5 Reasons Why We Should Trash The Idea of "New Year, New Me"
By Danielle Carney, LMHC
It’s that time of year again! You know – when we start seeing all the social media posts circulating about the idea of “New Year, new me!” and the diet industry heavily ramps up their advertising budgets. Everyone starts talking about the weight they want to lose this year, the radical changes they want to make in their lives, and it’s easy to be affected by all of that. You might even have resolutions in mind along those lines, and there’s no shame in that if you do! We’ve all been there.
I want to add to your perspective that making resolutions for the new year just isn’t that effective – a study showed that only 46% of new year’s resolutions are successful.
As a therapist, I am obviously a huge proponent of personal growth and self-improvement, but here’s my issue with the idea of reinventing yourself and making resolutions come the new year:
Why New Year's Resolutions Kinda Suck:
1. Radical changes are often unrealistic.
I am all for making positive changes in your life. What I take issue with is the extremism that often comes with new year’s resolutions. Instead of, “I’d like to nurture my relationship with movement and find forms of exercise that feel joyful and nourishing to my body,” it’s more like “I want to go to the gym 6 days out of the week all year.” How realistic does it feel to maintain going to the gym 6 days of the week? Especially if you’re not going at all right now? What happens if you get sick or life gets busy? How would you feel when you set the bar so high and can’t reach it?
I think you see where I’m going with this. If you find value in setting goals this new year, please make them realistic. Focus on how you want to feel, and work backwards from there to see what actions it would take to get there. Ask yourself, what would bring me 1% closer to my goal? Start there!
2. Diets don’t work (and are harmful).
Here’s what we know: 95% of diets fail. People gain the weight back they’ve lost (and then some). More harmful than that, by dieting, many develop a long-term disordered relationship with food, chronic body dissatisfaction, and might go on to develop eating disorders. Let us not forget, the diet industry is a multi-billion dollar industry (around 70 billion, actually), and it directly profits off of our insecurities about our bodies and our health. It is not at all a coincidence that diet, cleanse, detox, etc. advertising campaigns ramp up at around this time of the year. It is predatory and rather gross, when we really think about it. Your body was never the problem, our cultural and societal conditioning emphasizing the thin ideal and anti-fat bias is.
This year, consider opting out. Ask yourself, when is enough going to be enough? Has any diet led you to the sense of self-worth and peace in your life that you hoped it would? And if so, was it sustainable? Have an honest, curious conversation with yourself – if diets really were effective, why would you need to go back on one?
3. New year's resolutions can often be constricting and based on all–or-nothing thinking.
I am of the belief that resolutions limit us. They focus on the result, not the process. Resolutions can be a trap to inadvertently engage in all-or-nothing thinking, and I really believe that’s a contributor to why they don’t work so well in practice. They take away from your energy, they can set you up to feel badly when you realize it’s not sustainable to maintain the change (spoiler alert – it usually is), and they might join with your self-critical thinking as a result. Who needs that?
The new year can be a convenient time to make changes and reflect on what you want, but we also need to remember that time is an arbitrary concept, and any moment can be a good moment to make a change if you feel called to. December becomes January, just like April becomes May. The new year is just another day, and you can treat it as such. You can make a change tomorrow, next week, two months from now, or 5 minutes from now if you choose. There are no rules to when you can decide to start over.
4. New year's resolutions can contribute to low self-esteem.
To build on the last point, when you set a goal and don’t reach it because the bar might have been set unrealistically high, it’s hard to not take that out on yourself. It feels like you should have been able to do the thing, even if a part of you knows it was impossible and out of reach. It’s like if you wear a size 9 shoe, would you expect to fit in a size 6? Would you criticize and beat yourself up because you should be able to fit in shoe that’s too small for you? No. That sounds silly, right? But that’s exactly what we do when we set unrealistic goals and then blame and shame ourselves for not being able to reach them. This can contribute to lowered self-esteem. We have to be sure the goals we’re setting for ourselves and the way we frame things sets us up for success and actually feels attainable.
Not only that, but the idea of having to make changes come the new year joins with the thinking that there is a part of you that is not worthy as is, and we won’t be having any of that! That leads us to our next point.
5. You are enough already, exactly as you are.
The bottom line is you do not need to change anything about yourself to be worthy. I will shout this from the rooftops. There is no change that you need to or could make that will increase your worthiness of love, belonging, and respect. You are enough, just as you are, no changes necessary.
This time of year invites reflection on where we might like to improve or grow, and that’s great if it aligns with where you are at right now. If you’re just not in the headspace to do this, that is also totally and completely okay. It is enough this year to just have survived through. Getting to this point is enough. You are always enough.
Set Intentions, Not Resolutions
What if, instead of setting a resolution, you took intentional action each day to align with the changes you want to see and witnessing those changes one day at a time?
This year, that’s what I challenge you to do. Intentions can act as a guide to how you show up in your life, how you connect, serve, work, live, love, be. Set some intentions, let them guide your actions, and just notice the difference that makes – moment by moment, day by day.
You also don’t have to do it on your own. Therapy can be so useful in the process of change, and if you’re not ready to make any changes right now, no worries! I’ll be here when you decide that you are. You can reach out to me here.