It’s that time of year again where we are expected to become healthier, more productive, happier versions of ourselves, almost overnight. We’ve marked the calendar, we have our goals in mind, and as soon as January 1st hits we are ready to run towards this idyllic version of ourselves. 

While for some of us goal setting and resolutions might be a fun and hopeful exercise, for others, New Year’s Resolutions can be anxiety inducing and stressful. Setting big goals and trying to be "better" than before is a societal expectation around the beginning of the year. 

There is this idea that we cannot simply be okay with who we are, where we are and what we want in the moment, so we must strive to be better and more accomplished versions of ourselves in the New Year. Resolutions are often about accomplishments, and society expects us to accomplish more and more every year.

This logic is rooted in the idea that we are not good enough the way we are. Thus, what better time to start than the New Year? Setting goals and resolutions for the New Year is in line with the frame of thinking that tells us that a New Year should be synonymous with a "new you". 

Often, we don’t realize that setting big goals and resolutions can make us feel great in the short term but not so great in the long run. There is a high associated with setting new goals, but once the excitement of the New Year wears off, we are often left feeling unsettled, anxious and a little sad. 

Every year I make a promise to myself that I will be “healthier”.  I’ll stop buying my favourite cake from Save On and I’ll reduce my caffeine intake. I’ll eat more fruits and veggies and finally try Orange Theory. The week before New Years I stock up on healthy food, and when January 1st hits I am ready to be a “new me.” 

 I tell myself how great and accomplished I will feel by sticking to my goals but as each day slides into the next I feel myself waning. Maybe I had a cookie here, or a glass of wine there. Two cups of coffee turn to three and by the end of the month I am exactly where I started but also a little worse off. 

I had high expectations for my goals and when they didn’t work out I was left feeling sad and disappointed in myself. I’ve been repeating this pattern for years—until now. 

This year I didn’t set any goals, I didn’t try to be healthier, I didn’t even join a gym. Instead, I reflected on how wanting to be healthier was more about wanting to feel confident. I don’t always feel confident because I am not always comfortable in my skin. My New Years resolution was meant to make me feel better but instead it invalidated the true struggle—the need to work on my confidence and self-esteem.

New Year’s resolutions allow us to feel comfortable with a lie. If we tell ourselves that being more fit, more productive, or more wealthy will make us happy, then we can ignore the internal tug of war that cannot be solved with a gym membership, beauty products and more money. 

These things can only take us so far when we are struggling with deeper issues such as low self-esteem, self-worth, questions about our place in life and/or anxiety about the next chapters in our lives. 

New Year’s resolutions often make us feel that these existential problems can be resolved with surface level solutions, but the truth is that things cannot help us feel more confident— we need to make ourselves feel more confident. New Year’s resolutions, while packaged pretty on the outside, invalidate our true feelings and struggles by not allowing us to explore the deeper reasons behind our resolutions. 

If you’re looking to reframe your resolutions, one helpful way to do this is by changing resolutions to affirmations. Affirmations allow us to accept ourselves as we are whereas resolutions demand us to make a change. Some examples of this can be:

Resolution: I want to be skinnier.

Affirmation: I want to be healthier by practicing good eating habits. I am on my way to being a stronger version of myself.  

Resolution: I will have more money next year.

Affirmation: I want to take time to better understand my financial needs so that I can meet my goals. I am on my way to reaching financial security. 

Resolution: I don’t want to let negative relationships bring me down.

Affirmation: I want to spend this year getting to know myself better so that I can understand what I need from the relationships around me. I am worthy of giving and receiving love.

Resolution: I don’t like where I am in my life, I feel stuck.

Affirmation: I will spend this year nurturing my soul and finding what brings me joy, I am ready for the life I want and deserve.

Resolution: I want to find love this year.

Affirmation: Love begins with me and this year I will practice loving, knowing and caring for myself.  

Listen, I get that it’s hard. This is the time of year when society sells us gym memberships, detox teas and all of the beauty products that are supposed to improve our lives. 

I’m telling you an unpopular thing right now and it's this: you don’t need to change. New Year’s resolutions are a way for businesses to make money, whereas New Year’s affirmations are a way for you to refocus your attention on how you want to feel. 

Feelings aren’t grammable but I promise you the self-validation is far more gratifying. Shifting from resolutions to affirmations is the first step in achieving something we all strive for in one way or another; self love and self acceptance. 

About the author

Manjot Mann

My name is Manjot Mann and I am a mom, counsellor and writer. I have my undergraduate degree in Criminology/Psychology and a Masters in Counselling Psychology from Yorkville University. As a child I wanted to be a superhero, specifically Sailor Moon. As an adult I found there was no one like Sailor Moon running around in cute shoes saving people from monsters and so I took a desk job and hung up my imaginary cape. When I became a mom and fought my own demons, I realized I needed a career change. As a counsellor I help people with real and imagined monsters. As a writer I bring awareness to the fact that monsters exist and that there is a whole lot of superhero in all of us.

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