There are tonnes memes floating around social media right now depicting a character at the “beginning of 2016” all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. That same image is contrasted with them at the “end of 2016”, looking haggard and miserable. Luckily, we get a chance to shed the insecurities and tired images of ourselves at the “end of 2016” and welcome 2017 with a fresh batch of optimism. Our success in the new year depends on it.
The benefits of optimism
At some point in your life you’ve probably been asked whether you’re a glass half full or half empty kind of person. I think a truer measure of optimism is if you’re able to see the glass as completely fillable; having the ability to see a situation that may not be ideal, and finding ways you can improve it.
According to researchers, optimistic people tend to attribute negative consequences as being caused by factors outside of themselves. They are hopeful that things will change for the better. In other words, if ‘the glass’ starts to leak and empty out, optimistic people don’t internalize the leak or take it too personally. Research also shows that optimistic people are not only are happier and less anxious, their optimism itself becomes a resource they can draw upon in times of difficulty.
The cycle of insecurity
As a teenager and young adult I struggled with severe acne. I was self-conscious about my appearance, worried about leaving the house without any concealer or foundation. I had tried all sorts of different treatments, and nothing ever really worked. One day, after much frustration, I just decided to stop worrying it. Instead, I decided to face the apparent scrutiny of the world head on, and walked around in my bare face with confidence, even if I didn’t feel confident. In fact, I eventually became optimistic about it, bragging about how I didn’t wear make-up on regular days. Over time my skin (which eventually started clearing up on its own!) was no longer a hindrance for me. Facing a difficult situation with optimism and confidence eventually made me feel less and less insecure about it.
According to Hobfall’s Conservation of Resources (COR) theory, feelings and thoughts of insecurity actually drain us of mental energy and bandwidth needed to improve our negative situation. For instance, feeling insecure and constantly worrying about your finances actually detracts from your capacity to come up with and execute on viable financial solutions. It’s a vicious cycle! In my case, stressing about my skin was only contributing to my acne problem.
Using optimism to combat insecurity
With a new year just around the corner, I’m in the thick of praying about and planning out my goals for 2017. In the past, I used to find this time of year so overwhelming and intimidating. I would just buckle under the pressure and ultimately make zero progress towards making any desired changes.
Now I’m choosing to evaluate and reflect on the past year with grace, find and focus on key areas that need improvement, and face the coming year with optimism, rather than fear. Starting from a place of fear and insecurity, doesn’t help much at all.
My personal goals for 2017
I believe that no matter what you want to accomplish, it’s important to surround yourself with people that not only encourage you when you’re down, but keep you accountable throughout the process. So, it’s with humility and hopefulness that I share my goals for 2017 with you, and I look forward to hearing what goals you hope to achieve this year.
1. Lose 30 lbs
Over the last year I have really neglected my health and fitness. The strain of my poor decisions has taken a toll on my confidence, self-esteem, and overall well-being. Working out and eating healthy is something I am going to put as a priority this year. Although I am intimidated about this part of life, I am hopeful that by investing the necessary time and effort I will see a change.
2. Build my company
I am currently working on a product that I am so passionate about. It’s something I am certain will help many people, and will be launching in September 2017. More on this in the coming months.
3. Make meaningful connections
I’ve been struggling about following people from the outer reaches of my life on social media. I find myself comparing my life with theirs, arousing feelings of discontentment with my own life. Not only is this unhealthy, it’s unfounded. I have no idea what these peoples’ lives are really like, so comparing myself to them is just plain dumb.
This year I will disconnect somewhat from social media in order to connect with people in more meaningful ways. This blog is one way in which will I do that, as well as with my podcast. For those closest to me, I will make more of an effort to meet up in person, or speak on the phone. And, I’ll make it a point to ask how they’re doing beyond what I see posted on social media.
Wherever you find yourself at this year’s end, remember that it’s never too late to start over. Reflect on everything you’re thankful for from 2016, and look forward to all that is to come in 2017.
Here’s to another year of journeying together…