It’s a long-standing tradition that at New Year’s, we make a vow of self-improvement for the year to come.
We promise ourselves that beginning on New Year’s Day, we’ll be the person we should be. We’ll eat healthier, we’ll exercise more, we’ll make new friends, we’ll save more money, we’ll spend less time watching Netflix and more time chasing our dreams (but what if watching Nashville is my dream?)
We make these resolutions year after year. We set ourselves obscene goals, and rarely achieve them. And this is partly because of the language we use when setting our New Year’s resolutions.
At least for me, the thought-pattern behind resolving to run everyday is that ‘I should be running everyday’, ‘I shouldn’t be so lazy’, and ‘I must improve my fitness.’ But these statements start from the wrong place.
Rather than being a call to action, they come from a place of self-deprecation and criticism. ‘Should-ing’ and ‘must-ing’ implies our current self isn’t good enough as it is, and this can cause a great deal of emotional distress.
Women in particular are big ‘should-ers’. And the pressure isn’t entirely self-generated. We have multiple industries telling us what we should and shouldn’t be doing, as well as popular culture obsessively representing how women should look and behave, and what they should value (your butt, you should value your butt). So it’s not surprising that we’ve internalised this voice.
It’s quite bizarre when we start to interrogate it. My internal monologue can sound something like this: “I should wear nightcream, why don’t I own nightcream? What is nightcream? I really shouldn’t wash my hair so often. I should get laser. I should be doing squats…heaps of memes on the internet tell me to do my squats. I also shouldn’t let boys be mean to me.”