It’s that time of the year again where we all sit down and create goals and resolutions to set the tone for the new year. I don’t know about you, but I got tired of making the same resolution every year only to find myself losing interest by the end of February–and then feeling like a failure.
I was always fascinated by how it seemed like everyone else was able to make resolutions and stick to them every year. That was, until I learned that gyms can predict when members will start dropping off. Knowing this, it got me thinking about the ways that we have been in a cyclical process of setting ourselves up to fail.
In fact, this year, many things started happening that slowly made me realise how I was still bullying myself in the absence of neurotypical people continuously reminding me that I’ll never be enough. I would get upset with myself when I wouldn’t stick to a routine that I knew helped me stay on task. I would even beat myself up and listen to the very loud inner critic that reminded me of how I was never going to reach my goals if I just couldn’t get it together.
By the end of November, I realised that I was still trying to force myself to do things in the same way that neurotypical people do. So, when the winter solstice rolled around, I decided that I would make a change: I will get to know myself for who I am, and be kind to myself every step of the way.
Because, let’s face, the world is cruel especially to those who are multiply marginalised. The last person that you and I need to be cruel to ourselves, is ourselves. As we all sit down this week, I’ve written some tips to ponder over in case you would also like to break out of the neurotypical goal-setting this year. Here are three tips as you embark on your journey to get to know yourself outside of the neurotypical lens in 2023.
Whatever your resolution is, make sure you’re doing it for yourself.
After years of conditioning where we are constantly seeing how we measure up to others, it’s important that we only make resolutions that we want to make. If you don’t want to keep a resolution or do something that someone else wants you to do, then don’t do it.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of making resolutions that our loved ones want us to make. This can be difficult because they mean well and want us to be happier, but sometimes what they think is best for us isn’t actually best for us – especially if they’re also trying to get us to remain molded by the neurotypical worldview, and can’t see that the resolution they are trying to push on us isn’t really what will make us happy.
The most important thing is to be true to yourself and follow your own path. If you want a resolution that someone else has suggested, then take it into consideration, but don’t feel pressured into doing something just because someone else thinks it’s best for you.
Make sure your goals aren’t too hard or unreasonable for where you are at this moment in time. For instance, I decided that I would dress up every day as if I’m going into an office even though I largely work from home. Along with this, I wanted to make sure that I put effort into my face. But, I know that I wouldn’t put make-up on every day if I bought a statement lipstick because then all my outfits would need to live up to it. So, I resolved to invest in neutrals. This way, I could embrace how I’m feeling every day and change how I dress and apply my make-up depending on my energy levels every morning. I still get the chance to stick to my resolution while embracing my ever-changing energy levels, and still feel good about myself every day.
Failure isn’t final. Failure is a learning experience.
It’s okay to fail. Failure is not a life-ending event, as some people would have us believe. In fact, failure is just a chance for you to learn and grow. When you realise you’ve failed, take stock of what led up to it. Was it the unrealistic timeline you gave yourself? Were you forcing yourself to do something in a way that wasn’t true to you? Consider if the resolution is important to you, or if it is something you think should be important to you?
If you realise that you failed, look at the resolution and–as silly as it might sound–talk to it. Ask it what it needs from you to come to fruition, and what you’re hoping you’ll get from it when it does. Be honest with it, and yourself, about whether the steps you’re taken to get there are realistic for you. Maybe even consider if the pressure of time is one that is true to you, or if it’s completely unrealistic and you need to be flexible with yourself, in the same way that we need the world to be with us.
For me, this was the first year that I leaned into folk traditions. I embraced the winter solstice as the mark of a new year being ushered in, and started the process of clearing and cleaning in a way that was true to me. Some days, it was just cleaning out a single cabinet. Others, it was cleaning the room from its ceiling to its baseboards.
And, rather than thinking that this has to end around January 1st, I’m embracing the Punjabi folk festival of Lohri as the mark of the end of winter ushering in the spring. Which means, to honour it, I’ll continue on cleaning and clearing until I’m satisfied, while honouring my ever-changing motivation and energy levels. When there’s a day or a week that I didn’t do anything at all, then I’ll honour that too. Maybe I really needed that rest, and it would be a kindness to let me have it in a world that relies on the sin of idleness to keep us working.
Find a way to be kind to yourself.
Build an appreciation for your own unique strengths and talents.
Self-compassion is a great way to be kind to yourself, and it’s something that anyone can learn. Just like any other skill, there are small steps you can take in order to make it happen:
- Start by noticing when you’re being hard on yourself. This is the first step to compassion, because if you can’t even see the ways your mind is cruel towards you, then how can you stop it?
- Ask yourself: Where this criticism is coming from. Is it something you learned? Is it something you heard from the people you love, from your teachers, or any other trusted adult? Is it something you’re telling yourself? For example, if someone close to you told you that being a perfectionist was good, then maybe that’s what started this criticism. Start noticing when your thoughts are harsh and critical towards yourself. When this happens, try to acknowledge the thought, thank it for protecting you during a time where you needed it to survive, and then let it go because it no longer serves you.
- Acknowledge that challenging these voices once is not going to make them go away. We have had a lifetime of repeatedly hearing these narratives, so it only makes sense that they will come up time and again – especially during our harder weeks where we’re also not hydrating or nourishing our brains appropriately. Next time you notice that voice telling you that something isn’t good enough, or that this isn’t what people want from you, ask yourself why it feels so true right now? And continue the process each and every time you have the energy to challenge these voices. And for the days you don’t, maybe it’s enough to just try again tomorrow.
Dream big, and take specific steps.
The first step in creating a resolution is to dream big. Make the goals that you set for yourself something that you really want and believe in, so that you’ll be able to stick it out when things get tough. After years of being told to create SMART goals, I truly think that we have lost sight of the importance of dreaming big and how it become our north star to keep getting up and trying again.
That being said, remember to zoom in and make your resolutions realistic for your current life situation and where you are at this point in your life. It’s important not to set yourself up for disappointment by trying something that would be difficult for anyone (for example, quitting your job and moving across the country on a whim). The same way that individual trees make a forest, every resolution every year paves the way towards your big dream.
It can be helpful to think about what was good about the past year, or what is missing from your life now. Once you’ve got some ideas about where you’d like improvement and growth, think about how much time and energy it will take each week or month toward reaching these goals. Be realistic with yourself here—you might want to read every day of every week of every month of every year until death does us part, but I would advise against setting too many resolutions at once and truing to follow them all through.
Instead, consider four major areas of your life like career, personal, financial, and health (including spiritual health). Then make one or two resolutions in each category. And if a single resolution straddles two or more areas–don’t take it as an invitation to make more (unless you want to), and just know that at the end of the year, you’ve done enough.
Take Care of Yourself
I hope this post has helped you to find some inspiration in setting some goals for yourself or maybe even just feeling more positive about 2023. Don’t be afraid to try something new or take a risk, because that’s what makes life worth living! Just remember: you don’t deserve to be bullied into being someone you’re not–least of all being bullied by yourself, to yourself!