real life

"I followed Ashley Graham's New Year's resolution rule and everything changed."

In late 2016, I came across an interview with my forever girl crush Ashley Graham in which she talked about why she doesn’t make New Year’s resolutions.

Graham said that while she always sets herself goals, “putting a pressure on yourself to look a certain way or act a certain way just because it’s a new year isn’t always easily attainable”. I thought her reasoning (just keep being your awesome self) was pretty solid.

So when 2017 came around, I didn’t resolve anything. I just continued to focus on what was important to me, and not worry about putting any extra pressure on myself.

At first, I didn’t really notice a big difference. I was really busy with work and studying full time, and I just put one foot in front of the other and got on with my life.

But a couple of weeks into last January as I was walking to work one morning I realised I was really calm. Way calmer than usual. I wasn’t manically weighing myself to see if my insane January diet plan had started working yet, in fact I didn’t even have an insane January diet plan.

I wasn’t getting frustrated by the way things were going at work so much, because while I absolutely had goals I was working towards, I had given myself the gift of time to see how things would unfold.

Hello hello, hey hello hello #lastnight

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Instead of spending hours lying awake at night thinking about all the ways I’d failed myself because I hadn’t done anything that day that concretely moved me towards my 2017 goals, I just read a book or watched some Netflix before falling asleep. (I know, I know, I shouldn’t be on screens in bed, but since I never made the “no screens in bed resolution” I felt way less guilty about it.)

I stopped panicking about my total lack of a love life. No more desperate swiping at 3am for me. I just went with it, and 2017 was so crazy all on its own that I barely had time to think about self-improvement, let alone implement a regimen.

LISTEN: The Mamamia Out Loud team farewell resolutions, and decide on a single word. Post continues after audio…

But I found, as the months unfolded, that the early sense of calm and purpose that I experienced from not setting too high a bar never went away. Curve balls came my way, at work, in life, and I just kept on going.

I hadn’t really plotted a clear course from January to December, and so the fact that I got from one to the other in a pretty roundabout way and didn’t melt down despite some truly terrifying life moments, was a big deal.

The other thing that happened, that I really hadn’t expected or thought about before was that the lack of self-judgement really helped my confidence in myself. Instead of always feeling like I wasn’t living up to a standard that I had set and couldn’t meet, I just felt like I was doing my best, living my life, and trying my hardest.

When I got up in the morning I would think about what I had on that day, that week, what other people needed from me, and what I needed for myself.

"2017 was a hard year, and by any measure it seems like it was a hard year for people all around the world. But by doing this, I did learn something amazing about myself." Image: Supplied.

And that was it. It might seem like I’m placing too much importance on one seemingly trivial decision to not do a thing that everyone does, and barely anyone ever manages to live up to, but the weight of expectations is real. It’s stressful, and it can make you fee like you’re useless or hopeless.

Expectations are placed on us not just by ourselves, but also by the world around us: by our friends and families, by our workplaces and the places we socialise and mingle, like religious or community groups. Everyone has plenty of expectations weighing them  down.

Why then, would we want to add to that pressure with more expectations of our own?

And New Year’s resolutions are a very specific type of expectation. They are usually really personal – about how much we weigh or whether we find love or break up with that toxic friend or finally tell that sibling to stop stealing your clothes, or whatever. They are usually reflections of our deepest desires and fears. And we put them out there and pin them up once a year to remind us of the things we feel constantly like we fall short on. No thanks. Never again.

I didn’t have an amazing 2017. It was a hard year, and by any measure it seems like it was a hard year for people all around the world.

But I did learn something amazing about myself, and about stupid traditions that might be doing you more harm than good. When the clock struck midnight this New Year’s I sipped my drink and toasted to the start of another 12 months. No expectations, no pressure.

And when I rolled out of bed on New Year’s Day, I felt the excitement of possibility and promise. Ashley Graham was absolutely right. So, one final New Year’s resolution: I will never make another New Year's resolution. Go on, try it.

Are you skipping New Years' resolutions this year? Tell us in the comments below.