January is a time best known for resolving to change your life and failing in a pathetically short time frame. The game of deciding to lose weight, drink less, save money, be a nicer person, and subsequently not doing any of those things, is played out annually and rarely to success.
I know why I fail every year; because nothing makes me want to eat junk food, drink gin, spend money and be horrible to people more than feeling like I’m under pressure to restrict my behaviour. For others, it could be that their expectations are unrealistic, that the lifestyle shift poses more of a difficulty than they thought, or actually because it turns out those things they are giving up make them happy. Resolutions fail for a number of reasons but the fact is, they fail.
Unfortunately, the effect of failing isn’t just that you don’t achieve your goals, at least if you’re anything like me. It’s that feeling of failure itself, that you’ve let yourself down somehow, that adds that bit of salt to the wound. I haven’t just not saved any money; I’ve got no willpower, I’m an overspender, I’m my own problem, I don’t enjoy the things I have bought because of the guilt I feel over them. For me, the guilt of not succeeding is regularly far worse than not succeeding’s direct effect on my life.
There’s a lot of commentary about how important this feeling of guilt is to the industries that stand to benefit from your attempts to self-improve; I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen A LOT of adverts from fitness classes in the last month. Marketing metrics and research is good enough now to know what you’ve probably been thinking about doing. They know how to hit you where it hurts when you feel like you really need to do something. It goes beyond simple trend spotting. Emails send automatically when you fail to complete a purchase; ads for health food boxes fill your social after you watch a video with an #ad in it on youtube. Without sounding like a full-blown conspiracy theorist, the machines know you’ve not been doing your squats. And they are coming for you.
So, the overarching effect of me making, and failing my new year’s resolutions, has two problems. One, I feel guilty and ashamed of myself and that’s not a nice feeling. And two, that guilt then makes me spend more money and I fuel industries seeking to benefit from this shame. Essentially, the problems I’m trying to solve aren’t as big an issue as the guilt I get from failing to solve them. Maybe, just maybe, the solution is then not to try and solve my problems but to instead, get rid of the guilt that I’ve attached to them. To tell myself it’s okay not to be perfect, to acknowledge my issues, but also say ‘screw this, living this way makes me happy and I’ma do it.’ Other things in my life are happy, so why should I feel guilty about them? As Marie Kondo would put it, the guilt does not spark joy, therefore it has to go. So, here are just a few things I could resolve not to do, but am not going to. Instead, I’m going to do them and not feel guilty.
Not exercising as much as I need to for a Kardashian bod
Because literally only the Kardashians have time for that. I concluded last year that a healthy, manageable amount for me to go the gym is twice a week. That fits in with my lifestyle. And to be clear, that is perfectly healthy; between this and my walking to work every day, that’s as much exercise as I should need to do. And FYI, it is not my job to tell you you should even be doing that much. I know myself well enough to know that some exercise is extremely beneficial to me, and I enjoy it. That’s my choice for myself, and if that’s not what you want, then don’t. However, I know I can be at risk of beating myself up about not doing enough, especially if I don’t make that two because I’m busy or ill. So guess what? It’s cool for me to be busy. Or ill. I don’t need to be up at 5am every day. I can aim for two a week because that’s my ideal. But if I don’t make it, I’m not going to hate myself any more.
Spending too much money on food
I love eating out and enjoying good food so much. It’s one of the best ways for me to connect with friends or colleagues, or keep me motivated if I’m having a challenging day at work. Good food is, yes, a privilege, but it’s also one of the simplest joys that I can have day-to-day, unmitigated by anything else. It’s unfortunately, also, a huge expenditure in my life. I regularly feel guilt over spending so much money on something so fleeting and frivolous, to the extent that I often don’t even enjoy my meal because I’m anxious about what I’ve paid for it.
I regularly try to cut back on it, which I still admit makes sense to do; don’t get me wrong I’m not about to start eating every meal at ZiZi’s with my new found freedom. I make the best scrambled eggs ever, so there’s not much need for me to go out for breakfast. But when I make the call to do it, simply because I want to, I’m going to enjoy it. It’s one of my favourite things, and I’m a grown ass woman with a salary and as long as I can afford the necessities, I’m going to let myself have it.
Lying in bed watching bad reality TV
Much like food, this is a simple piece of enjoyment I can gain easily at the end of a long day. In the past, reflecting on how I’ve wasted my time like this has made me feel really bad. But guess what? I absolutely love bad TV. And my bed. So much. It makes me happy. I’m now just going to embrace the happiness that gives me, and return to binge-watching Bridalplasty (side note: if you’ve never seen this, it’s a show in which brides compete for plastic surgery before their wedding day. Please, treat yourself to this).
Not having a pristinely tidy bedroom
Turns out, I’m just quite a messy person. I’ve taken steps to improve that about myself, a lot of which have worked (my favourite has been learning that it takes around about no effort whatsoever to take a mug to the kitchen when I am already near the mug and going to the kitchen. For years I, for some reason, would just look at the mug, think ‘hmm, not this time’, then go empty handed). I’ll keep trying for sure, as I don’t actually want to live in squalor, and will make changes where needed to prevent that.
But things don’t need to be pristine. I’m only going to live in it and ruin it again. I’m never going to have a perfect white and rose gold bedroom. I live in East London and my plant is dead. I’m not going to feel bad about the disorganised pile of hair products any longer.
So, I have one resolution; to not change anything about the above, other than how I feel about it. Please let me know in the comments or on Twitter what you won’t be changing this year; I would love to cheer on your disgusting, imperfect selves.
More on this topic: Ruby Martin on how she’s going to look after herself this year
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