new years resolutions, self-care, self-love

Celebrate the New Year With Self-Love

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself.” -Walt Whitman

I love the freshness and promise of each new year, but I’ve never liked the harshness and punitive nature of New Year’s resolutions that feel so judge-y–like we’re not good enough until we drop those pounds or start that exercise routine or accomplish this or that, believing that the new year will bring the magic that we need to create better versions of ourselves and our lives.

What if instead of trying to change ourselves into something we aren’t yet, but aspire to be, or believe we should be, we worked on self-acceptance? Of thoughtful, gentle care of ourselves–our real selves, who we are right now, our selves on the inside–rather than trying to change ourselves into something more acceptable than we already are?

I’m all for setting goals and making decisions to expand self-care and to improve our lives. But many of us do it from a place of self-judgment, and of harsh comparisons and competition–dooming us to failure. And it places us squarely in the cycle of shame that feeds into our bad habits. What if we erased the shame, bolstered our light, and practiced radical self-acceptance instead?

Five Ways to Celebrate the New Year With Self-Acceptance and Self-Love

Don’t create new year’s resolutions. Instead, accept who you are right now, just as you are. Make the decision to love yourself as you are. The choices and decisions you make from this perspective will be healthier, less harsh, and will fit who you are–not who you think you should be or who others expect you to be. You have all year to create changes that you decide are right for you and that bolster your sense of self-acceptance. I actually think winter, when our energy is at its lowest, is the least optimal time to take on big new projects or habits. Wait until the energy of spring rises up to super-charge your efforts.

Stop self-judgment. Listen for it. It can be subtle. But it’s always hurtful and always wrong. There may be areas of your life that need improvement (we all have them!) but they never define who you are or your worth as a human being. If you’re feeling judgment about yourself, you’ve attached to a story that simply isn’t true. Let it go. It holds you back from your own greatness.

Practice self kindness. Do nice things for yourself. Consider your needs–more rest? More playtime? Better food? Make note of the many small ways you can soothe yourself with gentle kindness. Treat yourself as you would your most beloved friends and family members.

Embrace all of your imperfections. Those quirks and bumps may just be the best parts of you! Your imperfections make you human and beautiful and relatable. As Brene Brown says so eloquently in her book, Daring Greatly: “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

Honor all of the emotions that come with this time of New Year’s transition–including the negative ones like stress, sadness, loneliness, and weariness. Let them be. You don’t need to be caught up in the frenetic energy of the holiday season. It’s not necessary to stay up late on new year’s eve, when what we all need the most is sleep. Hunker down. Stay warm. Feed yourself. Be with whom you love. Write down what you are feeling. Every bit of it is okay–and necessary.

Wishing you warmth, love, and light this new year!

Karyn Shanks MD


Karyn Shanks, MD, is a physician who lives and practices in Iowa City. Her work is inspired by the revolutionary science of Functional Medicine, body-mind wisdom, and the transformational journeys of thousands of clients over her twenty-eight year career. She believes that the bones of healing are in what we do for ourselves.

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