3 New Year's Anti-Resolutions Guaranteed Not to Sink Your Self-Esteem

3 New Year's Anti-Resolutions Guaranteed Not to Sink Your Self-Esteem


For some, resolutions are not the path to a better life.

Every January brings a barrage of suggested resolutions for our alleged own good.

They urge us to do more, get more, weigh less.

But if you have low self-esteem, I beg you: Make no resolutions.

Not this year or ever. Make no vows, no promises. Declare no goals.

I say this because self-hatred is made of resolutions, in the sense that it turns every action, conversation, errand, illness, meal, friendship and outfit into yet another test which we feel not only required to take but which we're sure we'll fail.

This is because somewhere back there we came to see ourselves as losers, allowed to exist only because others gave us permission — tentatively, temporarily. They said they could revoke our rights at any instant, at our first sign of disloyalty, disunity, exhaustion, laziness or disobedience.

Say, play or eat too much? Lose a shoe? Earn another F and face your fate.

They told us this, afflicted us with it, because it helped them overpower us and/or because they believed it themselves.

For example: When my mother was eight, her sister was born and their mother said: If harm ever befalls this baby, it will be your fault. Mom saw life henceforth as a nonstop, terror-driven babysitting test.

Instead of seeing the world as a wondrous anything-can-happen land of countless subtleties ranging from dazzling light to dreadful dark, from comedy to tragedy, from sour to sweet, people like us were told it comprised just two options: Pass or fail.

And, for us, "pass" does not mean shine, excel, exceed. It means feeling a bit less devastated for a tiny while. Failure means having our self-hatred reconfirmed: that familiar cold comfort of awaiting punishment.

So when I woke at 6:58 today instead of the usual 6:12 or so, thus found the sun already up, my first thought was: I failed. To rise, that is, before the sun. To observe, as I do most days, those tiny lights dissolving as a navy sky goes slate, then sparrow-gray.

And yes: Alarm clocks count as cheating.

More tests: Make coffee too strong or weak? Set down the cup so loudly that it might wake someone? Sip while watching stealthy sunshine, but not mindfully enough about the coffee to relish its every atom on the tongue, wondering in a panic afterward whether it tasted smoky, earthy, smooth? F, F, F, F.

Then comes the What to Wear to Not Look Like a Hobo Today Test. The Make Positive Statements So As Not to Upset Others Test. The Avoid Distractions While Working Test. The Never Appear Anxious Test.

Little tests. Big ones. If I am injured or ill, the speed and quality of my recovery become tests too which I can fail.

I might be more extreme than most. I was worse in my anorexic days, which now inspire regret, which — surprise! — translates to "failed test."

The more we make ourselves aware that we experience life as a set of tests, with every test a trap, we travel farther down the healing path: which, no, is not a racetrack where our pace is gauged, graded and ranked.

We have already made too many resolutions. Promised, under real or perceived threat, to change or stay the same, to prove ourselves. Comply. Obey.

This year, let us rebel against the whole idea of resolutions. Let's anti-resolve:

  • This year, I anti-resolve to set numerical goals. Pounds lost, books read: Drop the arithmetic. Do what feels right and what you love.
  • This year, I anti-resolve to start or end anything. A habit, a relationship, a job: Hope and aim for the best. If it happens, yay. And, if not, OK.
  • This year, I anti-resolve to resolve. Because I have nothing to prove and no hoops to jump through. I am not under surveillance. No one is keeping score.

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