Improve. Be fitter, faster, better. The new year brings, with the inevitable 1st of January hangover, a constant narrative of improvement and the promises to just-finally-do that thing that’s still lingering at the bottom of your bucket list. The thing that is the key to the new, shiny you that will finally solve all of your problems and that guarantees permanent happiness.
It’s likely that the last sentence reveals my opinion on new year’s resolutions – I think they’re intrinsically guaranteed to fail. If they don’t, they still never quite match up to the idealised version you’ve built up in your head, leaving you inevitably disappointed among the pile of Gymshark leggings you bought to motivate yourself to finally hit the gym. At least, that’s what my last two decades have taught me. It may well be down to my perfectionism or the fact that I don’t exist in a vacuum, away from consumerism and Instagram and comparison. Maybe I’m just ‘not trying hard enough’.
It’s fair to say that resolutions and self-improvement are central tenets of a nice, normal person who doesn’t want to be a complete disaster for all time. The problem is that the concept of resolutions has become ingrained in marketing culture. There’s a huge boom in sales, product creation and advertising in the fitness industry directly after Christmas, all wrapped up in a shiny ‘get fit for 2020’ bow. It’s fuelled by people wanting to make money off other people’s insecurities and has grown into a self-flagellating train of ambition to finally secure something that we are intrinsically lacking. The focus is on some external force, some wonderful pressure that will break us out of this cycle of ‘just obtaining something more’. It’s a consumerist nirvana, insurmountable and unreachable, yet glistening just in sight of our sweat-stained brows.
the concept of resolutions has become ingrained in marketing culture
Ironically, this perspective comes from last year’s resolution. Consciously aware of my own tendencies to over-do things and hold myself to standards I can’t quite reach, and after 2018 left me mentally and physically wrecked, I resolved to go into 2019 with one resolution – to be happier. I remember walking in the park with my best friend from home on New Year’s Day, looking at her and just saying ‘I want this year to be better’.
I can say that it has been. In every way. I’ve seen incredible parts of the world. I’ve met people that have, in a few months, completely changed my life, and I’m so lucky to be able to say I can leave this year much happier than I was going into it.
With this new-found happiness, though, has come the realisation that I actually don’t need to constantly improve myself. I’ve acknowledged the habits that made me so unwell in my final year of sixth form. By no means have I reached this aforementioned nirvana, but I do know that I’m a lot happier when I’m trying to avoid operating under a socially-influenced decision to improve myself beyond all recognition. It didn’t come from learning to knit or finally reading War and Peace, although in the interest of full disclosure, it may well be because I didn’t do either of those things.
I don’t need to constantly improve myself
So, inevitably, I don’t have a new year’s resolution. That doesn’t mean I don’t have goals or things I want to achieve – I’d like to be more compassionate, read things that aren’t just for my degree, maybe finally learn to budget – but I’m not going to put them under the make-or-break pressure of a new year. While resolutions have brought me lots of great things, I think I’ll be leaving them in 2019.
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