A fresh new calendar — a fresh new You! It will finally happen this year: You'll envision your ideal life, nix your bad habits, and sail on to perfection. For almost half-an-hour! That's how long it takes for the effervescent Julie Andrews voice in my head to be drowned out by one that sounds like Simon Cowell's. Cowell never lets Andrews complete a thought: “In 2010, I'm going to exercise during lunchtime!” — “No, Chubby, you're going to lunch during exercise time.” “I vow to stay calm no matter what” — “Good! Now find a way to get that Valium prescription.”
How do I counteract this negativity? I have an unbelievable husband. Yup, I'm disgusting. But I've got some tips for you. To un-stick that stuck record in your head. The one that's always saying you're not good enough.
1. Recognise your negative voice as a four-year-old's tantrum. Trying to reason with it only increases the hysteria. Instead, take your inner four-year-old to a quiet place, and let it throw its fit. Write down all the cruel judgments, until they fade to a grumble.
2. Accept that some of your self-criticism may be true, but never let failure end the story. Instead of saying no to the negative voice, say: “Yes, and …” For example: “Yes, last year I jogged only as far as that new park… and I also managed to stop a few binges by watching Super Singer instead.” Speaking of which…
3. Never just quit; always substitute. Bad habits fill needs, so find good alternatives to them. But remember, push-ups can't substitute for potato chips, unless you love push-ups (in which case we will never be close friends). Companionship, laughter, play — these things can sub for chips… most of the time. And, that's enough.
4. Instead of planning to be perfect, plan to do a little better. Win 51 per cent of the battles, and you'll win the war.
Get started right now by following some of these. I'll be honest — if you try to follow it all, you'll end up rupturing something… hold on, before you judge me for letting a negative thought creep in, here's the rest of the sentence… and you'll find a way to sew it back together, because by God, this year all your stories are going to end happily. I get a feeling about that.
(A fortnightly column on relationships)