New Year's Dissolution
I will stop eating so many muffins.
I will stop denying that muffins cause muffin tops.
I will stop referring to the long reach for the Play Next Episode button as “yoga.”
I will stop considering meme consumption “making more time for reading” and Instagram stalking “really getting to know someone.”
I imagine my 2018 resolutions might’ve looked something like this, but thank God, I quit making New Year’s resolutions over a decade ago. That’s when I realized the surest way to solidify a bad habit in my life was to promise myself I’d break it. I finally admitted that attempts to coerce myself into changing, even in small ways, only ever resulted in me getting more stuck. I used to feel bad about this, like I was a weak-willed person. But I quit that years ago, too, and I might add, in a very businesslike manner: I simply explained to my inner Judgey McJudgster that the resolution method was not paying off, that it was not impacting the bottom line, and that we were just going to have to find a different way to increase our profits.
While I never missed the guilt-infused cycle of making and then (almost immediately) breaking resolutions, I never found a good alternative to it. Every January, I felt that new year buzz in the air—that spirit of hope, expectation, inspiration—and I found myself still thrilling at thoughts of happier and healthier and even more thrivey! Certainly there was nothing wrong with desiring a better life and a better self, and hell, probably no better time to act on it than the dawn of a new year. But I wasn’t going back to resolutions. I knew they didn’t work for me. It wasn’t until I realized why they didn’t work for me that I figured out how to actually change.
Here’s the thing: my old resolutions looked and sounded healthy. They usually had something to do with getting in shape, easing up on the TV-watching, or not eating sugar as if it was the only type of foodstuff to which I had access. But these didn’t come from a healthy place. They didn’t come from a place within that wanted to make changes as a way to celebrate and expand my general awesomeness. They weren’t about growing the goodness in my life. They were about feeling like I needed to change because I wasn’t good enough already. They revolved around all the ways I believed I was falling short. My resolutions came from a place within me where I felt crappy about myself. And they hinged on the hopes that if I changed on the outside, I’d feel better on the inside. Maybe if my body looked a certain way, I’d feel more confident. Maybe if I spent less time rewatching episodes of “The Office,” I’d feel like a more respectable, productive, and worthy member of society. And if I could break that muffin habit? Well, shoot. My self-admiration might rival Trump’s.
What I now realize is that change is an inside job. My outward actions flow directly from my inner self. What I do on the outside can’t fix how I feel on the inside, it can only reflect it. Ultimately, I will act how I feel. No wonder then that resolutions born from the feeling that I’m failing in certain areas result in actions that appear to prove it (i.e. failures). New year, old me.
This might sound like bad news, but there’s gold in there. It’s the understanding that when I feel better, I do better. That’s the key to healthy change in my life.
So how do I feel better? Certainly not by resolving to feel better. Feeling better isn’t a matter of resolution. No, rather it’s a slow, beautiful dissolution of long-held beliefs about myself that are harmful and/or untrue. It’s acknowledging the ways I might be holding myself back, out of fear. It’s mustering a few ounces of courage to face old wounds—wounds that cause me to shut down in an attempt to protect myself—and to give them some air and some light and a chance to heal. It’s not about resolving to fix myself. It’s about daring to believe I was never broken. Daring to believe that, though I’m not a perfect person, I’m a whole person. That imperfect doesn’t mean incomplete. That fearful isn’t the same as flawed.
It’s not a quick process, nor is it an unmessy one. And it’s not as defined and as measurable as a New Year’s resolution. But I found it lasts well beyond February, and it’s well, well worth it. Doesn’t that sound like a nice place to start?
I feel better already.
Here's to a healing 2018...