Photo from Inc., https://www.inc.com/amy-morin/7-tips-to-make-sure-you-actually-keep-your-new-years-resolution-this-time.html.
Every year we write lists to envision a better version of ourselves—one that’s skinnier, happier, richer, smarter, and more productive—as if we can enter New Year’s Eve and wait till the clock strikes 12, then magically emerge on the other side shiny and new. But change doesn’t happen overnight, and creating unrealistic goals only sets us up for failure.
New year’s resolutions can be a worthwhile means of self-improvement, but it can also put us under unnecessary stress. Women in particular are expected to look a certain way and often strive for impossibly high beauty standards. Popular resolutions like losing weight and improving our appearance feeds off our insecurities—insecurities that the fitness and beauty industries cash in on every year. Advertising campaigns promise us we can ‘start new’, and encourage us to strive for a ‘new year, new me’. Are these marketing ploys what we really want to buy into? When our goals stem from patriarchal ideals of beauty and success, it’s easy to crumble under pressure.
Photo by i yunmai on Unsplash.
Research shows that 80% of us fail our new year’s resolutions by the first week of February, most likely due to making vague promises like “exercise more” and “save some money”, or reaching for over-the-top commitments like “lose 10 kilos” and “make the top 100 charts”.
I’m certainly guilty of this. My 2021 resolutions—still blu-tacked onto my bedroom wall—are long forgotten. Looking at it now, I had commanded myself to “be more productive”, “write a new play”, “meditate regularly”, and “prioritise reading over social media”, but I’ve done a lot of lazing around this year, haven’t even started writing a new play, have barely done any meditation, and still spend countless hours scrolling on Instagram. Whoops.
Don’t get me wrong—we all deserve to dream big. But I’ve come to realise that setting up high expectations for ourselves can make us feel overwhelmed, only to come crashing back down to our old habits. I have done my fair share of reading in 2021, but I’ve also had days where I realise I’ve been on social media for two hours before even summoning the energy to crawl out of bed to make breakfast. But it’s okay to have those bad days.
We should normalise failure, and factor in that we might slip up—and that’s totally okay.
A more sustainable approach to new year’s resolutions would be to acknowledge that change does come, but it can come slowly. We should normalise failure, and factor in that we might slip up—and that’s totally okay. An unhealthy approach to new year’s resolutions can make us feel guilty for those slip-ups and abandon our resolutions completely, and that’s definitely not what we should be doing. And we most definitely shouldn’t be making new year’s resolutions based on patriarchal norms of how women should appear or act.
Photo from Your Dream Blog, https://yourdream.liveyourdream.org/2018/10/why-i-love-my-body-positivity-self-love/.
We’re all constantly growing and evolving—I’m certainly not the same person I was 10 years ago, 2 years ago, or maybe even 6 months ago. When we fail at making the lifestyle changes we want immediately, we don’t have to be so hard on ourselves. If you really want to achieve some specific goals, writing down a list of new year’s resolutions could be helpful. But acknowledge that those changes might take longer than a year, and that you might have some setbacks in getting there. Or if they’ve never worked for you, then why not scrap the whole process this year? We all work differently.
Photo by Moritz Knoringer on Unsplash.
As the cliche goes, ‘nobody’s perfect’. While our hyperproductive, output-driven, and patriarchal society might make us believe otherwise, we need to establish a more caring culture around new year’s resolutions that embraces failure and imperfection. For 2022, I’ll be making resolutions that are realistic, that align with my deeper values, and approach them as gentle reminders rather than rules set in stone as a good first step.
Maki is the editor of Rosie. Her writing has also appeared in publications including Portside Review, Fashion Journal, and ACCLAIM Magazine. In 2020, Maki graduated with a Master of Theatre (writing) from the Victorian College of the Arts, where she was awarded the Portland House Theatre Outreach scholarship. She also has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree from The University of Melbourne. She loves cats, but is sadly allergic.