It’s almost new year, which means two things: firstly, that the earth has once again completed its 365.25 day’s worth of sun-orbiting, and secondly that your social media is about to become clogged with an onslaught of fatally optimistic “new year, new me” posts. It’s time to gear up for New Year’s resolutions season, and all of the anxieties that often come with the daunting task of a self-image overhaul.
Don’t get me wrong, self improvement is a really important part of personal growth. And if taking up yoga, or exercising for an hour every day, or giving up chocolate forever or learning a new language is going to make you feel better about yourself, then go for it! Creating meaningful goals for yourself is a great exercise for your self esteem. If there’s something you don’t like about yourself or your life that you think you can change, power to you.
The problem is when self improvement goes into overdrive, and becomes more about self criticism. What we need a little more of, in our digital age of Instagram models and fad diets, is self acceptance.
It can be really, really difficult to strike a balance between the ambition to make yourself a better person, and becoming happy with who you already are. I know that I personally struggle with the distinction between continuous self improvement and straight up low self esteem. When it comes to making resolutions, you should be your own greatest supporter. That means the voice in your head berating you for every mistake, relapse or stumble, isn’t helping you become a better person. The best way to achieve your goals is to foster self-encouragement, which starts with positive self-talk.
So, how exactly can you go about making New Year’s Resolutions in a way that’s not giving in to an unhealthy self esteem? Well, there are a couple questions that might be worth asking yourself, both when you make the resolution, and while you’re following it through:
1) Who am I trying to change for?
At its core, healthy self improvement is about making positive changes to your life in order to make yourself happy. If your primary motivation is to make yourself a more likeable or appealing person to others, take a step back, and ask who it’s really for.
2) Will this change bring happiness into my life?
If you’re honestly happier the way you are, chances are it’s not worth putting yourself under stress. Sure, you could put yourself on a diet to lose those few extra pounds, or you could change your resolution to focus on accepting your body type.
3) Is maintaining this resolution constructive, or destructive?
If you ever start to feel like keeping up with a personal goal has become a drain on your mental, physical or emotional health, it may be time to reconsider. Remember that when your wellbeing is being negatively affected, there is no shame in giving up. While there’s a lot to be said for perseverance, if your resolution no longer gives you a sense of achievement and isn’t contributing to your self worth, there’s no need to force yourself to suffer.
The bottom line is, New Year’s resolutions don’t have to be about relentless self improvement to the point of guilt, shame and self loathing. This year, try something new, and make goals to practice some self acceptance. This might mean trying to address your own self-talk, limiting the impact of specific insecurities, or engaging in more regular self-care. For every resolution about 10,000 steps a day and eating 7 serves of veggies, there should be one for learning to be kinder to yourself, and forgiving your slip-ups.
After all, if the goal is to become a better person, what could be more important than self-love to foster resilience and personal strength? It could turn out to be new year, same old you, only this time a whole lot happier about it.