The Self-Imposed Law of New Year’s Resolutions

January 6, 2015

In the Western world, the marker of the New Year in the Gregorian Calendar has long been an occasion to hit refresh on your life — to start anew, to better oneself, to finally “do” what you likely already attempted during the previous year. Remember, there is no more perfect time to try again — best use this particular designated day as your starting point. On your mark, get set, go!

Come February if you have failed? Ah, well, there’s always next year.

In the early 19th Century, New Year’s resolutions appeared to be more of an extension of religious rule or dictate, not the capitalistic, shame-infused credos of today. In modernity’s New Year, the focus is less on how you can be a better person to those around you — “diligence in appointed service” (a more decent citizen) — and more on how you can shed those pesky holiday pounds. Or get a husband.

For women especially, the pressure to do a complete body overhaul is blasted into your eardrums and through your corneas at an alarming frequency. Turning on the television to watch The Twilight Zone marathon on New Year’s Day (naturally), I have never seen more advertisements for Weight Watchers and Lucille Roberts in my life. In equal measure were the eHarmony, Match.com and Zoosk ads reminding us that we’re still alone, and that it’s time to change that. Then there were the new, innovative ways to shed pounds that sound like science fiction spas: CoolSpa in New York City literally freezes away your fat cells! Trimspa (or Trimfit?) appears to get rid of your fat via squeezing or stretching — methods likely adopted from a meat processing plant.

New Year’s resolutions are not required by law, but after a quick browse through social media and regular media, it is clear that it is almost a requirement to partake in them in order to appear an active member of society, lest you remain in the old year’s dregs of sloth and unaccomplished personhood. Without becoming too cynical about the institution of resolutions — if it is valuable and helpful to people to use this marker as an agent of change for betterment, I am not one to judge — I feel as though the phenomenon of the New Year’s resolution is more about jocular posturing than about listening to oneself instead of the noise that surrounds us. Most of the Facebook posts I read were friends of friends describing their new workout plans or diet plans (gluten-free, Whole30, and Paleo are still hot this year, folks!), and overall self-aggrandizement.

As women continue to struggle for tangible rights and justice in regard to our bodies, we also struggle to shed the stronghold of cultural norms that make us less than we are, that tell us to pursue a phantom ideal, a place where we can “now have the body we had in our 20s!” It is not a woman’s fault for buying into these myths when they are so drastically bombarding us. It’s the machine that pumps these ridiculous lies into our heads that is the problem, not the women who have to hear it. Personally, I choose to let myself off the hook a little, to loosen my self-regulation and body policing, and to reject the insidious media telling me to be trimmer and more beautiful in order to be a more acceptable human being for everyone else.

How about something different? What if what I want is to be more acceptable to myself — to be kinder, and to ease off the strict, culturally-imposed laws I’ve too often blindly accepted, letting others create some mythical ideal of who I should be?

Setting aside my own cynicism toward the silly institution of the New Year’s resolution, my own for 2015 are as follows:

–       Turn off my phone and computer a lot more.

–       Go outside after I turn off my phone and computer.

–       Bring along a book. (Remember to leave phone and computer at home.)

–       Read as much as a I can (not on phone or computer).

–       Write as much as I can. (Computer is fine.)

–       Eat more croissants because good heavens, do I love them.

That’s about it. Have a wonderful 2015.

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