Rev. Kate J Meyer, LPC
New year. new me?
Happy New Year and welcome to 2023! If you've been following me for a while, you know that one of my greatest passions is using words to help people find spiritual, mental, and emotional health (physical health is clearly important, too, but there are many others out there trained in those areas, so I'll leave that to them!), and I cannot allow another January 1st to come and go without addressing the unhealthy way many of us view the changing of the year. (see my blogs in January of 2020 and 2021 if you want to know why this is the first year I'm addressing this)
Over the last few days, I shared three New Year's tips across Facebook and Instagram that built to this final tip. Before we get to the final tip, I'll include the first three here for those who missed them; though if you're able, I encourage you to click on the links above and read the full posts: Tip 1: You choose how you do or do not celebrate; Tip 2: You choose what it means; Tip 3: You choose what goes and what stays.
Tip 4: The New Year is not about creating a new you. In fact, holding yourself and the start of a new year to that standard often includes toxic (and therefore unhealthy) thinking.
Let's break this down. First and foremost, the idea of creating a new you is misleading and filled with pressures none of us needs in an already stressful life. Add to it that when we say we're creating a new self, we are often referencing parts of us that others deem less than in some way. In other words, the 'why' is focused on another person, instead of on your own wants or needs. Furthermore, as with all resolutions, it is far too lofty a goal to accomplish, so self-judgment, feelings of failure, and more are likely to follow. Can making healthy, motivated-by-you changes be a part of the next year? Absolutely. But do them to better yourself because you recognize an area of growth, not because some influencer/celebrity/random internet stranger/unhealthy religion is pressuring you to do so.
Second, consider the toxic thoughts involved in the phrase 'New year, new me'. At its core, the phrase says that there is enough 'wrong' with you that you need to become an entirely new person. Sure, you might mean you're only changing a part of you, but that is not what the language implies. An alternative is to say something like this: in 2023, I'm going to focus on improving my spiritual health through the use of meditation and reading. Or, this year, I will prioritize my physical health with learning, and putting into practice, what foods and nutrients my body most needs. I want to be clear here. Yes, there are likely areas of life that will benefit from focus and change, and committing to working on those things is healthy. What is unhealthy, what truly is toxic, is living under the guise that you at your core need an entire overhaul. You are (becoming) who you are created to be.
Third, as humans. I believe we, both as individuals and corporately, are always learning and growing. The changing of one little number is not a magic fix nor does it signal arrival at the pinnacle. Yesterday it was 2022 and today it is 2023, and you do not now magically have at your disposal whatever you didn't have in 2022 to make the changes you set before you. It simply doesn't work that way. Instead, growth/change/evolution/shaping is the result of daily, continuous effort and intention. Life might be a marathon, but remember that a marathon is a series of steps, not a leap from start to finish. If you want something that was true of you in 2022 to be different by the time 2024 arrives, then set your intention and begin with one step. Tomorrow, take another step, and the next day another. You will see progressive change and you'll notice your thoughts are healthier.
It is okay to view the new year as a fresh start, a blank slate; but use that fresh start to free yourself from past actions, past inaction, and past choices so you can move forward in a way that honors your whole being. You choose what comes with you into 2023 and you choose what you leave behind--even if only in the way you think about certain people, situations, etc.
So, today, free yourself from toxic thinking. Believe that you are always being shaped into who you are created to be and do not let others steal your shine. Want something different? Go after it! But go after it because you know it will result in you becoming more you. The world needs the only you we have.