By Alex Cohen
While doing yoga one morning on vacation, my instructor asked me to set an intention for my practice. She noted that we all tend to be hard on ourselves and judge others harshly, and shared some words of wisdom, “Live in the moment and ground yourself onto the earth to find that connection between body and spirit.”
It’s the beginning of January, and I’m guessing that right now many of you are thinking about your New Year’s resolutions – intentions you might have made for the New Year. No matter what those resolutions are, I want to offer one piece of advice – keep them simple and keep them realistic.
I personally have never made New Year’s resolutions. My life is about hitting the reset button many times throughout the year. Things change, people come in and out of our lives, we fall in love, we fall out of love, we gain weight, we lose weight, we make money, we lose money, and life goes on…
We are hard on ourselves all year. We set our expectations early-on and then get frustrated with ourselves when we don’t satisfy them. Yet we continue to make these New Year’s resolutions over and over again, thinking maybe this time, we will succeed. What is it about the start of a new year that makes us want to fix ourselves?
Instead of waiting until the beginning of the year to try to make our lives better, why don’t we practice more self-love and acceptance all year-long? Why don’t we check in with ourselves at the end of every month, every week, or even every day? Why should we wait for a year of disillusionment to go by before we try to make things better for ourselves?
When I was just 16 and a young, impressionable, figure-skater, my coach told me that I was too heavy to ever skate professionally – I had very large, muscular legs and was cursed with a very large behind (though these days many consider that a blessing). I tried everything to lose weight, but nothing worked. So I started skipping meals, and quickly, the weight started to come off. Everyone started to comment on my weight loss and tell me how good I looked – so I eventually stopped eating altogether. I was five-feet tall and starved myself down to 87 pounds. My friends and family started telling me I was too thin, but I doubted them. I thought, “is it even possible to be ‘too thin’?” By the time I was 18, I was anorexic, and when I looked in the mirror the only thing I saw was that fat girl staring back at me. I stopped getting my period, lost some of my hair, was always dizzy, and had a constant headache. I finally went to see a doctor who recommended I see a therapist.
I have spent many years of my life learning how to accept myself for who I am – shortcomings and all. I chose a number that made me comfortable and I weighed myself every day to make sure I was keeping up my end of the bargain. I became responsible for myself.
As you can imagine – after five children, lots of fun travel, amazing experiences, and delicious food – that number has changed over the years. These days I have the opposite problem; I am trying to keep that number down – not up. But now I accept the body I have, I love my curves and bumps and scars, they’re a map of my life and experiences. My greatest joy – after my husband and my children – is food. I love it, I respect it, and I crave it.
I tell you this because self-acceptance is a lesson I learned the hard way. To each one of you who is searching for something you do not have and are hoping to find in your resolution, my advice to you is this: take a good hard look at yourself and your life more than once a year. If you want to lose weight, be realistic. Do it slowly – maybe find someone who can help you stay on track and, in doing so, create a bond with each other and enjoy the journey. Instead of making things a burden, make them a joy. Want to find love? Find it in yourself first – the rest will follow. With self-love comes self-acceptance, with self-acceptance comes confidence, and with confidence comes so many possibilities for a life you never imagined.
We need to stop beating ourselves up for who we are not and start loving and accepting ourselves for who we are. No one is perfect – how boring would life be if anyone was? Use your mirror, not to find things you don’t like about yourself, but to search for all the things that are great about you. They are there – you just have to look hard enough to see them.
I rarely wear makeup; I wear what I want, I go where I want, and surround myself with positive people who don’t worry about other peoples’ opinions. My life is mine and mine alone, and I must live it the best way possible for me. This is the gift I choose to leave my children – live your own life to the fullest and be the person you were meant to be no matter what others may think of your choices. You have one life (at a time anyway) – make the most of it.
My advice to you this January 2016 is to make a resolution that connects you to this world in a more realistic manner. Accept yourself – and when you strive to be perfect, turn that around and choose to be happy and healthy in body and mind instead. Open your heart to many more possibilities and stop comparing your body, face, closets, wallets and lives to others… You are special, you are unique, you are you. Be the best YOU that you can be.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” -Hunter S. Thompson