I don’t like New Years resolutions. Even though some people find them helpful, to me, they feel contrived and bullshitty with the stench of why that also trails behind phony compliments.
First: if you like them – if you think you need them – run toward those resolutions with passion and pack a punch. Some of you certainly hold sweet resolutions that make you feel spirited about the 12 long months ahead, and that’s great.
Still, I don’t like them. And if you’re still reading, here’s why:
Part of my revulsion comes from the commodification of personal goals, where countless companies capitalize on the self-consciousness and optimism of consumers, putting pressure on setting and sticking to goals, peddling new products and memberships, creating a cycle that encourages self-loathing and a fear of failure if (and when) resolutions crumble. Worse, the public conversation about the New Year mostly revolves around endless drivel about *finally* losing weight.
Setting a list for self-improvement while feeling saturated with ideas about what I should want to work on only raises questions about who I’m setting those goals for. I’ve never put any stock in a goal set for the sake of pleasing someone else. As a kid, all of my goals were to either give up candy or to treat my brother with more kindness. I never followed through with either. By the time I realized my “failure,” I only felt guilty for a moment, knowing it probably wasn’t sustainable to expect myself to never snag candy from a communal bowl, or that I’d never again end a sibling rivalry with a snide remark. To achieve those goals, I had to commit, long-term – I had to want them for me – not for approval.
At the same time every year, one-liners inundate my social feed, instructing followers to take “toxic” people out with the end-of-year trash. Of course, we should all nourish only those relationships that feel healthy and productive, but I’ve left people behind, and no matter how easy it looks, it’s fucking hard. If only friendships felt finished after a sexy selfie and a wave. I still agonize over those decisions, considering who I’ve hurt and how badly.
If only friendships felt finished after a sexy selfie and a wave.
That witty one-line attitude escorts the entire discourse around cultivating New Year’s success, overlooking the difficulty in making meaningful resolutions. The answers aren’t in a fresh fitness routine or a delightful diffuser. They require determination, commitment, practice, and are clouded by self-consciousness. Not everyone will to stick to New Year’s promises, and not everyone will want to. “New year, new you,” doesn’t exist, and nobody should feel like there’s no backsies on a “brand new you.” More importantly, when do we celebrate all of the growth from last year? Does that get thrown in with Thanksgiving, or do we take time before deciding what to improve next to grant ourselves a moment of gratitude for the hard work put in over the last 3 seasons? This year, muster some motivation by acknowledging that you’re already becoming your best self, put on an outfit that makes you feel good, start with a smile, and keep doing your best.
I’ve always appreciated the sentiment that a new year offers a fresh start, but I feel stronger accepting the reality that there are no clean pages in the stories of ourselves. Each new sentence and chapter rests on the erase marks and pages before. It’s okay to want to write a better draft next year, but do it for you.
I still set goals. The last four years, I promised myself I’d be a better person. Not at the beginning of the year, but every day. Every day, I wake up wanting and working for more patience, kindness, understanding, compassion, empathy, and positivity. I want to take life with a laugh and a grain of salt (or two, for flavor). I don’t always feel successful, but I’ve come a long way without deadlines or time-lines. When I read “11 Ways to Be a Better Person in 2019,” from the New York Times, it felt like a fresh alternative to tired resolutions – tangible steps anyone can take that don’t require radical change but do encourage more happiness.
It’s okay to want to write a better draft next year, but do it for you.
I’m not trying to become someone new. I want to keep learning to like myself, growing into a gentler, kinder, wiser woman. Maybe that’s what everyone wants, and we’re all just taking whatever transit works to get there.
But I’m not making a New Year’s resolution. I don’t think I ever have, and I doubt I ever will.