“3, 2, 1 HAPPY NEW YEAR!”
The fireworks go off, those who know the words sing Auld Lang Syne, kisses are given where appropriate, and then the discussion swings round to how we’re going to try and be better people.
‘What are your new year resolutions?’ or ‘Any goals for 2018?’ are innocuous enough questions, but a phrase that seems to be floating around a lot - especially on social media - is ‘new year, new you’.
It really annoys me.
What is a new you? The saying seems to suggest and advocate the destruction of what intrinsically makes you ‘you’. It creates an image of a superficial being who can on a whim radically alter and transform their person to conform to the social norm – metamorphosis triggered by something as arbitrary as a full cycle around the sun.
Ignoring the philosophical embodiment of self, the saying fails on a practical level. I’m afraid the start of a new year isn’t going to radically alter who you are, Greg. Your back will still ache, your knees will still click when you bend down, and you aren’t going to be able to drink like you’re 18 again. You aren’t going to be a new person. You are the same person, who might make some different choices.
We as humans are constantly developing, both as a society and personally. We change and grow with every new experience, interaction, knockback or heartbreak. How we think and react is shaped to outcomes of prior experiences. To disregard all of that to make a ‘new you’ is counterintuitive and negates all the growth you have made until this point.
The idea of a new year resolution in itself, when you think about it, is more than a little ridiculous. It suggests that we as humans can only set life plans or goals every 365 days, and outside of that period we are resigned to plod on, regardless of happiness.
And why is it we use new year to mark such decisions? I would argue that it is in fact one of the worst times to start making big life changes.
According to YouGov, the top new year resolutions are:
1) Eat better
2) Exercise more
3) Spend less money
Do you see the flaw? Most people still have a couple of days off work, surrounded by junk food, watching TV where we are bombarded with sale adverts, and it’s absolutely freezing outside! There is no impetus to really achieve any of those goals at the beginning of the year, and as such we are setting ourselves up to fail.
There is nothing wrong with ‘you’. Maybe you are overweight, under-read, or unhappy in your current place of work, but be honest, becoming a ‘new you’ isn’t going to change that. You’ll still order the takeaway and use that Clinton autobiography as a coaster. A ‘new you’ doesn’t exist.
A ‘better you’ can. A you who has decided to make the lifestyle changes. Who looked at what they had done previously and decided it wasn’t working, so made the decision to try something else - taking those experiences and growing from them.
Don’t devalue who you are and how far you’ve come by wishing it away for a blank slate. ‘You’ have achieved so much just by surviving to this point. If you want to try a different path you’re going to need that experience to help guide you, protect you, and use it to evaluate how those choices compare.
So how about we make a collective resolution to kill off this stupid notion that we need to become new people, and instead promote an idea of healthy improvement. Nothing is perfect, and expecting a ‘new you’ to be perpetually happy and successful is just unrealistic.
Photo: Mark Deckers