Self-blame fuels the NYNY season. It doesn’t have to be this way.
It’s almost here. It happens every year. And every year it catches me off guard: “New Year, New You!” season . . . more commonly known as the first week of January.
Henceforth known as NYNY season, this not-so-magical time is marked by an onslaught of shaming headlines like:
Discover the Shortcut to Making More Money This Year!
25 Quick Ways To Improve Your Marriage!
Vow To Stick With The Gym!
Five Ways To Get Organized This Year!
Three Things You Should Do Every Day!
How To Finally Lose Those Pesky 10 lbs!
10 Ways To Improve Your Sex Life!
How Yoga Can Help You Finally Achieve Your Goals!
100 Ways To Improve Your Time Management!
Well, this year I’m using the underlying sentiment for good and doing things differently. In short, I have three words for the impending barrage of how-to’s and must-do’s: Fuck That Noise.
Over the past several years, three groups in particular have provided a valuable antidote to the surface-scratching, counter-productive, clickbait listicle genre that defines the dawn of every new year. Those groups? My pragmatic friends with chronic conditions, body acceptance activists, and comics.I have three words for the impending barrage of how-to’s and must-do’s: Fuck That Noise. Click To Tweet
Thanks to these superior gurus, I am now into the idea of meeting yourself where you are + not having to necessarily LOVE yourself when you’re only at the like or fine with or pretty accepting overall stage + laughing and groaning at the things a lot of us do to sabotage ourselves.
All of these things drastically lessen the self-blame that fuels the NYNY season. And all have helped me fully embrace the fuck that noise sentiment.
On Meeting Yourself Where You Are
We wouldn’t expect someone who just bought their first pair of running shoes to enter a marathon next week; why do we expect to master everything we test out or take on the moment we begin? Meeting yourself where you are is deemed excuse-making in NYNY land, where you can’t ever make adjustments, have setbacks, or measure by sliding scale. Which is, of course, the very reason why so few people stick to new year advice.
My friends suffering from chronic conditions have taught me, thankfully, that I shouldn’t hold myself to impossible expectations — and giving myself a break has become the best anxiety-management strategy I’ve found so far.
“Have you eaten today?” is a question a group of my close girl friends and I drop on each other as a loving check-in. Most of us have anxiety or a condition with anxiety-related manifestations, like the “nervous stomach” that clenches and keeps you from feeling hungry. Because we work from home, we don’t have the reminder to eat that happens at location-centric jobs where you would naturally see co-workers getting up and/or leaving for lunch. So we forget to eat and then crash midday, or have even more trouble focusing than usual.
My friend Amadi Aec Lovelace has perfected the loving, no pressure, self-care/health reminder:
It’s a busy day for many. Time for a #SelfCare check. Have you eaten? ☕️ Hydrated? Medicated? Need a break? #TakeCareOfYouFirst
Thanks to my perfection-required upbringing, I’d prefer to be the kind of person who’s mastered #adulting and doesn’t need friendly check-ins, behavior modification strategies, or reminders to tend my basic needs. But considering that I am learning how to source symptoms, whether or not the current treatment options are helping, and how to coordinate care with multiple doctors — and that I’m also coming out of the most stressful year of my life — I also know that I should take the help and work on getting OK with that.
What I’ve learned, basically, is that I have to meet myself where I am — and that place happens to be very early on in the diagnostic/treatment cycle for a bevy of life-long conditions.
On Being Just OK With Yourself
“We’ve got to help people survive before we can expect them to thrive.”
When I read those words from Melissa A. Fabello earlier this year, it was the start of a revelation. She was writing about a shift for the “body positive” movement, one that could create “an in-between stage for the folks who look at body love and feel daunted by the seemingly insurmountable task.” She called it “body neutrality.” Demanding that people love their bodies sounded unrealistic, “an unfair expectation.”
The parallel for those of us who are dealing with chronic illness or undiagnosed conditions, or who are recovering from abuse/assault — many of us for the first time thanks to finally having comprehensive health care — was striking for me. I can’t expect to love myself every day. I can’t expect anything from myself every day. But finding a way to be OK with myself sounded achievable and anxiety-relieving and a great way to reduce the paralyzing self-blame that I’ve struggled with for almost three decades.
