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Why I Made New Years Reaffirmations, Not Resolutions

Just two weeks into the new year, we are already halfway through the month of January and just around the time when new year’s resolutions for many of us are silently given up and forgotten about. It seems like it’s the same cycle every year. The end of December arrives, and with it comes anxiety for a new year of possibilities. We dream of the person we’ll be in the upcoming year. In our visions of our future selves, we don’t have any of the insecurities of the past. For some, they are thinner. For others, maybe they dream of being happier or more healthy. While the resolutions may be different, they stem from the same misconception, that we need to change ourselves in one way or another to deserve what we want or to “live our best lives.” 

I would say that I have had a love-hate relationship with New Years. On one hand, it is one of my favorite holidays. I am someone who can struggle with mental health, especially in the winter months. After a long winter, January 1st always has a hopeful feeling that can bring me out of a low state of mind.  Sure, it’s just another day, but how many times in our lives do we get the chance to begin again? How many times do we get the opportunity to literally leave the past behind us and start fresh? I used to be someone who excitedly jotted down all of my goals in my journal at the beginning of every year. I told myself I would go to the gym at least three times a week. I would cut all sweets out of my diet. I would journal everyday. In my mind, I would be happier and have the life I wanted if I could just change everything that I didn’t like about myself. I thought that once I did that, my ideal life would finally start. That was my biggest mistake. I didn't realize that I could have everything I wanted and deserved just the way I was.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve ourselves. Eating better, going to the gym, and journaling are all great things. The problem is not the desire to change, it’s the motive behind that desire. Looking back at the young girl who used to bullet goal after goal in her journal, I see someone who was searching for something that she wouldn’t find at the gym or in a 100-calorie snack pack. I was searching for self-love. I wanted to be at peace with myself and just like many others, I believed the lie that I couldn’t be those things as the person I was. I wasn’t attempting to change myself out of love, I was doing it out of self-hate. Because of that, my list of goals became more like rules rather than resolutions. I took the fun out of bettering myself by putting an imperfect person in a box and expecting her to come out perfect. In making that mistake, I had failed my resolutions before I even started.   

By putting so much pressure on myself to be perfect in each new year, I set myself up for a world of disappointment and self-hatred when I inevitably made mistakes. I would diet for two weeks straight and lose a pound or two and then I would binge on snacks and gain it back. I would lose track of time and forget to journal. I would take a nap instead of going to the gym. These are all completely normal parts of a balanced life. But in the mind of an insecure teenager, they meant failure and that meant guilt. When we are so caught up in matching our real selves to our fantasized selves, we forget that we will never be perfect, no matter what! That’s because happiness doesn’t come from perfection, it comes from accepting the imperfection. Growth is a journey and a process but it is not always a completely straight incline. Sometimes, it looks a little bit more like a staircase. 

Today, I have a much different relationship with myself and New Year’s. I still love to reflect on each passing year and think about my hopes for the future. This year though, I tried something different. It was one of the only years of my life that I had zero resolutions. I decided instead, to replace my resolutions with reaffirmations. This gave me a way to set out some visions for 2020 without making a rulebook. Some of my New Year’s reminders included: “Weight does not equal self worth. Do things: well or badly. If it makes you happy, do it. Memories mean more than pictures. Growth is messy and never ending.” I cannot tell you how refreshing it was to wake up January 1st and not have to start a new diet or squeeze in every step of a new routine into my day. Obviously, these reminders can be anything, it's the principle that changes everything. It’s about choosing to know our worth rather than earning our worth. It’s about deciding that we already won the year before it started, by going into it with purpose.  

I challenge those reading this to decide that 2020 is your year - decide that every year is your year! Really, it is your decision to make. As cliche as it sounds, what is ours will come to us. We deserve every positive thing coming our way, not because of the way we look or the achievements we make, but because we are uniquely made individuals with an incredibly inherent value that we don’t have to earn! Celebrate your accomplishments, but also celebrate who you are without what you’ve done. In this new year, be content in the truth that is you don’t have to change a thing. Work towards your goals because you love yourself and you want more for yourself, not because they are things you have to achieve to deserve that love. Have fun in the process of mistakes and successes while getting there. But remember if you don’t, there’s always next year.