We all know the classic “New Year, New You!” tropes: As January 1 draws near, we are finally going to lose weight, save money, get organized, and so on. Before long, the New Year’s Resolutions pile up like so much laundry.
But some of these typical resolutions, thinly disguised as self care, serve the patriarchy more than they serve us. For example, a focus on weight loss doesn’t reliably make healthier bodies, but it does reliably contribute to poor self-esteem. Goals that prioritize money or materialism are connected to decreased well-being. More broadly, resolutions that simply ask too much of us leave us feeling like we’re not good enough. While we’re stewing in a sense of personal failure, we’re less likely to pursue things actually satisfying, like our creativity, our careers or our politics.
So while the beginning of a new year is a fine time to take personal inventory and set goals for ourselves, let’s make sure we’re aligning these resolutions with our values of equality and social justice. So, for example, if we’re marching for women’s rights but then hating the shape of our bodies, we might be working at cross purposes.
In order for all of us to get the fresh starts we really deserve, I’ve taken some popular new year’s resolutions and given them a feminist makeover.
1. Get organized about your goals for yourself
A tidy closet and a clean desk are a great start to your year… until next week, that is, when they return to their natural state of chaos. Getting organized about your values and priorities, on the other hand, has benefits that can help you throughout the year. What’s important to you for 2020? Family? Friends? Creativity? Being of service to your community? Standing up for yourself or for others? What values got sidelined in 2019 and how can you keep them front and center? What is realistic for you this year? Answering these questions will give you a useful touchstone when you’re faced with tough decisions in 2020, including how to choose the rest of your resolutions.
weight body shame
If you talked to your friends the way you talk to yourself, would they still be your friends? Instead of promising to lose pounds, let’s lose the bad habit of trash-talking yourself. Start with a reasonable commitment like, “If I don’t have something nice to say about myself, I won’t say anything at all.” Then you can build up to gratitude for things like the way your body gets you where you need to go or the way your body lets you taste amazing food. Loving your latke belly is an act of resistance against a culture that demands an impossible standard of beauty.
3. Stick to a budget that includes a little something for you
People often start the new year with their most spartan, frugal living. While it’s useful to track what you spend and earn, be sure you’re including something playful for yourself. Regardless of your financial constraints, dedicating even a small amount of money for your own enjoyment serves you well on two fronts. First, you’re more likely to actually do something for yourself if you’ve budgeted for it. Second, you’re less likely to feel guilty if you’ve planned for it. Whether that’s having a monthly night out with your friends or having an occasional babysitter so you can just relax, it’s a great message for you (and your family) to see a line item that says “For Me.”
4. Read more books written by Women of Color
Reading is good for you and your brain. Whether you’re a a fiction aficionado, history buff, or a memoir enthusiast, choosing works written by Women of Color doubles the benefit of your reading resolution: You get the brain perks while supporting and hearing voices that have been historically marginalized. Yes, I sound like an NPR pledge drive, but it’s true. Need some suggestions? Goodreads put together a solid collection.
5. Spend time with people
you love who make you feel good
We continue to live in a politically and socially polarized climate — and sometimes the people we love and the people who make us feel good are not one and the same. Check in with yourself and notice who supports you in your values, who makes you feel seen, and who you want to show up for. Making time for people who make you feel good fits nicely with items 2 and 4. Or, start a book club and you can knock out three resolutions in one fell swoop.
6. Use social media
Social media is a double-edged sword: Swiping through headlines and images of our favorite people can sometimes make us feel more connected, but it can also make us more isolated. Being aware of the way we use social media is key: how much, how often, when, and what. The content of our feeds also bears reflection. Are we following stories that promote hatred of our bodies, or are we taking in ideas that make us laugh, connect, and love ourselves? Social media use does not get to go unchecked just because it’s right in the palm of your hand.
7. Floss your teeth
No changes required — this is a good thing to do.
Learn a new skill/take up a hobby Honor all the things you’re already doing
Knitting, writing, cooking, and marathon-running are wonderful things to take up in your life. Go for it, if you feel like it. But before you add on another thing, stop and acknowledge all that you do, right now, exactly as you are. Without changing anything. The relationships you’re in, the way you support other people, the way you support yourself. Passover is a long way away but dayenu: You are enough.
Simply put, your goal for 2020 should simply be to treat yourself and others really well. If your resolutions are informed by your values, you’re more likely to stick to them and you’ll probably feel pretty good about yourself along the way. Here’s to a Happy New Year!