It’s that time of the year again, as Christmas frenzy gives way to a huge clean up and promise of a “fresh start” for a new year. Already I’ve read various headlines and stories in the media and overheard conversations about resolutions, and I can’t help but cringe. I used to be one for making and breaking resolutions too, and I loved the idea of a challenge and fresh start, the idea of dreaming about the kind of person I could become and the life I could lead in the upcoming 12 months. As I’ve got older, I’ve realised that it’s all a bit of a con. Sales rocket on all things diet and exercise, on home furnishing, on make-up and clothing and gym memberships. People get hyped up and make all sorts of promises to themselves and others about how things will be different. Then people quickly get worn down, frazzled, disillusioned and disappointed.
I also don’t like how many typical resolutions (lose weight, get fit, do 1,000 marathons, work out constantly, cut out carbs/whichever food group has lost favour, etc) are used as a means of making people feel superior. If you want to do those things, great. Not everyone else needs to know this, especially when that other person is unwell and you’ve made them feel more useless by asking “why not?” when they say they won’t be hiking the Himalayas anytime soon.
Resolutions, when you boil it down, suggest that you are not good enough, that you’re life is not enough, that you need to be striving for something elusive, that where you are and who you are isn’t quite perfect enough.
For years, all throughout my teens at least, I had very similar resolutions each year, mostly centring around weight and food. Looking back, it was all so pointless, so painful, and for what? Never once did I think to resolve to like myself a little more, to be happier with who I was without feeling the need to change. When my health started going downhill, my resolutions became instead about trying to hold on to the things that were slipping away from me and to gain some sense of control, though I never could, partly because they were usually things out of my control. Ringing in the New Year was always gut wrenching, making me think back to regrets and feeling lonely and lost.
How has your 2016 looked?
They say not to live in the past, but I do think it’s important from time to time to look at what has happened and take stock. Get some perspective on your life, see the possible good to come from what’s happened, what lessons can be learned, and what things you are grateful for.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t set to change anything, but complacency and satisfaction are two very different things. If you can accept, appreciate and enjoy where you are and who you are right now, you will be better placed to figure out what it is you want. Every day we are bombarded with ideals and told what we should want and what we should strive for. Are the revolutions that are commonly set really the things you want, or the things you think you should want? What really matters to you personally?
On the whole, resolutions are quite non-specific and generalised, such as “be happy” or “get fit”. They are elusive and quite unrealistic, and they all scream that you’re not good enough, that you don’t like yourself, that you don’t measure up. How can positive change and happiness come from being so harsh on yourself, practically setting yourself up for failure through focusing on such prescribed ideals?
If there are things you want to change because of your health, such as your weight or smoking because of medical advice, then this is a different matter. Rather than being generalised resolutions, they can be seen as goals as treated as such; set small, manageable steps with specific actions that you can work towards.
For 2017, I’m changing this up a little. I’m not making resolutions. I’m making hopes and dreams and looking at small things I would like to do differently this year. I want to work on how I see myself and my life, and get a different perspective on my situation.
I want to care a little less about the things that aren’t important. I want to stop planning so much, stop stressing and sweating the small stuff. I want to go to the places and do the things I’ve wanted to do but haven’t for one reason or another. I want to take a chance, take a risk. I want to push forward with my health, even it that means another surgery. I want to worry and care less about the things I can’t control. I want to come to accept the way things are, who I am, where I’m at. It’s all well and good trying to get control of your life, but you can’t control everything and everyone around you. Sometimes, it’s about knowing what you can’t do, what you can’t change, that is important (which is easier said than done if you’re impatient and wanting to do something!)
As the New Year approaches, it can be so easy to think about the negatives, the regrets, the feeling of loneliness or hopelessness. You’re not alone in feeling like this, which is perhaps why January is one of the most depressing times of the year. Don’t buy in to the Resolution trap and the media that pump you full of self-doubt. You are beautiful, you are strong and you are OK just as you are. If there are things you want to do in 2017, things you want to change, that’s okay. But perhaps the first thing to change should be how you see yourself and your life. Be a little happier with who you are without the need to change and improve all of the time, without constantly living in a “what if” and “if only things were different” kind of future.