It’s approaching the time of the year when millions of us are consumed with crafting some well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions, perhaps the same one for the fifth year in a row (or maybe that’s just me?). But before you dive headfirst into fashioning this “new year, new you” version of yourself, I have some advice: Don’t. Instead, let’s go into the next year and beyond free of the pressure to reinvent ourselves. In 2022, it’s “new year,
new real you,” because purposefully choosing to be our real selves is probably one of the healthiest decisions we can ever make.
New Year’s resolutions are the binge diets of the self-care world. They often grow like noxious weeds, year after year reminding us of their (failed) existence. Just the thought of starting year three of a pandemic trying to muster the energy to reinvent myself makes me guffaw; who has energy for that? And we shouldn’t feel bad about it. With the little energy we do have, is that where it should really go? The last two years have taught us a lot; each our own lessons, but a common thread for many of us—millions of us—is that we’re tired.
Actually pause right now and let your shoulders sink. Exhale. Drink some water. You’re tired. (I’m tired.) And here’s something incredibly groundbreaking you might need to hear: that is okay!
Pumping your brakes on that overzealous list as you step into next year just might be the most self-caring decision you’ve made all year. I say this because I find many New Year’s resolutions are bred by external pressures we internalize, hyper-focusing on our shortcomings under the veil of self-care. And if you’re like me and millions of others, they’re hard to keep up with. Those well-meaning, tall-order promises we make to ourselves often leave us feeling more stressed and ashamed, which is ironically the antithesis of self-care.
I am not suggesting that pursuing that runner’s body you’ve always dreamed of is a terrible idea. Go run like someone is chasing you at seven o’clock in the morning, if the mood strikes you. Just make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. There’s nothing wrong with self-improvement being on the agenda; I simply suggest we reframe this idea that each year we need to continue to make a “greater” version of ourselves. Imagine if we entered the new year focused on the good things about ourselves, instead of the ways we feel like we’ve fallen short? How girding would that be for our overworked, desperately exhausted, pandemic-fatigued minds? For our mental health?
As you have probably surmised by now, the root of my issue with New Year’s resolutions isn’t with the resolution itself but with the motivations often hiding behind them. I’m a fiction author by trade and in my latest novel, Ashes of Gold, I worked purposefully to pen a heroine who is learning she is worthy of love—her own and others. If we’ve learned anything in the last two years, it’s that life is short. Time is precious. Do we really want to spend the time we have striving to become something we think we need to be? Committed to loving a future version of ourselves?
What if, instead, we realize we are worthy of that love right now?
I’d like to believe loving ourselves well is the worthiest goal. If exercising more falls under that umbrella, go right ahead. But if your idea of a New Year’s resolution is hyper-focusing on all the ways you don’t measure up, feel unworthy, or don’t fit some idealistic version of the you you think you’re supposed to be, stop. Only you can know what your true motivations are, so do some heart-and-soul searching. Be kind to yourself—and understand, I’m talking to myself here, too.
For those of us who jump on the resolution hamster wheel each year, we’re equally used to eventually letting them go, promising ourselves, “next year.” Next year, I’ll be thinner; next year, I’ll get that promotion; next year, I’ll start writing that book; next year…next year…NEXT YEAR! We are so conditioned to living in the future, have we forgotten to live in the present? And what are we sacrificing when that becomes a habit?
What am I advocating for here? Contentment is a big piece—but let me be super clear, because that word can be slung around like perfumed mud. I don’t mean settling, lacking ambition, ignoring the desire to improve. I simply mean if the root of your lofty new year, new you endeavors is a lack of feeling worthy, take a deep breath and make 2022 about looking yourself in the mirror and loving who you see, right where you are.
Don’t wait to grow into being worthy of self-love.
You are worth it right now.
Chime in on social media with the hashtag #NewYearRealYou
J.Elle is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult and middle-grade fantasy fiction. She is best known for her debut duology, Wings of Ebony and Ashes of Gold. When she’s not writing, the former educator can be found mentoring aspiring authors, binging reality TV, loving on her three littles, or cooking up something true to her Southern roots.