Debunking the “New Year, New You” Mentality
Make your new year's resolutions successful through self-love.
“New year, new me!” We’ve all heard this declaration at the start of a brand new year. After all, New Year’s Eve is a time of reflection. When we shed our old selves, let go of the past, and envision the new way of being that we would like to embody. Right? Think again. This is simply the narrative that our collective culture has embraced year after year. In a more wellness-forward approach, adopting resolutions for the new year can come from a place of self-love and recognition that each step of the journey is gradual. The ups and downs along the way need not be judged.
The status quo does not seem to be successful, either. According to studies, 80% of “new me” attempts (also known as new year’s resolutions) completely fail by the second week of February. Social scientist B. J. Fogg is the founder of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University and author of Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything. In conversation with rē•spin, he explains two essential reasons why the “new year, new me” mentality just doesn’t work. First, he says, we need self-knowledge to know how we’d best improve. Second, we cannot simply swap old identities or substantial behaviors for new ones.
Loving the new you *and* the old you
To see why it’s time to move on from the “new year, new me” mentality, first consider why it appeals to so many. Why is it common to want to become somebody else entirely? What does it say about our work toward self-love, self-acceptance, and self-knowledge if we are simply shedding a past version of ourselves?
In some ways, the popularity of this annual adage can feed into dissatisfaction with the self that is normalized as unproblematic. But if at its heart is the belief that a different “you” would be preferable, without honoring the ups and downs of the path that takes each person towards self-actualization, this is unhealthy. It’s no surprise the resolutions fail when made from a place of lack, or not feeling enough.
Fogg sees absent self-compassion in certain resolutions people make. His first maxim is, “Help yourself do what you want to do.” It’s no surprise that we can’t actually snap our fingers, wait for the ball to drop, and suddenly become a new person. Evolution takes infinitesimal small steps. But even small improvements won’t be effective unless you rē•flect and rē•connect to yourself what you are becoming.
Making your resolutions for the new year attainable
Fogg says that one of the main reasons behavior shifts aren’t successful is because people “often pick behaviors that they don’t [like], such as running on a treadmill, even though they hate doing that activity.” There is no reason why you cannot work with yourself and be strategic with what you choose to aid you in making your desired shifts. (If you hate running, consider a cortisol-conscious exercise like yoga!) Turning inward helps you to honor your real preferences while opting to make behavioral shifts that align with them will ultimately be more successful.
Going deeper, ask yourselves why you have an impulse to change a certain behavior. Is there a deeper issue that deserves recognition here? For example, do you want to lose weight, or do you want to feel more confident? Do you want to wake up earlier, or do you want to arise feeling calm and rested? Identifying your underlying desires can help you become more specific and attuned with the intentions you select.
Fogg explains that another resolution pitfall that comes from a lack of deeper reflection is choosing goals that are too broad or abstract, lacking specificity. For instance, “getting healthy” is a less effective goal than, say, “eating sauerkraut with breakfast each day.’” By acknowledging your concrete habits, routines, and tendencies, you can better name and integrate specific new behaviors you’re determined to incorporate into your lifestyle.
Make self-love the heart of your resolutions
Self-love is at the heart of the matter. A deep, compassionate embrace of self — with honesty and introspection — is a prerequisite for true and lasting change. Instead of erasing your past experiences, or feeling disappointed or ashamed of who you were, show yourself unconditional love and strive to achieve your highest good. You will better serve yourself by letting your authentic self guide you toward your deeper truth — and this can be found in appreciating who you are today and every day of the year.