A few days ago, I posted the above photo of a magazine cover on my Facebook page. My comment accompanying the photo was “I detest headlines like this. What’s wrong with the old me?” The photo elicited an interesting discussion about whether or not we should strive to become “new versions of ourselves”.
I’d like to explain myself further because I think this is important.
You don’t need to become a new you.
You are already the exact version of you that you should be.
Especially at this time of year, when the weight-loss and self-help marketers are trying to sell you something to start the year off “right”, you’re going to hear and see a lot of advertising that will try to convince you that you’re not good enough as you are, that you really need to change something about yourself before you’ll be loveable, that you need to be thinner before people will value you, that you need to stop smoking if you want to have any friends, that you need to wear the right clothes before anyone will notice you, etc., etc.
Don’t believe them. You are loveable just as you are. You were created to be a masterpiece-in-progress NOT a do-over.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not opposed to self improvement and personal growth – if I were, I’d have to get rid of half the books on my bookshelves and quit doing much of my work. I’m committed to personal growth as a lifelong journey and I believe that investment in self-discovery and growth is worthwhile. BUT… I AM opposed to any kind of marketing that tries to tell you that you need to start over again and be someone you never were before.
That kind of marketing tries to sell you something based on your shame stories and the only thing they do successfully is to add to your shame stories. They want you to believe that you are not loveable unless you change something about yourself.
“The strategy of ‘shame’ is one of the most powerful marketing tools in modern times. Fear of being judged by our peers has led to billions of dollars of products being sold.”
The problem is, if you change something about yourself based solely on the “I’m not loveable” storyline in your head, there’s a good chance you’ll end up in a worse place than you started. If you’re only loveable once you lose 50 pounds, then if you fail, you’ll heap even more of the “I’m definitely not loveable because now I’m both overweight AND a failure” shame on your head, and there’s a good chance you’ll soon weigh even more than before.
The only way to make healthy change in your life is if you start with love.
You have to change the storyline to “I can love myself NOW because I am already loveable. I may not be perfect, but my Creator didn’t make a mistake when I was made. I am worthy. Just as I am.”
You have to change your motivation to “I am loveable and worthy and BECAUSE I LOVE MYSELF and trust that God loves me, I want to invest in continued growth.”
I know it’s not easy, if you’ve had an unloveable storyline playing in your head ever since your impressionable pre-teen years, to switch to a “loveable just as I am” storyline. If you really want to make a difference in your life, though, THAT’S the place where you need to invest your energy first before you buy any more weight-loss programs or self-help books.
I’m not suggesting that you become narcissistic or self-centred. I’m simply suggesting that you extend compassion and acceptance to your beautiful, flawed, wounded, unique self before you can find healing or begin to grow.
Start by going inward. Remind yourself of what your passions are, what you hunger for, what you love to do, what you’re good at, and what things make you come alive. Go back to the beginning – to what you remember about yourself as a child. What was your core beauty, right from the start, before you started to believe the lies the media fed you? Who are you when you’re at your most authentic, wild-hearted self? Who is the beautiful you at the centre when the layers of shame get peeled way?
Start by loving the person you always were and always will be. Start by forgiving yourself for carrying the shame stories and letting yourself be convinced you’re not good enough.
Start with love. THAT’s the way to get the new year off to a good start.
One other thing… Here’s something that I’ve been reminded of lately – the same goes for your relationships. If you really want to impact change in your relationships or community, you have to start from a place of unconditional love. You can’t start from the belief that “he/she must change before I can love them” or you will only create more conflict. Start by offering love and acceptance, without any strings attached.
Only in a field of love will anyone (you or the people you love) find the conditions they need to grow and change.