This was a song in the late 70’s, sung by Billy Joel. That was its title, “I love you just the way you are.” It did pretty well; people seemed to like it then. Maybe a bit more in the U.S., where it hit #3 in the charts, than in the U.K., where it only reached #19, but even over 40 years later (gulp – over 40 years?!), I don’t need Google to remind me of how the song starts: “Don’t go changin’ to try and please me…” The lyrics spring to mind immediately when I think of this song.
Years later, in 1996, Helen Fielding uses a similar sentiment in her book, Bridget Jones’ Diary, when Mark Darcy says to Bridget that he likes her, ‘…very much, just as she is’ and, of course, this is highlighted in the movie version of the book released in 2001. Mark Darcy likes Bridget just as she is and Bridget and her friend’s later toast this at Bridget’s birthday dinner. It’s significant to Bridget and her friends – and for good reason.
I don’t write about this to give you a history of Bridget Jones or Billy Joel. I write this as I consider the year about to start. 2020 is coming and with it may also come the hope of the new year – the new decade even – and what might be possible for you in this new year and decade. Last January, I wrote about ways to survive January – ways to manage those messages that call for a “New You!” in the new year. I spoke then about new year’s resolutions, those pesky, difficult-to-achieve new year’s resolutions. In order to explain why I’m writing about loving you just as you are, let me explain what I tried last year.
Last year, à la Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast in December 2017, in which she and her sister discuss the idea of creating an 18 for 2018 list (first discussed in Episode 147 and later in Episode 149), I thought I’d try two things for 2019. One was a one-word theme or phrase for the year. The other was a list: my ’19 for 2019’. This list was 19 things I wanted to accomplish in 2019. The aim in doing this is something like what Gretchen Rubin herself did in her own Happiness Project: to make the year a bit happier. The list can include big things, little things, fun things, habits, etc. It’s different from a new year’s resolution because you’re not necessarily trying to make a huge lifestyle change (like exercise more or eat less); instead, you’re thinking about things that you might like to achieve.
I had my list created by the 1st of January, and I kept it handy so I could review it regularly throughout the year. I’m not entirely sure it’s made me happier, but it has helped me accomplish some things that I had been putting off for quite a long while. As the year ends, I’m at the stage where I’m doing a final review of how I’ve done on my list of 19 goals for this year. I’ve completed 9 items on my list and will likely finish 5 more in the next month or two. And that feels quite successful. I’ve found having the list useful; it has helped me keep focused – or decide how realistic I think some of the tasks are. Quite early on, I could see which goals may not be achievable and which goals may not be that important to achieve in 2019. And that was ok.
While I review my progress on my 19 for 2019, I’m also starting to turn my mind to my 20 things to do in 2020. I’ve got a handful of items so far (let’s see if I do actually get to 20 castles in 2020!), but I still have some time to decide. What I find most interesting about this process – and what makes it different to me from making new year’s resolutions – is that I don’t really feel like I need to change anything about myself to accomplish those things I feel are important to me to accomplish. And that let’s me be who I am, warts and all, and helps me to accept myself just as I am. When I’m not trying to be ‘new’ in the new year, I can just be me.
And that’s why I write about Billy Joel’s song and talk about Bridget Jones’ Diary. I want to do my best to love others just they way they are AND to love me, just the way I am. I don’t want to have to create a new me in the coming year. I want to be able to be the best me possible and allow others to be the best they can be as well. So this year, I’ll delete all those e.mails and change the channel whever I see or hear anything about a “New You!” I doubt I’ll make any specific new year’s resolutions and I’ll do my best to get through my 20 for 2020 list. And I’ll do that, all the while reminding myself to love me just the way I am. If I didn’t have to change to please Billy Joel, maybe I don’t need to change to please myself. Grow? Yes, please. Change? Maybe not so much. Maybe you’ll choose to join me this year in loving yourself just the way you are?