by Justin Standfield
It’s the first day of another new year tomorrow and a lot of us will be talking a pretty big game around this point on the calendar. You know the sort of thing: variations on the theme that 2020 will be the year we will do more, be better and somehow morph into the person we feel we deserve to be. This is the year we will shed that excess weight. This is the year we drink less and exercise more. This is the year we finally achieve work-life balance, overhaul our finances, cut out carbs and stop putting our dreams at the bottom of our to-do list. Incidentally, I read in a psychology blog recently that 12th January is apparently the date we’ll jump ship and go back to being the exact same person we were when the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve (I’d better make a note in my diary).
For many of us, January’s expectations sit somewhat heavily – looking forward and back at all that could’ve been, should’ve been, might’ve been… and might still be, if only we could change. And of course we must change because, well it’s that ‘New Year, New You’ thing, right?
This January we’ve decided to abandon the ‘New Year, New You’ slogan at Incendo; even though it’s a January hashtag we’ve used with relish in previous years on social media, I’m starting to wonder if it’s actually a bit of a con. Despite its positive intent, the ‘New Year, New You’ idea implies that there’s something wrong with the old you. You’re not thin enough, rich enough, attractive enough, relaxed enough, woke enough (but, if you just lose a stone, buy this iPhone, sign up to the latest bootcamp, or order these incredibly cool running shoes, you could be). Worst case scenario, it can even capitalise on the most damaging of human emotions – shame.
Whether it is trying to be healthier, getting fit, finding order in a busy world or just learning to treat ourselves a little bit more kindly, sometimes we do all need a guiding hand. Perhaps you’re hoping to be more organised, take on a new project, focus more on your mental wellbeing or simply take a leap into the unknown career-wise. There are certainly lots of offers of help out there to choose from (some of them provided by us here at Incendo, of course, such as coaching).
However, amid all the self-improvement clamour it’s worth remembering that true, meaningful progress is a measure of increments over a lifetime, not an overnight transformation that we can ascribe to a single day. As compelling as the image might be, you don’t actually have to be reborn like a phoenix rising from the ashes this January. You don’t have to suddenly have everything worked out in 2019 or never make a mistake again. As Jill Stark (author of ‘Happy Never After: Why The Happiness Fairytale Is Driving Us Mad’) puts it: “I’m flawed and there are things I could improve, but I’m not broken because of my imperfections. I’m a survivor.”
For me, this is about self-acceptance.
Many scholars have argued that self-acceptance is the cornerstone of psychological wellbeing; it’s no surprise, then, that it shows up in Incendo’s mindfulness workshops and leadership development programmes. Studies have also found links between low self-acceptance and depression and anxiety, negative body image, and the onset and maintenance of eating disorders and obesity. Research has shown that while self-acceptance is one of our most powerful wellbeing habits, it’s actually the habit that we tend to practise the least – especially around this time of year.
Here at Incendo we believe that self-acceptance is so important that we’ll be running more of our ‘Developing Self Acceptance’ workshops across the country in 2020, which explore topics such as self-worth, esteem, mindfulness, stress reduction, positive psychology, confidence and resilience. Among other things, the focus of ‘Developing Self Acceptance’ is on enabling participants to:
- identify symptoms and consequences of conditional self-worth;
- learn about ways to develop a more compassionate and accepting stance towards themselves;
- learn why they shouldn’t strive for self-esteem;
- gain insight into different types of motivation for self-improvement;
- discover how some personal improvement interventions can reduce rather than enhance self-acceptance.
Feedback from the events in 2019 tells us that I’m confident that this workshop provides participants with everything they need to support their journey towards self-acceptance. We’ll initially be running the workshop at locations in London, Birmingham, Surrey and Edinburgh, and more information/dates will be available shortly. In the meantime, if this is an area that interests you, please get in touch here.
I wish you a very happy year ahead in 2020.