As December approaches I can already feel a familiar surge of anxiety. Presents to purchase, parties to plan and people to please. I watch as another year quickly disappears over the horizon and I find myself wistfully wondering what I have to show for the last 365 days of my life. Achievement, advancement and success are all hardwired into our brains which means that we’re constantly seeking tangible triumphs that prove our worth. It’s no surprise that this tends to lead to fear, failure and disappointment. As we berate ourselves for not doing and being enough, the promise of a new year creates a temporary salve.
But what is it about the start of a new year that compels us to reinvent ourselves?
The online world is filled with advice about how to build a new you for the new year. But can you really detox yourself to happiness or overhaul your career with a new wardrobe? If you join the gym and enlist the services of a scarily sculpted squatting enthusiast will you finally find love? It seems that every new year we’re all desperate to make a change. If only I could be a little more of this, or a little less of that, then perhaps I’d be more successful/happier/smarter… (and so it goes on). We wait for the new year and make a list of all of the things that we never got round to doing which we desperately hope will contribute to our eventual transformation into a perfect human being. But as I sit here thinking about how the latest gadget or experience will change my world for the better, I’m left wondering why I’m so desperate to escape the old me. Because in reality new years resolutions seem to be less about self-development and more about an alternative self. Instead of looking at ways to improve the quality of our lives we can often start to fragment and create a new life from scratch. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for re-birth but each new year we rush to build a jenga castle in the sky and then wonder why it’s so shaky.
I’ve decided that this year I’m going to do things a little differently. Would I benefit from learning how to cook deliciously healthy dishes? Ok, quite possibly. But will it make me a more worthwhile person if I know my cacao from my carob? I think not. Whilst I may also benefit from doing a little more exercise (ok, a lot), do I really need to conform to a narrowly defined stereotype of the ideal body type? What happens if I just accept me? Will the world end? I’m a mass of messy contradictions and I make promises with myself and then break them because I’m not perfect. I’ll let you in on a secret, no-one is. The continual striving for perfection only causes us to feel further alienated from our true selves as we desperately seek to hide our pain, shame and vulnerability. Whenever I feel the familiar urge to escape or deny myself I’m reminded of the following quote;
“In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.”
So ask yourself this, how can I be rebellious today?