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  • Writer's pictureRebecca MacFarlane

New Year’s Resolutions: Embracing Change – Within Reason

I don’t know about you but if 2020 has reminded me of anything, it’s that change is inevitable – and frankly, super uncomfortable. In many ways – what with a global pandemic, ground-breaking Black Lives Matter protests, and a U.S. election of historic proportions – change has been the only constant this year.

Even as we prepare to head into 2021, change has been at the forefront of my mind. It’s par for the course, right? A new year means a fresh start. So, we make resolutions. We set new goals. We convince ourselves that we’ll quit smoking or save more money or cut out chocolate from our diets (not a resolution I can personally get behind, but to each their own). We convince ourselves that we’ll change for the better and start living the lives we’ve always dreamed of.

Pink background, gold notebooks and scissors, pink notebook with 2021 written on it

But here’s the blunt reality: usually, we fail. According to Forbes, roughly 80% of American adults abandon their New Year’s resolutions by mid-February. Super encouraging, right? There’s plenty of reasons for this: we don’t plan properly, we fail to track our progress, we lack adequate support. But perhaps most importantly, the expectations we set are unrealistic. Sound familiar?

As women, we have the tendency to put so much pressure on ourselves. We set the bar so high and beat ourselves up when we don’t reach it. This is a habit you just don’t see as much in our male counterparts. Often referred to as “the confidence gap,” women are far more prone to self-criticism and self-doubt. When we fail, it’s our fault; when men fail, it’s anything but. For example, Cornell psychologist David Dunning observed a mathematics Ph.D. program that’s known to get progressively harder as the semester goes on. As a result, the class’ grades tend to plummet across the board. However, students’ reactions to the lower grades varied quite drastically depending on sex. While male students typically responded with, “Wow, this is a really tough class,” female students expressed self-deprecation by saying things like, “I knew I wasn’t good enough.”

Even if – by some miracle – we do achieve our impractical goals, it often doesn’t feel like enough. Rather than basking in our accomplishments, we push the bar even higher, until we’re on our tippy toes, stretching ourselves as thinly as possible.

In short, there’s no winning. And in a season that revolves around goal setting and changing our ways, these damaging tendencies often become more pervasive.

By now, you might be wondering what my point is (and why the hell you took the time to read my pessimistic musings). I see you. But stay with me.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t make New Year’s resolutions. It’s good to set goals. It’s healthy and brave to welcome change, rather than run from it. But let’s take a different approach. Before we move forward, I suggest we look back. Rather than focusing on all we have yet to do, why don’t we start by appreciating all the things we actually have done? Instead of putting all this pressure on ourselves to change, to do better, why not celebrate the ways we’ve persisted through this hellish year?

That’s exactly what I hope to do here on “FEMME” for the final month of 2020. To embrace December as a month of reflection. Every Monday, I’ll be writing about one of my own transformative experiences from this year – small and big, good and bad. Instead of focusing on all the changes I still need to make in order to become the best version of myself (whoever the hell she is), I’d rather focus on all the changes I’ve already endured and taken in stride. The ones I chose and the ones I didn’t.

And I invite you to do the same. Whether you want to do it every day or every week or even just once, write down the changes you experienced in 2020 that you’re most proud of or grateful for. Maybe you started a side hustle. Maybe you quit the job that was killing you from the inside out. Maybe you found love. Maybe you finally decided that you are enough on your own. Whatever it is, write it down and soak it up. You did that shit. And now’s not the time to forget that.

By recognising our own strength, courage, and resilience, we’ll hopefully give ourselves the credit we deserve and the perspective we need to set positive (and attainable) goals for the year to come. And maybe – just maybe – this reflection will serve as a much-needed reminder to give ourselves a fucking break for once. If you ask me, that might be the most feminist New Year’s resolution of all.

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