Don’t stress about New Year’s resolutions
It’s my favorite time of the year: Thanksgiving, followed by Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Years. I love seeing family, receiving (and giving) gifts, and the cooler weather. I love wearing scarves, boots, sweaters, etc. One of my favorite things to do is track Santa on the NORAD website. Everything is so magical, and I get wrapped up in it, watching my children experience it through their innocent eyes.
I celebrate and value this moment. I look back on this last year and I can’t stop smiling. This has been the best year of my life. My smile grows because I had the same thought 12 months before. And the 12 before that.
One of the things that has helped is not making and stressing out about New Year’s resolutions. I get why people do it: their charm is part of the Christmas magic, and who doesn’t want to become a better version of themselves? But is it “better” when you’re just trying to get slimmer? I don’t want to judge, but I’ve been there, many times. I’ve tried to score eight to 10 goals at a time, hoping it all held up so I could be this amazing creature that everyone would love. Those changes were for other people, not me.
Being a better person is an admirable goal, albeit a lofty one. But the concept of “new year, new me” implies that something is wrong with the current you. It is much more difficult to accept yourself as you are than to try to create a false personality. Accepting yourself is really very difficult. I’ve been trying to do it since I got out of the mental hospital. Correction: all my life. And I’m so, so close.
If you want to make positive changes in your life, I think that’s great. I feel the best way to do this is through small changes, not focusing on the negative, finding a support group, and celebrating even the smallest of successes.
You don’t have to completely change who you are to be liked by others. You are imperfectly perfect just the way you are. The only one who needs to like you is you.
Most of the time, I love myself. I think I’m great. It’s hard to say that because for a long time I couldn’t, I disliked, maybe even hated myself. I walked with my head down, did not speak when in public with my husband. I was nursing a serious inferiority complex and social anxiety.
I can’t tell you that it was a single event that changed me; it was a combination of staying in a psychiatric hospital for six weeks, doing ECT for three years, changing my medication, being on my medication, going to therapy, basically walking the line and getting the job done. I am in recovery (for major depression) and will be for the rest of my life.
But all that work has led me here, to the best year of my life. It’s not because I was featured in a local magazine or selected to be CC Under 40 (it was a big part, trust me), but because I woke up most days before the 5am alarm excited to start my day with my on fire inside, ready to do what I love, which is write this column and work as a communications manager at the Greater Corpus Christi National Alliance on Mental Illness and be a mother and wife. It’s because I wanted to find joy every day and help others find it too. How I smiled more this year than probably a few years combined. And he let out a laugh. I love my laugh loud and hearty. My skin adapts better than ever. This is what happiness feels like.
My progress is not because I didn’t make a New Year’s resolution last year. It’s because I made a commitment to myself and worked hard to keep it every day, not just the first two weeks of the first of the year. When I dropped the ball, I picked it up and started again.
This is not a rant against New Year’s resolutions. This is me telling you that you are more than broken promises or shallow dreams. You are worthy and deserving of happiness. The first step is to admit it.
For more than 20 years, Heather Loeb has experienced major depression, anxiety, and a personality disorder, while battling mental health stigma. She is the creator of Unruly Neurons (www.unrulyneurons.com), a blog dedicated to normalizing depression and a member of State Representative Todd Hunter’s Suicide Prevention Task Force.
Now more than ever we need to take care of our mental health. Guest columnist Heather Loeb explains why and explores other important mental health topics in this special series.