Remixing New Year's: Resolutions vs. Aspirations
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Linked from this post on instagram.
The History of New Years & Resolution Setting:
It is tough to find accurate historical info about the history of New Year's and the practice of setting resolutions, though it dates back thousands of years to ancient times. When discussing the ‘traditional’ New Year's celebration, most people think of the commonly used Gregorian calendar, which was originally developed for religious purposes by early Christians (including the significance of January 1st).
However, celebrations vary all over the world and happen on different days/times, as well as focusing on different aspects of the ‘new year.’ For example, some Indigenous communities celebrate the Winter Solstice, as well as spring as a time of rebirth.
Also, keep in mind that Indigenous communities have long experienced the erasure and violence toward their ancestry, values, and traditions. This includes the suppression of the Indigenous calendar, which is moon-based.
Reflections versus Aspirations:
For those who practice radical body love & self compassion, this time of year can be triggering with many messages of 'not good enough.' I think we might all agree that 2020 felt like a trash fire in some ways. And there were also some really good moments too.
Language is so very important. Resolution suggests a "decision to do or not to do something" or "being determined." Instead, I would like to reframe the faulty idea of New Year, New You to instead reflect on our aspirations, which can be "a hope or ambition of achieving something" or a "process of drawing a breath." Actually, let's do that now. Breathe.
I believe that we are all doing the best we can with the capacity and knowledge we have. To be clear, that does not mean we don't have areas for growth or that we can't strive to be better humans! But we can do it with a lens of compassion, accountability, and without shame! Therefore, this post focuses on reframing the (colonized) tradition of setting resolutions with some examples to get you started.
I often reflect on the importance of accountability and self-compassion when it comes to making change. When holding ourselves or others accountable, especially in the work of transformative justice, we need to do so with an openness and awareness of how to engage others in conversation about the ways they might be causing harm by mistake, ignorance, or misunderstanding. That does not mean that there isn't a time or space to call out harmful behavior that is abusive. I loved the recent read by #WeWillNotCancelUs by @adriennemareebrown that reflects more on this idea.
The following are some examples of aspirations that are less likely to lead to disappointment, failure, and/or a shame spiral!
"I ASPIRE TO..."
...recognize when 'in shame' and reach out rather than pull away.
...practice self-compassion rather than shame for the parts of myself that I worry others dislike.
...set personal boundaries of what is vs. what is not OK, especially for the people I care about.
...admire & respect boundaries that others set for themselves, even if it feels unpleasant for me.
...gently notice numbing or avoidant behavior and get curious about it.
...pause and take a breath when caught in a perfectionistic (downward) spiral.
...engage in dance, exercise & physical activity/movement because it feels good and/or because I want to.
...practice radical love for my health status, my body & its abilities (until it doesn't feel radical anymore).
...enjoy the food that I choose to eat, that tastes good to me, and that satisfies my needs, regardless of what those needs are.
...act consistent with my values of antiracism, body & food liberation, & decolonizing mental health.
...strive for excellence in the things I value and do well, rather than perfectionism based on expectations of others.
...practice daily gratitude & self-compassion, moving away from the idea that I need to "start over."
...be consistent with my values, beliefs, and goals when it comes to: a) my financial spending; b) what I read, listen to, & write; c) social media accounts I follow, share, and support; and d) the colleagues, thought leaders, influencers, & celebrities who inspire and teach me.
...counter colonized norms and support marginalized communities with my words, actions, and money + value their lived experiences. For example, when exercising, I will support fitness pros who are: fat, disabled, BIPOC, and/or trans and nonbinary.
...let go of setting goals (any day of the year) based on the idea that I am not doing enough or that I am not enough as I am.
...examine the ways that New Years (and other holidays) connect to settler colonization, e.g., the suppression of indigenous moon-based calendars.
Self-reflection: What are your aspirations?
Take a few minutes now to create your own list of aspirations for 2021 (or any time period starting today).
Consider what values, beliefs, and goals underlie your aspirations.
Practice compassion-based rather than shame-inducing self talk.
In addition to the suggestions above, I encourage you to check out this excellent article by Sam Dylan Finch, 9 New Year’s Resolutions for Better Mental Health in 2021. I also really like this article on TinyBuddha.com about Why Resolutions Don’t Work & How to Create Real, Lasting Change.
Note: This was is adapted from an instagram post on 12/26/20 @megan.wholehearted.psych
It is meant solely for reflection, not professional advice. Any content on my professional page or other materials is not a substitute for clinical treatment.