As You Are
This is the time of year when many people feel drawn to plans for improving themselves and their lives (and maybe the lives of their loved ones, too!). It makes sense that as a new year begins, we feel a sense of possibility: we just left 2014 behind, and the arc of 2015 is not yet clear. It can seem like we have a chance to set the tone for our lives this year and to make a new start in areas that have felt challenging. And, it's true: we do have the chance to make fresh choices. We always have that opportunity, as long as we recognize it.
This can be a growthful impulse, yet it can also be a violent impulse if we turn on our current or pre-2015 life and see it as lacking or deficient. Sure, there may be habits that we wish we didn't have and ways that we want to commit to relating differently to ourselves, other people, or circumstances in our lives. However, to look back and put ourselves or our lives down does us a disservice. And it can perpetuate the idea that a perfect life is possible: if only we made the right choices, we wouldn't have to suffer; we could somehow be exempt from that aspect of the human experience.
If you have resolutions or intentions for changes you want to make in the new year, it may be helpful to tap into a sense of appreciation for your life as it is right now, too. As you set out on a path of creating new habits, being grounded in who you are can help you stay the course and remind you of the resources and strengths that you will draw on as you make new choices that may feel uncomfortable and/or unfamiliar.
At the same time, it may feel really challenging to even think about appreciating yourself and your life. If that is true for you, start by trying to acknowledge the people and beings in your life who support you in some way. These may be people you know very well, or they may be people you've never met ~ spiritual leaders, artists, musicians, writers, and/or public figures whose lives and work feel supportive to you. In some way, these beings are part of your life right now.
You can acknowledge and appreciate these people by writing your thoughts down, and you might share your appreciation with these folks, if you have a way of contacting them. It can be a vulnerable thing to do, yet it also can be deeply nourishing to all involved.
Or, see if there are things or experiences in your life that you appreciate that are completely unearned. For example, a few years ago, I had the experience of reaching toward an iris bud that was growing in my friend's backyard. Just as I touched the stem, the bud fell open and the flower revealed itself. It's a moment that felt totally unearned, and something I don't think I will ever forget. There was nothing I had done to deserve it; it felt like a true gift.
As for directly appreciating yourself. I realize that it may seem self-indulgent, or even impossible at first, but see if you can experiment it. Try writing down things that you acknowledge and appreciate about yourself and the way that you are navigating your life. This isn't about making things up or reaching for things to say that don't feel genuine. It's about finding ways to non-violently encourage yourself. Even just writing, "I'm willing to try to acknowledge and appreciate myself, even though it feels really uncomfortable and dumb." That would be a deeply honest practice of appreciating yourself as you are, right now.
I find that if we are able to appreciate our lives as they are, it's easier to return to the intentions we have for making changes, without abandoning ourselves.