Have you already begun to slip up on your New Year's resolutions? If you are sticking with them, congratulations! But if you've started to stray from your good intentions, don't beat yourself up. Many of us find that trying to give up old habits, or adopt a new one, is so difficult that we can't sustain it for more than a few days, let alone forever. This is a good opportunity to practice compassion with ourselves.
It's often more challenging to be kind to ourselves than others, even total strangers. We see firsthand the distance between where we want to be and where we are, and it feels like a chasm. We might tell a friend or a family member not to judge themselves for their cluttered closets or that extra 15 pounds, because they have many wonderful qualities that are far more important. At the same time, we have no problem judging ourselves. We accuse ourselves of being lazy, or weak, or selfish for not being perfect. And then sometimes we find ourselves lost even further in the behavior we wanted to change, whether it's our eating or our household chores or even catching ourselves gossiping. And so our self-loathing becomes a cycle from which we cannot emerge.
This kind of self-punishment is not just unkind to us: it actually reduces the stores of compassion we have for everyone. The harder we are on ourselves, the easier it becomes to treat others poorly, too. The guideposts we use for judging "good" and "bad"--and the ways we respond to the things we deem "bad"--shift, a millimeter at a time, into more radical negativity. If we want to be our best selves--our most kind, most generous, most loving selves--we must begin by deeply accepting and loving ourselves as we are at this very moment. Even the parts we don't like. Maybe especially the parts we don't like.
Show yourself the lovingkindness that you extend to others. And then don't be surprised if your capacity for kindness increases exponentially. Allow your compassion to begin with you.