Lucy Cooksedge reflects on the pressure to change at the beginning of a new decade.
New year, a bit more of the same me?
I’m not telling you not to be ambitious.
I spent New Year’s Day happily hungover, dozing between whatever Leonardo DiCaprio films I could find and munching on vegan sausage rolls with good friends. My bleary zen was constantly interrupted, however, by adverts for reduced gym joining fees and diet plans. January this, new start that, etc etc. It occurred to me, as it would to any newly recovered anorexic, that these subliminal instructions towards shrinking as a form of self improvement can be pretty destructive. It also occurred to me that I’d had so much fun throughout December that I hadn’t thought to set a single resolution. Even the “must lose at least half a stone” which has been whispered over every birthday candle and shooting star since my teenage years was absent. Despite the pressures of consumerism and social media, and the constant highlight and goals reel all over my Instagram feed, I leaned in to this thought until it felt defiant and powerful.
January is a weird, grey month. Coming down from the chaos of fairy lights and mulled wine can feel pretty bleak, and many focus on achieving a long list of goals to validate the post-party season and ease the winter blues. But we don’t have to if we don’t want to! And if by week two your new gym membership and cleansing program remain untouched, you will not be rolling into February a failure. I promise.
New decade, new me?
There has been so much emphasis on the fact that we are entering a new decade, which can feel both exciting and daunting. But it doesn’t really need to be either of those things. One of the most important parts of my recovery and managing anxiety and depression is to question the pressure I always seem to be placing on myself, and I think this could be useful for others too.
On January 2nd, I caught up with a close friend who told me she is going to run a marathon this year. Instantly, my happiness and pride for her was clouded by a fierce sense of inferiority and a distressed, “shit, I should be doing that” hit me between the eyes. It is completely plausible for my friend, a talented and well trained long distance runner to aspire to and achieve this! And, to be honest, comparing myself in this situation is ridiculous, because the chances of me making it through a 5k and retaining full consciousness are slim to none. My skills thrive elsewhere, and are just as worthy.
What I’m trying to say is that ambition can be a wonderful thing, but if not realistic, can become a source of distress and unfulfillment. Entering a new chapter does not necessarily mean rewriting ourselves completely. True contentment is not necessarily achieved by adhering to the consumerist ideals of gaining more, doing more, weighing less and being more which are being shoved down our hungover, dehydrated throats this month. Acknowledging and moving towards accepting all that we are and are not is an extremely positive thing!
For the purpose of improving my mental health, I’d like to attempt a dry (ish) January and find a yoga class to join. But I’m putting no pressure on it. Every day is another day and my productivity does not define my worth, or yours.
So, here’s to a new year and a bit more of you.
Artwork by Alex Porter.