what happens when five people decide to change their health—and broadcast their journeys for everyone to see. Four goals, five contestants, and six weeks to crush said goals for the promise of a better life (oh, and $ 1,000!).

Can you believe it’s over? Watching our contestants get through six weeks of personal goal-crushing has been inspiring, fun, and informative. We’re proud of each and every one of them! Now it’s time for one final check-in to see how they’re doing.

  • Darby and Adrienne (@greatistdanda) are still feeling that sense of accomplishment that comes from running a six-plus-mile race like it’s nothin’ at all. They hope to keep up with their running routine, as well as all the other healthy habits they formed.
  • Brandon (@greatistbrandon) is trying to get back on track after a Panda Express run and a battle with his pants. Don’t let your pants tell you how to live, Brandon; show them who’s boss!
  • Jasmine (@greatistjasmine) is loving every minute of her post-Whole30 brunch. But she’s not straying too far from her new way of eating. Eggs and spinach over an English muffin is leaps and bounds better than, say, a big pile of syrup-soaked pancakes. Keep it up!
  • Regina (@greatistregina) is finally relaxing after beating people up last weekend. She’s long overdue for some rest, so we hope she spends the weekend chilling out with a Camelbak full of ice-cold white wine. Just kidding, you probably shouldn’t do that. Probably.

Finally…

  • Our beloved mentor, Jessi (@greatistmentor), came by Greatist HQ to chat with us about the first season. Check out the video to get her take on the competition.

Greatist RSS

Why We Screw Things Up When Life Is Good

No Regrets With Susie Moore Have you ever heard of the Oscar Curse? Neither had I until I read an article about how many actors’ careers are plagued after winning the golden statuette.

What!? Wouldn’t logic dictate otherwise? Curious, I Googled around and found many other articles, everywhere from Vogue to the New York Post, confirming this theory. (Halle Berry and Adrien Brody are two often-cited examples.) How can this be?

After more research, I made a connection to a popular self-help theory: Self-sabotage is most common when life is at its best. In The Big Leap, best-selling author Gay Hendricks calls this the “upper-limit problem.”

We do something—entirely subconsciously—that cools our bliss and halts our forward trajectory.

What this means is we only feel comfortable with things going really well in our lives for a certain period of time. When we hit our set threshold of happiness, something inside of us says, You don’t deserve to be this happy, and we do something—entirely subconsciously—that cools our bliss and halts our forward trajectory.

Here are a few common examples:

  • A successful entrepreneur sells a company at profit and then announces he’s getting a divorce.
  • A woman falls in love and gets married but experiences drama with family or close friends.
  • A politician finally hits career milestone and then binges on drugs or alcohol, or has an affair.

This isn’t intentional. Most people don’t mean to screw things up on purpose. But sometimes, our sneaky, fundamental human fears get in the way. Hendricks says this type of self-sabotage is rooted in four hidden barriers that prevent us from fully enjoying success.

  1. Feeling fundamentally flawed: This belief tells you to play it safe because you don’t deserve to be rich/happy/successful. This way, if you fail at something, you fail small.
  2. Disloyalty and abandonment: This belief prevents you from reaching your full potential because it causes you to feel disloyal to your roots. Guilt over leaving behind people from your past or—despite being successful—failing to meet the expectations of your parents causes you hit the brakes and hold yourself back.
  3. Believing success brings a bigger burden: Whenever you have a positive breakthrough, the feeling that your success is a burden upon others dampens it.
  4. The crime of outshining: This barrier is common among gifted and talented children and continues into adulthood. Innate skills are accompanied by a feeling of, “Don’t shine too much—you’ll make other people feel bad or look bad.”

Do any of these feel familiar? Do you ever experience guilt for “doing better” than your parents, outshining a sibling or friend, or feel scared when things are going too well because deep down you may not “deserve it”? Knowledge of these fundamental fears allows us to help release their power over us.

Woman On Cell Phone

Next time life is going swimmingly for you, but suddenly the upper-limit problem creeps up, ask yourself:

  • How am I getting in my own way right now?
  • How much love/success/happiness am I willing to let myself experience?
  • What harmful belief(s) can I release in this moment?

This theory of the upper-limit problem has manifested in my own life more than once (now that I am aware of it). When my business is going great, I realize that I tend to initiate fights with my husband. Whenever I get great news, I tend to overindulge—in partying, shopping, or eating sugary stuff.

Now, I’m able to recognize the feeling of This is too good to be true—it can’t last! and the inner pull to bring myself back to a familiar emotional set point of good instead of great. I try to identify my self-sabotaging tendencies as evidence of things going right, not wrong, in my life. This can provide a huge sense of relief!

Where can you increase your happiness tolerance right now? What part of your life can benefit from you kicking off the artificial lid of how good things can be? Understanding that we have limited ourselves can release a new energy in us. We view opportunities differently. We can see the present moment more clearly. We allow (and welcome) the flow of good feelings more fully.

Transcending your upper limits is possible. You can choose an upward spiral. Your very own big leap awaits.

Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Her new book, What If It Does Work Out?, is available on Amazon now. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!

Greatist RSS