Play to your strengths in 2019

As we meander towards 2019, thoughts may be turning towards new resolutions. You may, like me, be ruminating on 2018 (where did THAT go?! Seriously!)

I used to dread the new year. I would compare myself to others who had accomplished so much and castigate myself for failing to achieve what I’d vowed I would 12 months earlier.

I would resolve to be more disciplined although inevitably I’d make more sweeping resolutions (‘be a size 10 with a thigh gap!’ ‘Be nice at ALL times!’ ‘travel more!’ ‘worry less!’). They would last, oooh, about a week.

I was a nightmare. The problem was that I was making resolutions from a place in my mind that was rife with anxiety and had little grounding in reality.

They were about me trying not to be me.

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While I had this existential crisis on a yearly loop, frittering energy away on what I hadn’t done, I failed to recognise my achievements and robbed myself of the endorphin-buzz of self-satisfaction and increased self-worth.

December 2013 was a turning point. I’d had a difficult 18 months emotionally and mentally. I’d come out of a long-term relationship, relocated, changed jobs and suffered a nervous breakdown.

I was vulnerable, exhausted, unsure of who the hell I was and whether I wanted to keep going.

Writing soothed me and helped to unpick the befuddlement inside my head.

I scribbled ferociously; writing down dreams, thoughts and insight I’d gained in understanding myself through counselling. My entry dated 30 December 2013 starts ‘I had the worse setback yesterday but it was only by talking about it and writing it here now that it reinforces so many things which I know to be true’.

Then, I listed those ‘true’ things – that is, achievements I’d made outside of the ridiculous resolutions and what I believed were (and still are) my strengths.

This habit, carried out during the lull between Christmas and New Year, has stayed with me since. I sit down and reflect on the successes and setbacks of the year gone, sketch out my ambitions for the forthcoming 12 months and make plans structured around myself, my career and my relationships.

Gone are insurmountable statements about thigh gaps, now replaced by realistic goals with less focus on the aesthetic and more on personal fulfilment.

I always try to hold tightly onto my core principles. As long as I do that, my approach to life will be from the right place (positive, realistic, proactive) and I stand the best chance of being happy.

I’m more secure in setting out my strengths. I do still struggle sometimes, it’s not easy to say what they are without wondering if you’re being vainglorious. I find it interesting to note the shaky, hesitant tone in the language I used in my 2013 journal entry – ‘I can sometimes be good company’, ‘I think have done fairly well in my career so far’ – which sums up just how crummy I felt about myself.

I’ve substituted the ‘be nice always’ declaration for time with people who bring out the best in me and ditching those who don’t. (Being nice always is a ridiculous notion unless, of course, you are a saint. Or an angel).

One book, The Chimp Paradox by Prof Steve Peters, has helped me immeasurably. It offers effective ways to develop and change your thinking. Prof Peters, a consultant psychiatrist, says: “Happy people learn to become their own biggest fan and accept themselves as they are and support themselves.”

He’s right. No one can take your strengths away from you so hold them close and treasure them. Basically, fan-girl hard on yourself. Unequivocally.

Over the next couple of days I’ll be paying more attention to how I’d like my 2019 to shape up. New year, new you? Rubbish! Keep yourself awesome with a few tweaks.

I want to keep being someone family and friends want to spend time with. I want to run strong and lift heavy. I want to continue living a life free from alcohol. I want to develop my career and improve my photography skills. I want to visit York and lose myself in its history and narrow alleyways.

Mostly, I want to be an improved version of myself (absolutely no thigh-gap and no f*cks given for lack of it).

What about you?

“A year from now you may wish you had started today” – Karen Lamb, Canadian author.

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