I’ve traditionally been something of a cynic when it comes to the New Year and New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps it’s from paying witness to so many earnestly pursued and doomed-to-fail resolutions, or perhaps I simply veer towards the dubious. Regardless, my attitude towards resolutions has long been, “Why wait for January to do what you can do now; if you put it off, you probably aren’t actually going to do it.”
I used to attack self-improvement projects with a ferocity, whether that meant going to the gym and working out consistently, dedicating time to school, eating healthily, or being more environmentally friendly.
Ever since I moved out though, I haven’t had as much time or energy for the perpetual self-improvement projects that I would do when I was living on my parents’ dime. All of it was easier when I wasn’t the one buying my groceries, cleaning the apartment, and earning money for rent. Not only do I not have the energy to enthusiastically cross to-dos off my self-improvement list, I can’t always keep up with my base expectations of regularly moving my body and breaking a sweat, keeping the apartment clean, or dedicating hours to school. Now I feel like I can better understand the temptation of a blank slate on which to write new habits and patterns of behaviour.
I know, boohoo, this is the same problem that everyone faces. The myriad pushes and pulls of life’s commitments keep us all struggling, racing pell-mell to do everything and be everything; and I do have plenty of improvements to make in my life and myself. When I do hit this new-year reset button that’s begging to be pushed though, I know I’ll do it with the resolution that I won’t be as enthusiastic in my self-improvement as I used to be.
Part of it (in addition to an unhealthy dose of laziness) is that I know all too well my obsessive tendencies. I’m generally inclined towards the all-or-nothing, which can be either beneficial or detrimental—usually a questionable cocktail of the two.
My obsessive tendency is what helped me become healthier, eat more fruits and veggies, and exercise everyday; but it’s also what caused me to lose 25 pounds when I didn’t need to, and had me striving to lose more. My obsession with environmental friendliness did get me using reusable bags, composting, and becoming a vegetarian; but I also felt disproportionately guilty anytime I was at all wasteful.
The problem, and one that I think a lot of people suffer from, is seeing our self-improvement as emblematic of ourselves. “I’m not good enough unless I fix this aspect of myself.”
We all could stand to improve in various ways, and our characteristics do combine to make us the whole and complete people we are. Those characteristics combined make us who we are though, so it’s unfair and unrealistic to see ourselves as failures, imperfect, or less-than because of our supposed flaws.
When I was working out everyday, I wasn’t happy, and I certainly wasn’t happy with my body despite the fact that I had reached my weight-loss goal. I’m going to feel a bit bad about the pizza I eat and the workouts I skip whether I weigh 110 pounds, 130 pounds, or more.
Our dissatisfaction is what motivates us to improve—and that’s wonderful! Do eat more veggies, get a gym membership (and use it), recycle, learn something new, travel, do whatever it is you’ve been wanting to do. The problem is with losing sight of that aspect as an aspect of yourself. If you don’t accomplish what you want to, that doesn’t say much about you as a person, it simply speaks to your strategy—hey, change is hard. Don’t let that general dissatisfaction that both plagues and motivates us take over your resolutions. You wouldn’t think less of your friend because they ate a slice of cake, forgot their reusable water bottle, or let their Spanish-language textbook gather dust in the back of their closet, would you? So don’t blame yourself either.