Rethinking Resolutions: Why “New Year, New You” is Toxic


The title of this blog is a bold statement but we think it’s one you really need to hear. Your New Year’s Resolution isn’t helping you and, in fact, it might be hurting you. We’ve got all the details on how it’s toxic, and what you can try instead. 

1. It implies you’re not whole as you are 

By the very nature of the mantra “New Year, New You”, there is every implication that the version of you that existed on December 31, 2021, was lacking something. You weren’t. Whether you were the person you wanted to be or living the life you wanted to live doesn’t matter. You were still a whole person, worthy of whole growth and development from that moment forward—not in spite of it. 

When an author ends a story, they don’t burn the whole book. They end it instead. Whether you’re starting a new chapter or a sequel, the implication that your existence prior to this theoretical new you was something less than desirable has no place in the holistic healing you deserve.

You’re already enough, there’s no need to be new 

Instead, try embracing the concept of building on a foundation or, if you prefer, beginning anew. There is nothing so inherently wrong with you that it requires you to become someone else entirely, and there’s certainly no need to tie the concept to an ideal based around a calendar. 

You don’t deserve the punishment of exiling the parts of you that are so beautifully ready to move forward with new vigor. You simply deserve the grace of reshaping the sharp edges and the malleable softness that no longer serves you. Consider bringing in the balance of your therapist who is already skilled at recognizing your strengths and where you need support so you can best carry forward what works with you into the future.

2. High-pressure hope can bring low self-esteem

When you set a rigid goal tied to a calendar or timeline instead of to the reality of an ever-fluctuating life full of needs and obligations, you put immense pressure on yourself. There is a lot of stress in hoping that this year will be the year you accomplish the resolution you set out to achieve, and a sense of threatening foreboding may linger over the prospect of not rising to the challenge. 

But here’s the thing—it doesn’t need to be a challenge. If you’re setting goals that feel like a punishment instead of a journey, you’re more likely to experience a sense of imminent failure and low self-esteem than you are to achieve some revolutionary resolution.

Practice self-compassion instead 

No one’s saying you shouldn’t be making resolutions (at least not here). But consider offering yourself a more compassionately shaped idea of what you’d like to feel this year instead of an itemized list of resolution-shaped demands on your own time. You don’t know now what this year will hold, so prepare yourself for experiencing a year of the unknown by being gentle with the needs you have now and the energy you can dedicate to doing so. 

Through self-compassion, you can cultivate a sense of understanding into curating goals and ideas that are as fluid as the shape of life these days. A journal is a perfect place to dissect the emotional intention of your goals alongside the lived experiences each day. Write your self-reflection as you move with the world, instead of rigidly digging into the first hopes you hold for yourself this year.

3. Boldness often overshadows realistic goals 

We really jump in with both feet to that New Year’s feeling, don’t we? The urgency and determination of setting a goal and being prepared to reach for it can lead to us creating a reality that isn’t realistically achievable for us. When you’re thinking out loud, it feels a lot different than the way you live out loud. 

Boldness is admirable, but realism is where you’ll be able to exercise accountability and sustainable action. Don’t buy into the ‘eyes are bigger than your stomach’ edition of goal setting that New Year’s Resolutions so often evoke. Life isn’t just about what you achieve—how you feel as you achieve it matters too. 

Be bold in embracing evolution instead of extremes

Instead of creating lofty goals that may contribute to feelings of failure or self-loathing as the world moves at a pace different from the one you imagined, use that boldness to embrace the possibility of the experience. When setting goals, consider making them SMART goals. This business-minded goal-setting strategy focuses on measurable growth that challenges you but does so in attainable increments. 

Goal-setting that is mindful instead of bold can instill confidence not only in your ability to achieve but also in your ability to plan and adapt. Those feelings will help you to evolve over time into a sustainable and holistic version of yourself with all the beautiful things you are now as well as the things you hope to be.

4. The fickle beast of social comparison is so real 

Tying your hopes and dreams to the same goal post everyone else is using to set their lofty goals is surely going to create some spicy competition. Except, when it comes to personal growth, competition isn’t going to help you get ahead. That same social comparison built-in cliquey high school lunchrooms lingers in the very concept of New Year’s Resolutions

While you may all be in this together, you’re also most certainly not. Each person has their own goals and their own ideas of how to reach them. For many, the best way to feel good about their achievements may include cutting yours down—even if it’s not malicious.

Try temporal comparison instead 

If you feel better when you have a benchmark by which to measure your performance, use yourself as the subject. Try using your own past experiences to create the same sense of achievement without the polished barometer of other people’s performative boasting. These self-structured performance metrics can help you to feel less sense of competition and more fairness. When you’re focused on doing your best (by your own achievements) you’ll be able to offer yourself more understanding if the goals need to change—or even just how you’re reaching for them does.

New Year’s resolutions don’t have to be soaring standards of success. They don’t even have to be set. You can start healing or moving toward wholeness, at any time of the year. If you’re determined to tie your self-growth to the tabula rasa temptation of the calendar, consider starting small or focusing on the way it feels to want the things you’re asking for. You can do anything, and you’ll do it better if you treat yourself with kindness as you awaken this next path.

Awakened Path Counseling proudly provides quality transpersonal and traditional psychotherapy, at their offices in Middlesex County, New Jersey, and online. Their experienced therapists specialize in serving teens, children, adults, couples, and families. The experienced clinicians at Awakened Path Counseling are passionate about their holistic approach to mental health, addressing your emotional, cognitive, physical, and spiritual needs.

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