An odd one, but a lesson I learned from a dating experience, and one I wish to teach with all the love and warmth Mr Rogers taught all of us with. I want to wish y’all a safe and happy 2020 and to take a moment (during what is a peak time for mental health crises) to explain to you why I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions, and why you shouldn’t either.
The year was 2018 and I was head over heels for a boy who changed me in more ways than I will ever be able to describe. This boy was the kind of person who had a presence, an impact, just by standing near you. For the purposes of this story, let’s call him J. While externally, he appeared to be a bit of a meat-head, he was actually quite deep, and for a narcissist he was well educated, thought provoking and inspirational (obviously when he wasn’t being a narcissistic arsehole.) J recommended to me a book I instantly fell in love with, and became obsessed with trying to figure out, and while laying in bed one night while half asleep, I nearly did – much to his surprise. ** For those of you playing at home, the book is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and yes I absolutely recommend it if you have inspiration for over 1000 pages… ** He was big into philosophy and loved a conversation about politics, all while being so gym obsessed he was writing an e-book on fitness and was a member of the Australian Army. J ate books for breakfast, tearing through them at a speed I had never before seen in anyone except myself, and in a lot of ways I felt that I had met my match. But the thing J taught me, and the thing I’m here to talk about, is why you shouldn’t believe in this myth that you need to be a different person or make yourself over just because a new year is starting, he taught me to take the pressure away from New Year’s Eve and to just live.
I joke on here frequently that I am not physically gifted and am quite an awkward person; that my family scoff and laugh at the idea of me doing physical exercise, but did you know that I recently joined a gym and have actually been going 3-4 times a week? During my break from writing, I walked into a gym one day and walked out a member with a fitness plan and a fob to scan in and out with – the real deal. After J and I broke up, I went back to my GP and got myself a Mental Health Care Plan and a referral to a new psychologist to help me unpack what had happened and why I felt so horrifically depressed about something that, in the grand scheme of things, is nothing. I one day decided to give up obsessively checking J’s Facebook profile to see if he had posted about the girl he cheated on me with (he always had when I checked) and after a month I had done it, only now seeing his posts when/if they come up organically.
Did you know – It takes 66 days to form a habit, but only 21 days of conscious and consistent effort to break one. Hmmmmm.
So, why am I telling you this? And what does this have to do with J and this whole stupid post? Well, this. J taught me that if you want to make a change, you will make it. You will form or break a habit, you will improve the quality of your life, you will tell someone you love them just because you do and not prompted by Valentine’s Day, you will see your grandparents and not just because it’s one of their birthdays. You want something? Do it. Just because you want it. His words ring in my ears every time I second guess a decision, every time I doubt myself. Sure, in his case, he wanted another girl and didn’t consider me or our relationship when pursuing her, but he lived and will die by that principle. J was never one to back down on something he believed in.
New Year’s Eve and the start of a new year bring with them immense amounts of pressure. Pressure to change your life, to set a goal and work towards it – but to also achieve it in the small space of just that year. It’s the pressure to kick a habit, pressure to get a promotion, meet the love of your life, save $10,000, hit all your fitness goals, attend all the social events you’re invited to, and hey – even try that restaurant you’ve wanted to for ages but never got around to. Sounds exhausting, right? Then, New Year’s Eve rolls around again and due to whatever circumstances and extraneous variables, you haven’t completed your resolutions. Your habit got worse, you lost your job because your company went bust, you had a string of bad dates that never stuck because you wanted it too badly and chose poorly, you saved no money because you needed to pay your bills, you broke your leg in a freak rollerblading accident, you missed social events because of your (understandably) poor mental health and you never went to that damn restaurant. By this point, the countdown has started and you’re an emotional wreck because you didn’t do even the simplest of things you wished to achieve, so by the time the clock strikes 12, you’re so down on yourself that you impulsively set goals for the next year that you’re really, truly, absolutely going to achieve. Lather, rinse repeat.
And the truth is, we rarely achieve them as research has shown that by January 12th, most people have ditched their resolutions for the year (Thank you, Science.) This can be a subconscious thing or a conscious effort, but either way it leaves us feeling like we’ve failed. That’s where the second part to this lesson comes in, and was what I followed up a lecture from J with when we started discussing this one year ago today.
“Everyone is running their own race. We are all given a chance and are doing the best we can based on where we started the race from.”
Ok, so you didn’t save $10,000 but what DID you do? You paid all your bills on time, you kept a roof over your head and food on the table when you had no income and you lived to tell the tale.
You didn’t hit your fitness goals, but you were set back to square one in that crazy rollerblading accident and had to do intensive rehab to be able to walk again, and ultimately you did surpass the point you were at before the accident because of how well you took to the rehab schedule.
So you didn’t try that restaurant? Shitty date #6 took you to a restaurant you ended up loving so much that you went back with SD’s #9 and #15. You ran your own race and had different obstacles to everyone else – but you finished the race and you’re about to start a new one.
J not only taught me the value in setting goals, but in also recognising your efforts in achieving those goals. As someone with an eating disorder, I found it difficult to recognise my efforts if I hadn’t met my goals, because my default mode is and always has been “I’ve failed.” But that didn’t stop J from telling me how healthy I looked when he knew I felt like a failure. It never stopped him from telling me how great I looked in yoga pants, or how he loved how comfortable in my own skin I was while I was around him. J was my biggest fan, despite what I saw as failures on my behalf, he saw them as accomplishments because he saw the struggles I went through to get to where I was, just as I hope you all can look back on 2019 and recognise what you did. Whether it be that you met a personal goal, you beat an illness, you remembered your grandma’s birthday, you went to a social event that you really didn’t want to go to or even that held your head high and stayed strong through the worst of it. You have achieved something, and you have grown.
“I hope you’re proud of yourself for the times you’ve said “yes,” when all it meant was extra work for you and was seemingly helpful only to someone else.” – Mr Rogers.
J was never in love with me, and that’s ok, because he loved me in the way he could. J taught me to love myself and to appreciate what effort I was going through to be a healthier person; to celebrate the little things without feeling the pressure to be better, or like that cloud of failure was following me around. He made me achieve things without pressure, and encouraged me to be a better person just by loving me for the things I was doing. Never once when I told him I was falling behind in meeting a goal did he drag me through the mud or make me feel like I wasn’t giving it my all. Instead he continued to hold my hand and encourage me to get there no matter how long it took. And you know what? Once I started going easier on myself, I started taking bigger and bigger steps towards achieving those goals – goals that changed when J and I broke up. Your goals are allowed to change to accommodate your life, and if your goal is to hit a fitness goal by a certain time and you do happen to break your leg in a freak rollerblading accident then, first of all please tell me what happened in this accident, but also let yourself readjust that goal. There is absolutely no shame in adjusting your goals. You will still be achieving something incredible, you will just be doing so in your own race and not someone else’s. As Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” and if you compare yourself to someone who set the same goal as you but didn’t break their leg in that accident (because THEY were the ones on rollerblades who broke YOUR leg) then you’re not treating yourself fairly or giving yourself the best chance at achieving your goals.
So, as it is January 1st; I beg, plead and implore you to stop setting goals with an expiration date that makes you feel like a failure, and to start setting goals with an expiration date and recognising the steps you took towards achieving them when the expiration date comes. Every achievement is an achievement, even if it isn’t the completion of the goal. Doesn’t have to be because it’s a new year, fuck the new year. Set one in June because you can, and make the expiration date 18 months away. Set a goal tomorrow and make the expiration date your birthday – just to see what happens. Run your race, avoid rollerblades and recognise your accomplishments. I hope that in the next year, everyone starts to go a little easier on themselves 🙂