February is the month we think not only of love and chocolate kisses, but of failure and flaws. Our own.
The first month of a new year has passed and most of us are no closer to meeting our goals, those pesky New Year’s resolutions, than we were 30 days ago.
Expectations are at a high at the beginning of a new year. Expectations of ourselves (thus resolutions), expectations of others (usually subconsciously), and expectations of life in general.
With all of the New Year’s hullabaloo, it’s easy to get caught up in the fervor. Our emotions kick into high gear and the next thing we know there’s a list in front of us the size of a novel.
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A fresh start is a beautiful thing. But it can be risky when we attempt to overhaul our lives while a bloated ball of lights sinks 70 feet in the final 60 seconds of one year ... and the first few seconds of the next year start ticking.
There’s a good chance your list looks similar to the rest of the world’s — get in shape, lose weight, eat healthy, save money, spend more time with family.
Don’t get me wrong. We need a shot of idealism to bring hope and motivation. But unless we add details as to how we are going to achieve them or what it looks like when we do, the prognosis isn’t good.
I should know. Whenever I’m sorting through old piles of paper, I see the same sick pattern.
“Be a better mom, be a better wife, get in shape, increase prayer time, read more books.”
No small steps to get me where I wanted to go and nothing to tell me when I had arrived.
My expectations of myself tend to lean toward perfection, so no matter what I did to get better at those things, it was never enough. And by the second month of the year, I felt like a loser.
Instead of a red “A” embroidered on my chest, I envisioned a big black “L” tattooed on my forehead.
Better. It seems like a good thing. Isn’t that what all of us should shoot for? Better mom, better at our jobs, better at cooking meals, better at not spending money, better at not letting the gas gauge run so close to “E,” better at not yelling at the kids while they do homework, and on and on and on.
We all do it. And it never has a happy ending. Because it will never be enough.
I think we try to fool ourselves by using a “positive” word like better. But better is like the wolf in grandma’s clothes that, from the outside it seems harmless, but really it wants to eat us alive.
What we mean by better most of the time is the highest level of better, which is perfection.
Dr. Brene Brown, author and research professor, writes in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, “Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal. Additionally, perfectionism is more about perception — we want to be perceived as perfect.”
And we need to stop.
For starters, we must think about what we want to add or subtract from our lives, not what others think we should.
Next, we need to include detailed steps for achieving our goals and what it will look like when we do.
Goals should be measureable, such as “I will work out twice a week at Kosama on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4:30” or “I will read a bedtime story to my kids two nights a week.”
Finally, when you fail, shake it off and give it another try. You’re in good company.
Next year, join me and add a disclaimer to making resolutions: This may result in adverse effects, such as anxiety, hyperventilating, low self-esteem, depression and multi-layered loser syndrome.
And then smile and forget about it.
Dawn M. North is a former teacher who studied journalism at the University of Kansas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.