By Jewel Safren, LCSW

It’s that time of year again. Everyone’s talking about New Year’s resolutions. This is the year we all get in shape, stick to a diet, become successful and organized and perfect, right?

Right; except for the one teeny problem—it’s impossible.
Okay, maybe not impossible. Maybe everything comes easily to you. (If so, good for you; the rest of us will try to be happy for you instead of hating you.) That’s not how it works for me. I’ve been studying mental health, personal growth and self-development for more than 25 years, and it still doesn’t come easily to me. I struggle. I don’t have it all together, and I hate it when people pretend they do. So I don’t have a quick fix for you. I can only share my experience of which things have brought me happiness and which things have not, what has brought me closer to feeling the Divine, and what brought me deeper into my own mishegas.
I have found that trying to change yourself from the outside in is like being on a diet for your whole life. “If I can only force myself to [be happier/stop spending/be more organized…], then I’d be great.” You try to focus on an external thing constantly, but eventually you run out of energy or you slip up, and then you feel terrible about that “failure” and you’re more miserable.
I have found that the only times my life changed for the better were when I had an internal shift. Whenever that happened, the external things changed on their own. For example, if I was mad at someone, I could meditate, think positive, read about forgiveness… and I would still be mad at them. But if I heard something that gave me a moment of real compassion for them, then all that anger dropped away on its own.
It’s probably easier to relate to that kind of compassion when we’re talking about somebody else. How do we apply this idea to you and your list of if-onlys?
One of the very basic things that I have learned the hard way is that you have to feel like you’re deserving in your own life. If you don’t feel that way, then things won’t come to you; or if they do, you’ll deflect or destroy them. You can’t fake it. We all know people who feel small inside and outside act like Napoleon. You have to actually feel deserving.
It’s a deep understanding that you’re part of the Universe, that God created you, and that He wants you to succeed. I can tell you that you are deserving, that you have unique, inherent value. How do I know? Imagine asking me that about a tree. Does a tree deserve water and dirt and sunlight? Is a tree valuable even if it isn’t the tallest or shadiest or the greenest? Of course! You are part of the universe. God created you. You are deserving and valuable; you’re not missing anything and you’re not broken. God has your back. Just understanding this gives you an internal, quiet dignity. If you have that, your world will feel totally different to you.
When I have this feeling, I can live my life in a productive and calm space. When I don’t, everything is an unbearable struggle. Progress—or just perspective—on your list of if-onlys will only come if you’re able to connect with your higher self.
Yes, I know that’s not necessarily easy either. But in the next article we can talk about some things I have found helpful in connecting to that higher self.

Jewel Safren MSW, LSW, LCSW has over 35 years of experience in counseling, life coaching and public-speaking coaching. She has worked with people all over the US and in Europe, and runs popular personal growth workshops, webinars and classes. She is recommended by Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz; Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, B.Ed, M.Sci.; Rabbi Paysach J. Krohn and Rabbi Mordechai Becher. She lives in West Orange with her hubby and two kids, and has two married kids and two grandsons living in California. You can contact Jewel at 973-464-8556 or, if you would like to be on her mailing list or for more information, visit jewelsafrenlcsw@gmail.com.