Perhaps it’s a sign that I have incredibly ambitious friends and acquaintances that they are already writing about making the coming year even more awesome than the last. Jon Crowley‘s advice to those who are about to make New Year’s resolutions is not to try and “fix” themselves:

You can’t fix yourself.  You have to rebuild.

Take stock of who you are, where you are, and what has changed about your life and yourself.  And then do the things that will make you happier, make you smarter and better and stronger, and do them because you want to.  No one who is trying to fix a loss, or a heartache, is going to move on – if you do this, you are defining yourself by your tragedy.

This is such an important point that I felt I needed to echo it and add a bit of my own experience to it.

I’ve made the mistake of trying to “fix” myself. I’ve continued making that mistake for very many years. Jon explains that we can’t fix ourselves because we are simply so complex that it’s like trying to patch the foundation of a building. I’ve discovered that there’s an even more sinister factor at work when we try to fix ourselves.

To dedicate effort to fixing ourselves, we must first think that we are broken.

It’s sinister because in our well-intentioned attempts to improve the things we do not like about ourselves, we are subconsciously reinforcing the belief that our current state is unacceptable, that we are not good enough right now. Nothing could be worse for self-esteem.

If you are truly “broken” you will heal with time, just as your body does. If you feel that the requisite time has passed but you are still deeply injured, I would suggest seeking professional help to put yourself firmly on the path to recovery (again, just as with our bodies). But if you assume you are broken, I challenge you to question that assumption.

My attempts at self-improvement had always started from the position that I am currently not acceptable and that I must fix myself to become good enough. But then I noticed situations in which I thought a lot worse of myself than others thought of me and it caused me to question the way I think about myself. I realized that contrary to what I believed then, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with me. I am acceptable as I am now.

The lesson I have learned about trying to “fix” ourselves, then, is this:

Start from the position of accepting yourself for what you currently are, then figure out how to do even better. Do not “fix”, improve!