Last year, inspired by numerous posts I saw about New Year’s resolutions, I started to give it some thought. The jury is still out on whether having a New Year’s resolution, or multiple, actually work. And you can find a lot of information online about how to make them stick. To me, New Year’s resolutions seem a nice tradition. But I’m unconvinced it’s anything more than that. Moreover, it’s certainly one way to start your year with a set of expectations hanging over your head like the Sword of Damocles. For me, that feels like way too much pressure.
So, instead, I decided to make a review of my year. Thinking about where I had found successes. What I was proud of. And likewise, things I was perhaps hanging on to and needed to be like Elsa and let it go. For me, New Years is becoming a metaphorical crossroads. An opportunity to look back at where I’ve come from. And forgive and forget if needed. And to look forward to a coming year, celebrating my successes and hoping to build on them.
For more on the history of New Year’s Resolution read here.
For more on how to make habits stick read here.
How Did I Do Last Year?
Last year my first resolution for the oncoming year was to prioritize myself. I was hoping to find a better balance between what I do for myself and others. I’ve written more on this subject in numerous other blog posts this year. And it’s still very much on my mind. I think I have become better at advocating for myself although progress is slow. Another resolution for last year was around control which has been front and centre in my mind since Covid-19. I wanted to focus on what I could control rather than what I can’t. And this has certainly been my mantra to survive the endless uncertainties of the pandemic.
The other three resolutions I made go hand in hand. One resolution was celebrating the successes of my blog. Alongside, owning my professionalism and committing to asking for help. I have continued to work on my blog and took the leap into the world of Pinterest. When I found out that I would be having my daughter this year, I took to Twitter to ask for guest posts from the blogger community. This was very much asking for help and I was honoured by the support I received. And lastly, whilst the focus of my professionalism has been work. At root it is about self-esteem and confidence. My confidence in myself as a blogger has certainly improved this year. And I’ve managed to post new content every week for over a year! I think I can check this resolution group off the list!
My first resolution last year was to forgive the mistakes and leave them in the past where they belong. I firmly believe in forgiveness but easier said than done when it comes to it. However, I believe that as I’ve matured this year it has become easier to forgive myself and leave well alone.
Likewise, I wanted to let go of others expectations of me and the assumptions I might make. These are all part of the same parcel. When I stopped second guessing myself and committed to my own expectations things became easier. But again, the thoughts still creep in about who I’m letting down. It’s in these moments I must remind myself that others peoples expectations aren’t as important as my own. After all, the only person I have to live with is myself. And it’s more than possible I’m making unhelpful assumptions about what people expect, think or feel about the question at hand. Possibly none of which is true. That’s an awful lot of grief for something that may not exist.
I thought that I would have to give up dairy this year as I struggled with IBS and seemingly lactose intolerance. Whether I was misdiagnosed or fixed by pregnancy, it seems like this was not a forgone conclusion. Whilst I’ve not returned fully to dairy – still drinking lactose free milk – I am able to tolerate some of the things I enjoy in small amounts. Whilst this may seem like a minor thing, it’s a reminder not to count my chickens until they’ve hatched. Or, not to catastrophize because life changes all the time.
This year, I resolved to let go of being busy all the time and finding a slower pace. This matches my pledge to find a balance and some much needed me time. As per above, this is a work in progress and even more so since having my daughter. Whilst time seems to fly by and there’s not enough hours in the day. The moments I get to spend with her are the most important and do more for me than any bubble bath or other form of self care. Having said that, with a newborn baby it’s more important than ever that I find time for myself. I’m no good to her if I’m a screaming wreck.
For more on finding a slower pace in life read here.
For more thoughts prenatal mental health read here.
A Resolution or Ten for 2021
- Prioritizing My Daughter. For most of us, the landmark event of this year has been Covid-19. But for me it has been the birth of my daughter. And so, no list would be complete without a mention of her. And as she is the most important part of my life she’s exactly where she should be; at the top of my list. Despite my ongoing resolution to find balance and look after myself; she is my priority. Although I must remind myself that looking after her means looking after me. She deserves the best mother possible after all.
- Advocating For Myself. For perhaps the first time in my life I’m finding more confidence in speaking up and advocating for myself. I’ve always found it difficult to be heard and particularly when I doubt people will agree with me. Or I felt like I was making a fuss and something major to me would be perceived as minor elsewhere. Perhaps it is age or the perspective advocating for another human gives you. But this is certainly something to take with into the oncoming year. It’s an invaluable skill and one I’d like to work on more. Whether it’s asking questions which seem silly or saying no so I can find that much needed balance I continue to search for.
