They say when one door closes, another opens. While this is not always the case, it’s an inescapable fact that when we reach an arbitrary point of change — like a new year, new job, or new city — we prepare ourselves to embark on the next chapter in our lives with refreshed zeal and limitless possibility. Just as inevitable as this is, so is the ever popular promise of what I personally like to refer to as ‘#NewYearNewMe’.
Don’t be fooled; while you may similarly cringe at this particular statement, the same concept has been reworded and rephrased an innumerable amount of times across our various social media platforms over the past few weeks. We’ve twiddled and tweaked until we’ve got it just right, our own little mantra we can reiterate to ourselves mentally as many times as we played our favorite single on repeat when it first came out. Whatever happened last year has now been rendered irrelevant. This time we promise ourselves that we will be fitter, healthier, wiser and overall, better in all respects. Like caterpillars emerging from their cocoons, we vow that this is the time that heralds our transformation into our brand new, ideal selves.
It’s difficult to argue for or against someone’s personal desires until you have seen things from their perspective. Despite how similar you may be, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to place yourself wholly in their shoes (even including your favorite pair of theirs that you borrowed last September and still conveniently have not yet returned). Reinvention is occasionally necessary, and can often be for the best. The trick is in striking the right balance.
There is a reason why trips abroad and department store sales are advertised in January. The first few weeks of the year instill in all of us an almost infantile sense of rebirth, adventure and determination. In January, we sign up to the gym to shed those extra few holiday pounds, treat ourselves to a new wardrobe to match the fresh attitude we’re determined to adopt. We throw out all our regular sweet tooth treats to make room for our protein shakes and various antioxidant power foods. We devote ourselves so completely and intensely to pursuing our New Year’s Resolutions that we unwittingly set ourselves up for failure from the start.
It is a challenging task to try to recreate ourselves entirely in every aspect of life, and for the majority, we shouldn’t ever need to. We are the products of not only our latest successes, but our mistakes, regrets and failures too. While many of us would like to leave any memories of our former mishaps firmly when the unfolded, each fall from grace should be appreciated as a stepping stone. However painful, humiliating or scarring that event was, you are still here. You survived, and you are stronger for that.
Sometimes things are crappy. Perhaps you lost your job, failed an exam. Perhaps you fell in love with the wrong person, and spent the remaining months since just trying to stay afloat. It could have seemed like one unfortunate event after another, like a far more private, tailor-made version of a Lemony Snicket series, but even in those books, there were moments of reprieve. Maybe you moved out of your childhood home, or went away to study or work. Maybe you traveled to a new country, or rekindled a relationship with an old friend. Maybe it was as simple as finding a book or film that made you smile. Either way, in each and every one of those acts, you have gained seeds of experience. Now it’s your sole responsibility to coax them into personal growth.
Promising yourself that you will be a completely new, superlative you is pointless; it will never work. The expectations you place on yourself have to be realistic in order for any progress to be made, otherwise one small slip up will lead to a complete dismissal of all of your perseverance. Ultimately, the person you want to become this time around should not be a novel version of yourself, but rather a step closer to personal improvement. You possess everything inside of you that has brought you to this point, and you should never try to leave that behind. Don’t ever take yourself for granted.
Nobody knows what the future holds in store for them. The shared positivity of fresh beginnings shine focus on all good things the upcoming year may bring, but it is important to be thankful for the hardships we’re set to face too.
Don’t aim for a ‘new you’. Strive for a ‘stronger you’ instead.