The dark side of New Year’s resolutions

It’s the most infamous morning: January 1. Articles about how to fulfill your New Year’s resolutions abound, written in the most optimistic of voices by disbelieving journalists. No one answer rings clear; sure, set your goals and have a friend hold you accountable. Sign up for a gym membership or commit to a certain amount of sleep every night. Unfortunately, for the vast majority, this is idealistic. Often, teenage students are targeted with the most unrealistic of goals. From healthy diets to rigorous schedules, the resolutions most common to children ages 13-18 tend to be centered around the issues that already plague high schools internationally. Exacerbated by social media, the act of setting a self-expectation that’s just a little too high can be more damaging than the behavior one was attempting to rectify. This is not to diminish the importance of goal setting. As long as it is achievable, this typical start to the new year can be incredibly beneficial. Inherently, though, the American lifestyle doesn’t support realistic objectives. Although the new year is considered a “fresh start,” it should not be the sole reason to seek new paths.

Beginning in Babylon over 4,000 years ago, New Year’s resolutions were viewed as promises to the gods in exchange for the granting of wishes. New Year’s celebrations also originated through pagan traditions and were adapted over centuries to fit the newly capital-centric holiday. Unless you are a Babylonian pagan, these definitions no longer apply, although the new year is still perceived as a time to repay debts. Many people don’t recognize that the debt should be repaid gradually throughout the year, though. Attempting to alter habits is a long and involved process and cannot be assumed to initiate change immediately. Because of this twisted mindset and the consistency of marketing toward self-betterment around the holiday, Americans specifically tend to instantly expect results. To this point, the development is individual and personal, and the outcomes of someone else’s resolutions should not affect how you view your own. 

Because I am a teenager, and because I am American, my perspective surrounding self-help is ridiculously flawed. The scale upon which my resolutions rest has always been tipped in favor of those that benefit me academically and make me more competitive on paper. The atmosphere that I function in is tainted with the blur of busy days and the notion of “work before play.” It is the phrase that is America’s foundation. Yet the underlying idea that people will always choose to better themselves for others is distorted. The targeted and stereotypical goals in the new year are presented to affect the point of view of society and alter judgment that is directed toward oneself. To be frank, workout plans and healthy eating are money-making ploys in a franchised world. It is difficult to navigate how to truly work on yourself when you are faced with multiple directed ads telling you otherwise, thinly veiled, of course. Self-reflection is a positive method to begin active and beneficial goal setting. Don’t wait till the new year to work on yourself. You have the ability to choose to change whenever. Be mindful of that change and make a decision for you and yourself.