- Healthy Eating. The digestive problems I alluded to previously settled during my pregnancy but have begun to rear their heads ever since. It’s a frustrating and ongoing problem which when left to it’s own devices can become debilitating and stressful. It becomes a vicious cycle wherein high stress irritates my stomach. And thereby becomes another stress I don’t have time to deal with. And so, the story continues. But I know that a healthy diet, enough sleep and adequate exercise really do help keep my physical health in check; particularly those pesky digestive problems. Of particular help recently has been upping my intake of fruit and vegetables which has required me to opt for healthier snacks and be more creative with making meals.
- Learning Curve. I am a creature of habit and find comfort in this. Change, especially when I am not in control, is a difficult space for me to be. But the lesson that Covid-19 has taught me is to sit in that uncertainty and be okay with it. It showed me how we’re all on a learning curve and we can adapt when necessary. Likewise, motherhood is the same tale. I’m constantly learning and needing to be flexible to meet my daughters’ ever-changing needs. And, in most cases, never knowing if what I’m doing is right. It occurred to me in the earliest days of my daughters’ life that parenthood means that there are many things which are 100% wrong for a child but very few things that are certainly right. It’s mostly grey areas.
- Emotional Maturity. This resolution is of key importance to me. However, I’m unconvinced that this is a skill I have learnt or taught myself. It’s more likely something that has literally evolved with age. But it has helped me like myself more and be proud of myself. I think it’s the reason I find it easier to let go of petty arguments. Or to advocate for myself and my family. And to have more confidence in myself so I can own my professionalism and skills in areas where they are my due.
- Passive Aggression. Having hoped to carry forward emotional maturity, this resolution definitely has to go. I probably sound like the most awful person but I’ve realised that occasionally (and thank goodness it is occasional) I can be passive aggressive. Sometimes it’s by closing myself off to the people around me. Particularly when they want to help. Other times it’s the biting edge to my usual sarcasm that I regret as soon as it’s said. On reflection, these instances occur when I feel unheard or pushed too far. It highlights my need to have a space to talk about how I feel, air any concerns and feel taken seriously. Likewise the need for that balance where I have time for myself and don’t end up running around helping others or doing chores to my detriment.
- Perfection. I am the sort of person to hold themselves up to an unattainable standard. One which I would never expect from anyone else. Despite this, I don’t think of myself as perfect. Far from it. My self-esteem can become quite low and thus I feel the need to consistently be and do better. This has shown itself to be true particularly whilst attempting motherhood. I consistently worry that I’m not a good enough mother to my daughter. And I’ve had to re-think my expectations of motherhood but also what motherhood truly means. Ironically, to be a good mother, wife, daughter, colleague, employee and friend I need to let go of this perception of perfection making it an essential resolution for this year.
- Small Worries. Hakuna Matata is a famous saying for a reason. We all have worries we need to let go of. It’s one of the reasons I started these New Year’s posts about letting go. On a daily basis there are so many worries, both real and imagined, that take up both mental and emotional space. They add to my stress level and carrying them around is exhausting. Someone once advised me to ask myself, how much of what I bare is not mine to carry? And that’s a good starting point. Often small worries are things that are out of our hands. Carrying them does us no good and depletes our resources for managing worries that are in our remit to resolve. I’d like to try and let go of bigger worries too. Especially those I can do nothing about but small steps first!
- Who I Thought I Would Be. This is a hard one and I don’t expect to be able to let go of it at the drop of a hat. I’ve felt myself moving away from the person my teenage self imagined I could be for a few years. But this year seems a landmark moment where my life is more set in stone than ever before. Whilst there is certainly scope for change, other things feel cemented. I’m unlikely to start a new career anytime soon. I love my job and enjoy the career track that I’m working within. I will almost certainly never go on another date or have another romantic relationship. Although I’m sure many people feel that way about their partners, I can’t imagine my life with anyone else and I simply don’t want to. I also now have my daughter – my first child – and whether or not I decide to have anymore I am now a person with children. Someone I was never 100% sure I would be. But incalculably glad I am.
- Fortune Telling. Fortune telling is a cognitive distortion which I personally fall into when I’m stressed. High pressure situations can have me second guessing what may happen. And usually catastrophizing alongside it. My mind automatically jumps to the worst case scenario. The certainty that this will happen causes me untold stress. And, often, doesn’t happen at all. Sometimes things resolve without any problems at all. At these times, it’s imperative I challenge these thoughts by looking for evidence to the contrary. And thinking about other times something similar may have happened and what the outcome was vs. what I worried it might be.
There certainly seems to be some common themes between this year and last year. As well as between what I wish to take with and what I’m letting go. I’m clearly still working on finding time for myself in order to manage stress levels and prioritize my daughter. There’s also a need to re-think expectations, challenge negative thinking and manage my anxieties better. Something to think about for the year ahead!
What is your experience of having a New Year’s Resolution? Do you make them? And how do you help yourself keep them? What do you think of this practice of taking with and letting go? As usual, let us know below!