New Year’s Resolutions
Allie Tollaksen | Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Because it’s the start of a new year and semester, I feel obligated to write about New Year’s resolutions.
As I’ve gotten older (and more active on social media), talk about the holiday has taken a bitter turn: People hate New Year’s resolutions.
Social media platforms are riddled with angry veteran gym-goers and health enthusiasts haranguing about packed fitness centers and long lines at Whole Foods. The overarching sentiment is that resolvers take up space and time with their new healthy lifestyles until February, when they’ll finally get out the way.
I can’t help but be bothered by this response, so here is my case for New Year’s resolutions.
First, I’ve heard detractors claim that New Year’s is an arbitrary time to change or try something new. They insist the day is meaningless and that celebrating Jan. 1 with resolutions is as bad as buying a Hallmark card on Valentine’s Day.
Of course you can resolve to be a better person on any day of the year, but there’s something about the calendar resetting that gives resolutions their excitement and challenge. We tell ourselves this is the year and have the “2015” in every date holding us accountable. Yes, gyms and Jenny Craig capitalize on the holiday, but that doesn’t mean self-improvement is suddenly a sham.
Second, although naysayers rant on social media about how the gym crowd won’t last or balk at a friend hitting the salad bar for lunch, they’re doing more than passively prophesying. Breaking a habit or starting a healthier life is hard, but hearing over and over again that these attempts are unwelcome or unconvincing only makes them harder.
When your friends publicly declare their hopes for self-improvement, why not encourage them? Why not appreciate their willingness to self-reflect, at the very least?
I’m not trying to tell you to make “be nicer” your New Year’s resolution. I’m as guilty as anyone for mindlessly rolling my eyes at a “#transformationtuesday” Instagram. Still, this January, I’m resolving to remind myself every day that other people’s efforts and successes aren’t an affront to my own.
There’s no way of knowing whether the newcomer at the gym or teetotaler at the party won’t stick with their changes. There’s no way to know their intentions or whether they made their goals for the “right” reasons, and it’s easy to make snap judgments instead.
It’s also easy to feel better about yourself when you wait around to watch others fumble or fail. What’s not so easy is giving the benefit of the doubt; it’s difficult to be supportive and empathetic.
So yes, it may take a bit more effort. It may mean making extra room or taking extra time, but I really believe that scoffing at those trying to self-improve is a collective habit worth breaking.