January is the month everyone makes and breaks all kinds of promises to be better or do better one way or another in life. By February, you are probably close to giving up or already have. So I set up this series for this month instead of January to hopefully inspire you to keep on trying.
I often wonder why the majority of us seem to break the resolutions we make this time of year. I would like to propose that it all comes down to one word--WORTH. Most people think successfully keeping resolutions hinges on willpower. I have heard over and over again, "He just doesn't have enough willpower to stick it out," or "She just did not have the willpower to stay on the diet, so she started eating whatever she wanted again," and "It was too hard to keep it up," or "I set unrealistic goals that I could not possibly achieve." While all these things may sound reasonable, I still think it comes down to worth no matter what we resolve to change in our lives…and healthy self-worth begins in the mind.
So many of us begin each year determined to lose weight. We commit to eating better and working out, and sometimes set actual weigh loss goals. Our approaches differ, but the result we want is the same--to lose weight, be healthier, and look better. Based on my own experience I believe that if you do not feel that you are valuable, i.e. you don't have a healthy sense of self-worth as you are, then you are less likely to achieve new goals. We may not consciously say, "I'm not worthy of respect, or love or happiness, etc.," but underneath it all, that is the core belief reflected in our behavior. I know that every time I set myself up for a new diet or weight loss plan, I begin all full force, jumping in with both feet. I think, "This time, I will not fail." Did you catch that? Instead of telling myself, "This time I will succeed," I think, "This time I will not fail." I mentally set myself up for failure by focusing on the negative without even realizing it.
I believe negative feelings about our physical appearance, our sense of value to others (God included), and hidden sins or issues that have not been addressed in our lives all come together to undermine our sense of self-worth. As a result we shrink back from achieving our goals and we think we are unworthy of the time and effort it takes to stick to our resolutions. "I am so fat that nothing I do will really make a difference...I am not worth the time or money to join a gym or buy healthy food,” or "I can't work out in public because others will see me and think I look disgusting.” Any of these thoughts ever cross your mind? With this kind of sabotage running through our heads, is it any wonder that we don't achieve our goals?
I'd bet that a lot of you relate to this scenario. You start out with a comittment to eat better in the coming year. The next thing that happens is you get stressed out or have a bad day. You cheat once, so the day is blown. Why not cheat all day today and start fresh tomorrow? Then, we say, “I already ruined the week, I will start over next week." Finally, we just give up. Why do we do this to ourselves? Because deep down we do not think we are worth putting in the time and energy to truly change. We think in our hearts that no one really cares whether we change or not. Personally, I needed to lose so much weight I thought I would never get to a place where people would even notice. No one cares if I lose 10 or 20 pounds, it will only matter if I lose 200 pounds! What a daunting perspective. Add in the fact that I did not feel that I was worth spending time on, and I gave up over and over again.
How I feel about my physical appearance impacts my behavior more than I might think. If we feel we are in good shape, healthy and attractive we are more confident, which inspires us to pursue and achieve goals. I had to realize that changing my physical appearance needed to start in my heart and mind before it could happen in my body. I began to focus on physical changes that were meaningful and motivating to me, whether anyone else noticed or not. I had to get over looking gross to my neighbors and walk around my block. I needed to see changes for myself and then others would follow. Even if they didn’t, I could not base my progress on how many people said, "Are you losing weight? I can really see it in your face!" Most people mean well, but honestly, if they know you are dieting they usually try to say something they think will encourage you. After while the words can sound so pat that we don't accept them as truth. I can't tell you how many times I thought, “Oh yeah! My face looks thinner, runway here I come!"
Even before my surgery, I had to adjust my thinking to reflect that I am worth the money and the time it would take to get it done. I began to focus on physical changes that were small but noticeable, even if just to me. Things like wearing my husband's lounge pants, bending over to tie my shoes, getting up off the floor without needing to crawl to a wall or chair first for stability. These meant something to me and only me; they increased my worth in my own eyes.
Choosing to think positively about myself started a process of evaluating my feelings about how others see me. I wonder if, like I once did, you might harbor a bone deep belief that no one finds you to be a person of worth, for whatever reason. Childhood abandonment, abusive relationships, rejection from someone important in your life, or any of a thousand things can happen in our lives to make us feel unworthy of just being. If I think, "I have no one around that will care if I look better...It would be better for my family if I just died young--then they would not have to take care of me,” no matter the cause, the effect is that we subconsciously sabotage our efforts to achieve our goals. Weight and appearance can be altered, and those changes can be readily seen if they are drastic enough, but changing on the inside is much harder. You can be supermodel gorgeous to the world and fail in your attempts to change parts of your life because you feel unworthy. If you are struggling with worth issues, think about first changing how you see yourself.
Change is hard! I have spent 38 years trying to change and finally after trying and failing over and over again, I am successfully readjusting my thinking. I truly believe that I am a person of worth. I no longer just nod my head and pretend to agree with what others say—positively or negatively. I’m getting better at standing up for myself and saying, my time is important, and I need to make "me" a priority. I’ve begun to set small goals leading up to big ones, instead of focussing on the far away horizon and missing all the success mile markers along the way.
So I ask, what are your resolutions this year? What are some first steps you can take to change the way you see yourself? What can you do to realize your worth? Next post, we’ll talk about feeling unworthy of God's love.