Suddenly, I had a self-talk that allowed me to celebrate something like putting on real clothes and getting to the post office or grocery store. I started giving myself awards for what I allowed our culture to tell me were “the basics” — things any adult should be able to handle. When I forget to do this, I pull up Anna Borges’s list, “19 Small Awards Anyone With Anxiety Deserves To Receive: Some days, you deserve a medal for getting out of bed” and award myself for doing that instead of giving up or checking out.
Fabello’s suggestion may seem narrowly-aimed, but actually hits a very broad target; her hope for creating this “in-between stage” or “base camp” works with nearly any word/issue you swap for “body”:
“And maybe if we propose this to people — if we give them the option to inch toward body love, rather than implying that the only way there is a catapult — they’ll (more comfortably, daringly, courageously!) feel empowered to leave their body hate behind.”
I’m here for it . . . and I’m totally waiting for you at base camp should you want to join me.
On Laughing At Life’s Woes
We are all masters of screwing things up beyond repair — it’s how the colloquialism “you’re only human” came about. The best way I’ve found to date for accepting my failures big and small is to laugh at them, so it’s no surprise that therapy through comedy has been my go-to strategy since I was a kid. Laughing at myself and others constantly gives me perspective and anxiety relief.
The most all-encompassing — and refreshingly cringe-free — source for laughing at life on my current reading/watching list is Josh Gondelman and Joe Berkowitz’s new book You Blew It: An Awkward Look at the Many Ways in Which You’ve Already Ruined Your Life. Because advice books are impossible to write without sounding like a pompous jerk bag, and sincere jerkiness is inherently unfunny and unapproachable, Gondelman and Berkowitz instead tell you how to best and most efficiently wreak havoc on your life.We are all masters of screwing things up beyond repair. Click To Tweet
Considering I was starting to write the #ItsTotallyMe dating series as I opened You Blew It, it’s little wonder that the “Love and/or Sex” section hit me with full force. Frankly, they had me at the opening line: “It would be nice if you could bypass dating entirely.” Throughout the book, moments like that attributed what I thought were my off-putting idiosyncrasies to the Human Condition, and created a lot of relief laughter.
Amidst all the venting and self-deprecation, the book also delivers some very good life philosophy that’s a perfect combination of 1/ obvious observations we all miss and 2/ silliness.
For example, the authors ask, why do we treat dating so much differently than a burgeoning friendship?
“Remember making friends? It’s what we did when we were frightened children who hadn’t met other people yet. Try more of that . . . [A date is] less about impressing the other person with qualifications and secret clerical superpowers than it is about determining compatibility. It’s a night out. Have some good old-fashioned fun with your new friend.”
Right. Yes. The juxtaposition of admitting dating sucks and that it’s supposed to be fun had me all in.
By the time I finished “Relationships: The Champagne of Compromises,” the 40-page dating section conclusion, I physically felt better about the #adulting activity that has been my biggest source of self-blame and feelings of failure over the past 20 years. Laughing is mad powerful, y’all.
Gondelman and Berkowitz take on your family, your roommate, your boss, your co-workers, and the people you have to deal with when you leave your house: the general public. They also take you on in a way that makes your flaws digestible and, at times, borderline charming. And while I realize their style is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea (though I’m not sure I want to be friends with those people), sailing through a cathartic breakdown of all the major parts of life reminded me to incorporate humor into my day every day.
Laughing at life may not prevent you from crying at life, but it will feel damn good, and it’s something you can do both on your own and with others. The possibilities are endless.
Mark the end of the year in whatever way is satisfying to you — saying thanks or wishing it good riddance.
If you’re a resolution person, make the resolution most on your mind rather than the one that seems popular in listicles or Facebook groups. Tell New Year New You season to take a flying leap. Buy a guilty pleasure novel and put down the “self-help” book your mom proudly and expectantly put under the tree for you. Take up knitting instead of jogging if what you actually need is an excuse to relax.
In short: you do you instead of listening to others try to fix you.