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  • Writer's pictureCaitlin Lagnese

New Year, Better You

Welcome to 2022 friends! We should all pat ourselves on the back for making it though another year navigating the murky waters of Covid. What a year it has been. I am not quite sure if 2021 was much better than 2020, although it was nice being able to get back out into the world again. But we cannot dismiss the heartache, loneliness and illness endured over this past year. I’m sure this pandemic and current political division have affected us all in some way. It’s easy to feel lost and hopeless in it all. Doesn’t it feel like we take a huge step forward only to take a few steps back? Maybe it’s because of the chaotic world we live in or perhaps it’s just life experience, but I am definitely walking into this new year a little differently.

I don’t know about you but typically around this time of year I get a little goal happy and set some rather lofty goals: wake up at 6 a.m. every morning, write in my gratitude journal for the next 365 days, make homemade lunchables with organic meat and cheese, volunteer as much as humanly possible for my kid’s schools, attend church every single Sunday, start making crafty birthday cards for family and friends, do my hair and makeup on the regular, wear actual pants, cut out sugar and processed foods, eat 6 servings of vegetables a day, and get into hip-shaking Shakira shape by March. The list goes on. 👏🏻 EVERY 👏🏻 SINGLE 👏🏻 YEAR I do this. I’m sure I’m not alone. A new year signifies new beginnings and second chances. We see the new year as an opportunity to be everything we were not the previous year, a chance to accomplish goals we did not reach. While this thinking isn’t completely harmful, I do think it can become problematic for those of us who struggle with mental health. Due to my OCD and low-level manic tendencies, each year I set myself up for failure. The amount of stress and pressure I put on myself to make each year the “best one yet” is exhausting. I find most of my new year goals to be impractical. Homemade lunchables, really? Never touching an ounce of sugar again? These habits and goals most certainly do not spark joy for me. If anything they spark a mental breakdown come February. Truthfully, most of my new year goals are driven by “self-help gurus” and my unwavering desire to be superwoman, whoever she is.

So here is a radical idea. What if instead of the “new year, new you” approach, we change it to “new year, better you?” Because ultimately we cannot change what a new year brings. Most of us can’t predict the future either. While we cannot always control what life brings us, we can control our reactions to it. We can always work on self-betterment and making the world around us better. Instead of making these big changes all at once, I want to make small and gradual changes that I can actually sustain. For instance, to get my body back to healthy this year (I blame Covid 😂) I am going to start drinking more water and move my body more. In the past I would crash diet and restrict my food. This would inevitably lead to a binge. So often we jump into something impulsively without a real plan in place. We want instant success and gratification. I have often been told that real and lasting change takes consistency. The more unrealistic our goals are, the harder it will be to remain consistent.

With all this said, I am now ready to proclaim my one main goal for this year. Yes, you read that correctly: ONE goal. My practical goal for 2022 is to be more mindful regarding my tendency to need to control everything. This doesn’t mean I won’t continue to create appropriate boundaries and work on my people-pleasing. I am acknowledging that I am responsible for my life and my reactions, not those of others. This means becoming less instructive in other’s lives and emotions. If you haven’t gathered yet, I am a bit of a control freak. I tend to over insert myself into situations, trying to control the emotions of those around me. Why? Oh because I will go to great lengths to avoid discomfort and confrontation, even if the discomfort and confrontation have absolutely nothing to do with me. The thought of my loved ones being in pain or crisis brings me extreme anxiety. In my OCD brain, if I can just somehow help out and take control of the situation, I can take away the pain, take away the bad habits or addictions, take away the unpleasant emotions. But who is that serving? Typically it only leaves me feeling disappointed and the other person feeling frustrated that I won’t leave well enough alone. I’ve said it many times, not every battle is ours to fight. Growth tends to happen through experience and adversity. We are doing our loved ones a disservice by micromanaging their problems and emotions.

Control is something I talk a lot about in my posts. It’s something I address often in therapy too. I’m fairly confident I have uncovered why I am a control freak. There are two reasons. First reason: watching someone struggle is hard; sitting on the sidelines while someone is at war is extremely difficult. We want to help, we want to make it better. But once again I am reminded that there was a time I was caught in the crossfires and no matter how many people tried to rescue me, it was ultimately me that had to do the work to make it back home safe. Let me not forget to mention too that focusing on someone else’s problems is a great distraction from my problems and worries. I will gladly volunteer to sit with you in your pain and misery. But do I ever ask anyone to sit with me in my hardship? Of course not. Is it because of my pride? Is it my ego? Is it because I don’t want to bother or inconvenience anyone? Letting go of my control will help me break down these walls.

My kids are another reason I want to work on creating these proper boundaries. How will my kids learn to fight their own battles and therefore grow emotionally if I never let them go to battle? How will my kids learn to adult if I swoop them up every time they fall? Sure kids need guidance and rules to follow, but they do not need a micromanager managing their every move. As a parent myself I know firsthand how tricky this can be, but I am hellbent on letting my kids learn by experience and face their problems head on. Mommy solving everything for them only sets them up for poor coping mechanisms down the road.

The second reason I struggle with control stems from one of my biggest emotional triggers, feeling misunderstood. Feeling misunderstood tends to come from people pleasing and playing out old patterns. It also stems from my own perceptions of the world around me as well the many stigmas that surround mental illness. I am overly self-aware. I can read a room and channel almost everyone’s feelings. The problem here is I am subconsciously internalizing feelings that are not mine. I also fall down a hole of self-explanation if I know someone is thinking or feeling a certain way about me that isn’t true. At the end of the day I know I don’t owe anyone an explanation for my choices. I don’t owe an explanation for my mistakes and shortcomings. I don’t owe an explanation of my morals, beliefs, or mental health status. But the very second I begin to feel even the slightest bit misunderstood, I spiral. I hate watching a lie creep to the surface about me or my loved ones. And the thing is, I am not a confrontational person. I don’t like to rock the boat. Nasty rumors being spread is one thing, but just knowing someone has the wrong impression of me doesn’t really warrant an argument or fight because it doesn’t matter or change the outcome of my life. It’s really more of a me problem, my own insecurity. What I have learned through my own work and healing is that WE CANNOT CONTROL what others think, feel, or say. Quite frankly it’s none of our business. At the end of the day when all is said and done, it truly doesn’t matter. What matters is the truth. What matters is who we are and how we treat others. Actions will always speak louder than words.

So how do I achieve this goal? It’s going take a lot of therapy, a lot of Jesus, and a lot of grace and intention work. It won’t be easy; however, it’s not impossible. I’ve already done so much work on myself over the years. While this will be challenging, it won’t be the hardest thing I have ever worked on. This goal is 100% attainable and will help me in so many other areas of my life. I need to stop being so busy and diverting attention away from my crap. I need to learn to sit in the discomfort and work through it. I really need to practice what I preach, huh? Easier said than done BUT self-awareness is the key to success. I have a practical plan and I am ready to go!

I would love to know what your 2022 looks like. What are some of your New Years resolutions and goals? Do you too feel a lot of pressure around this time of year? I am so glad to be back here and can’t wait to see what this year brings. I believe ditching many of the unrealistic resolutions and goals is a great start! Let’s all grow together my friends!

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