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New Year's Resolutions: 'Forever chasing a whole new us isn’t self-help, it’s self-harm'

Forget unrealistic goals and just be nicer to yourself and others in 2017, writes Lorraine Courtney.

Lorraine Courtney Journalist

EIGHT PER CENT of us will keep our resolutions this year, which means that a cool 92 per cent of us will come across the list we wrote somewhere in mid March and be filled with sadness.

That’s a sadness that’s part nostalgic for the hope we felt at the beginning of 2017, and part pure loathing for our total lack of willpower. I hate to tell you this, but it’s unlikely that 2017 will be the year you double your salary, run for two hours a day, see the world, stop drinking, eat only plant-based dinners and never touch sugar again.

Why does anyone bother with New Year Resolutions?

They do have a certain charm, the NYRs. The dream of a better you. The air of possibility. But how many people do you know who say, “I gave up smoking/went on a diet/stopped drinking/ turned vegan on New Year’s Day, and it all went absolutely brilliantly?” That’s right – none. There seems to be a gremlin around in January that dooms any attempt at self-improvement to failure.

And yet people still persist in believing that every New Year will magically melt away fat, cravings, relationship problems and career voids. This is the tragedy of human existence. We all think we’re butterflies waiting to happen, but we’re really just slow-moving toads. And that’s okay.

If you spent the whole year as I spend Christmas week, horizontal, cranky and putting food in my mouth for every second that I’m not asleep, you would be in need of a dramatic life overhaul. Otherwise death could be imminent. But you see we’re fundamentally fine. Most of the year our vegetables get eaten and our runners get worn occasionally too.

A full 42 per cent of New Year’s resolutions involve trying to force ourselves to be healthier. But newsflash: That doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. As in, you can stop trying to choke back kale if you can’t stand it. Quit signing up for big, sweaty yoga classes when you’d rather just jog and listen to cheesy music. There are so many good-for-you things in the world that if you’ve given one of them a shot and truly aren’t feeling it, let it go.

Self-help turns to self-hate

Increasingly, I think that forever chasing a whole new us isn’t self-help, it’s self-harm. Because it’s unrealistic, inauthentic and setting us all up for a gigantic fall. When have you ever, really, sorted your life out?

Lives never get sorted out. They just go from disaster to unpredictable disaster with a few magical moments of joy thrown in.

Resolutions just make you feel bad when you break them, guilty and lacking spine. I know that the New Year doesn’t hold any magic to make me better, no more so than any other day does. Nothing much distinguishes January 1 from December 31, except maybe the morning headache and nausea.

I’m a practical girl, so when you measure all of the big dreams and lofty plans up against motivation and achievability, the big dreams seem like just that. Life will always be a bit shit. I just need to try to get through it all intact, alongside people I love and who love me. That’s the only goal anybody should have.

So as the marketing industry gears up to bombard us with propaganda about joining gyms and the like, it’s important to remember that sometimes the phrase “cold turkey” is best employed where it belongs: in a sandwich slathered with brown sauce. End of. Keep your goals small and just be nicer to yourself and those around you in 2017.

Lorraine Courtney is a journalist, jogger and columnist.

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Lorraine Courtney  / Journalist

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