“By the end of the year, I will be the way I envision myself to be: 

a better me.”

The definition of a “better me” may vary between individuals, but whether we make resolutions and goals to lose weight, watch less netflix and be more productive, or start journaling every day, it is one characteristic of life and human nature that connects and motivates us all to make them: change.

As much as we collectively want change, we all went through a 2020 where many of us have experienced some of our lowest lows, to an extent where we just didn’t have the capacity to do anything but keep ourselves alive. 

What more with the blurred boundaries between family life, personal life, school life and work life, having increasing stress and difficulty learning through online classes, being forced to stay productive taxes us emotionally, mentally and physically. This derailed the way some of us envisioned our year would progress. 

Some of us could even feel like we ended the year worse off than we started. Throughout the year we face conflicts between our feeling of not doing and achieving enough and not having the capacity to. In the new year, we may feel disappointment or sadness entangled with hope that things will, indeed, change for the better, while grieving for what could have been.

As someone who 1. Has struggled with her mental health for a long time and 2. Experiences ADHD time blindness, the boundary between 2019 and 2020, or 2020 and 2021, are all blurred. Time flowed, and I flowed in sadness still. To me, time did not restart despite the calendar doing so. 

Ever since then, the concept of having new years goals and resolutions became just a placebo effect, more often a performance than authentically wanting and working towards, or enabling, change. 

When we feel disappointed, we need to ask ourselves: 

  1. Do we genuinely want to change, or do we set goals and resolutions because it is just what everyone does when a new year begins?

Intentions, Expectations and Actions:

“Actions speak louder than words”. Often, this one line becomes the wisdom behind judging a person’s sincerity and genuineness in their intentions. In the case of change, you may think that you don’t want enough to change, since you can’t act accordingly. This lies in the expectation that we must show the change in our behaviours that we want as soon as we make the intention to become better. 

Once someone makes the intention to change, there is usually a “time lag”—a period of time where someone makes the same old behaviours before their actions and intentions align perfectly—, as during this period, one needs to unlearn some old habits and learn new, healthier ways unknown to them before. 

To give ourselves or others grace while we try to change, is to acknowledge the little steps needed to get there, and to be okay with practicing one little step till it becomes second nature before moving on to the next little step—even if this will take you longer than a year. Progress is in itself change.

Progress is change, but also: “progress is not linear”— that’s what self care accounts on Instagram usually say. But what do they really mean? 

Let’s use an example of weight loss:

We often expect to keep losing weight in a linear motion as shown in the “expectations” graph, especially since that usually happens at the beginning of a weight loss journey. Our body starts to lose weight rapidly, and we expect to have it stay that way.

However, in reality there will be the “plateau” stage (the horizontal line) and even stages where the weight increases (the graph goes upwards), whether it be due to our body and mind adapting to the changes or due to plummeting motivation. 

This would be against our goals and could feel, at that moment, like our previous progress was nullified. When we pause to see the bigger picture, the overall progress is that you are losing weight, as long as you keep at it. 

Now, it is rather common to see our year’s progress and expect it to look like the graph on the left, but now we know it actually looks like the graph on the right. 

Despite what I just said, I would like to offer some new perspectives—some bigger pictures. 

In certain years we could feel like instead of losing weight (making positive change), we gained weight overall (making negative change). In certain years, we could feel like we overall had a plateau (making no progress). 

Rather than seeing the non-linear graph of progress spanning across only one year, try to imagine that graph spanning across 5 years, or 10 years. The year in which we plateaued or made negative  change was just one small part in a bigger, long term scale. 

In other words, you are still making progress even if you do not feel like it at that moment. In the bigger picture, this means that the plateau and the negative change are both necessary steps in the journey to a better us. 

More importantly:

  1. Do we measure our self worth based on how productive we are, and how many things we achieve?

Productivity Culture of Capitalism

We are conditioned to be productive and “useful” in order to be worthy of existing and living, as so often we could be called “lazy” or “useless” for not doing or achieving anything. How could we not feel the looming sense of doom when we are born as humans and raised as machines to avoid the threat and shame of being a “failure” to society? Life is made to feel like a competition and it is not emphasized enough that it is okay for us to just exist and go through the day…or week…or month…or year, especially a tough one. 

The measure of our self worth does not lie within how much we do or do not do in a day. We are worthy either way. Perhaps, the time you are reading this is the perfect time to start rediscovering and redefining the way we see ourselves and our worth. 

In conclusion, to change or to merely exist, that is up to you to decide and both decisions are okay. What’s important is in the events of both, we do not forget to live and change for ourselves and not to compete nor to please.

Epilogue

“Everything stays, but it still changes.” 

– Everything Stays, Adventure Time

Change; only time will tell if it is for better or for worse. Nonetheless, change seems to be a drive for us to keep existing. Like a rider of a fallen leaf soft landed on the water’s surface we set sail, rowing through the ripples and wavering with the wind, left behind we seem, yet forward the leaf goes.

By: Amirah Farzana

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