(The one that's always saying you're not good enough.)

Ah, the promise of a fresh new calendar—a fresh new You! This is the year it will finally happen: You'll envision your ideal life, purge your bad habits, and sail on to perfection! For almost half an hour! At least, that's how long it takes for the burbling Maria von Trapp voice in my head to be drowned out by one that sounds more like Don Rickles. Don never lets Maria finish a thought:

"This year I'm going to exercise during lunchtime—" "No, Walrus Girl, you're going to lunch during exercise time."

"I vow to stay calm no matter—" "You and how much Valium, Cruella?"

"I'll say affirmations to boost my self-esteem—" "Loser!Loser!Loser!Loser!"

How do I counteract this negativity? I have psychotic breaks. But that is not what you should do. You should follow these tips:

Recognize Your negative Voice As a 2-Year-Old's Tantrum
Trying to reason with it only increases the hysteria. Instead, take your inner 2-year-old to a quiet place and let it throw its fit. Write down all the cruel judgments until they fade to a grumble.

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 kielbasa stand...and I also managed to stop a few binges by reading trashy novels instead." Speaking of which...

Never Just Quit; Always Substitute
Bad habits fill needs, so find good alternatives to them. But remember, push-ups can't substitute for pancakes unless you love push-ups (in which case we will never be really close). Companionship, laughter, play—these things can sub for pancakes...most of the time. And that's enough.

Instead of Planning to be Perfect, Plan to do a Little Better
Win 51 percent of the battles, and you'll win the war.

Get started right now by following some of the advice in O's Live Your Best Year Toolkit. You know if you try to follow it all, you'll end up rupturing something...and you'll find a way to sew it back together, because by God, this year all your stories are going to end happily.

More Martha Beck Advice

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