New Year’s is my favorite holiday; I love a fresh beginning and an excuse for self-reflection. I love the hopefulness and excitement that a new year can bring. I love watching Anderson Cooper do shots on live television. I love the sudden uptick in people reading their horoscopes and wearing silly hats and kissing at midnight.
But sadly, NYE has strayed from its true purpose in recent years. It isn’t all introspection and romance on January 1st. And amidst the demands to change our bodies and self-optimize, it can be easy to fall into a trap of “I need to fix what’s wrong with me” resolutions.
Here’s a thought: Instead of trying to change ourselves, what if we embraced this momentum to do something meaningful?
Because listen: If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that the entire world can change overnight.
And we’d better know what our priorities are when it does, because so much that we take for granted — a smiling barista, sharing drinks on a bar patio, a visit to the post office, hugging our people close — can disappear in a flash.
So are we going to keep treating ourselves like a DIY project? Or can we meet ourselves with kindness and warmth, setting intentions that truly center our mental health?
In that spirit, I’ll be sharing my resolutions as a little bit of inspiration. Feel free to tack them up to your vision board or create some of your own! (If you do, share them with me, please!)
1. I will try to approach my anxiety when I want to avoid it.
Last year, I started working as an ADHD+ coach, helping people with task completion, procrastination, routines, habit-building… otherwise known as “getting sh!t done.”
I assumed that a lot of my work would be teaching folks skills to be more productive and effective in their daily lives. And while I certainly do that, more than anything, we were having conversations about avoidance.
A lot of us — not just those of us with ADHD — engage in avoidance. We often do this because it seems easier than sitting with the discomfort we’re experiencing (anxiety, perfectionism, fear). What it really does, however, is reinforce our beliefs around being incapable, lazy, or stuck… leading to more anxiety the next time we try to get something done.
The only way to disrupt this vicious cycle is to gently approach our anxiety, with the smallest step possible. It starts with a deep breath and a commitment to taking one small bite out of the task.
Can you put one dish in the dishwasher? Can you move the trash bags to the door? Can you write a few sentences about what you’re hoping to say with your essay?
My big resolution for 2021 is to make more teeny-tiny steps like these, moving towards my anxiety rather than away from it. Doing so can feel intolerable at first, but when we start to build momentum, the relief we experience as we get ourselves unstuck is absolutely worth it.
2. I’ll embrace the art of doing absolutely nothing.
One of my big realizations in 2020 was that I rarely had true peace and quiet. There was always background noise — the expectation that my phone would ping at any moment, the weight of unfinished chores and unscheduled appointments, articles and social media posts half-written in my head, my cats nipping at my heels for food.
I never put everything down (and I mean everything). Even if I silenced my phone, I didn’t carve out intentional time to just be, without the expectation of doing.
Sure, there’s a time for approaching, moving, doing. But there’s also a season for retreating. There’s a season for setting it all down and giving yourself permission to do little more than breathe.
If you’re looking for ideas, my ritual lately has been taking a warm bath or shower — playing music that makes me feel like I’m in Paris in the 1940s — and then lounging about reading a magazine (I’ve been very into Breathe Magazine lately). But sometimes? I just lay in bed, staring out my window.
Whatever peace looks like for you, set a resolution to make space for it. You might be surprised by how much shifts into place when you give yourself that time.
3. I will let good enough be good enough.
Recovering perfectionists, I’m looking at you— well, us. While we may want to give 225% to everything we do, it’s just not reasonable to expect ourselves to. Can “good enough” actually be good enough? With practice, I think so.
When there’s a global pandemic happening, now is a great time to lower the bar. No one can do everything, but in actuality? No one should do it all, either.
Aiming for completion, rather than excellence, has a funny way of freeing us up to do great work, too. When we simplify our expectations, we can access more creativity and flexibility, because we aren’t getting in our own way. Perfectionism is kind of paradoxical that way!
But even if the end result is disappointing? That’s okay, too. You’re allowed to disappoint. You’re allowed to struggle. You’re allowed to let “good enough” be exactly that… enough.
4. I’ll write more letters and make more playlists.
2020 was the year of Zoom calls, but can we make 2021 the return of classics like letter-writing and mixtapes? I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of staring at a screen, and more than ready to find some creative ways to reconnect with the people I love.
5. I’ll savor the small joys.
Things I took for granted, in no particular order: Chatting with the food delivery person, writing in a cafe, walking along the beach without trying to stay six feet away from everyone around me, petting a stranger’s dog, wandering around Target for hours and leaving with more stuff than I could possibly need, or even just, y’know, taking a deep breath without a mask on.
I want to remind you, though, that even during a pandemic, we haven’t lost everything.
Just yesterday, I shared a favorite album with someone I love, and we cried listening to the music together. I took a bath while listening to the rain. My cat Cannoli, who’s usually afraid of everything and everyone, let me kiss his little head. While lighting the menorah with my partner last week, we almost set the whole house on fire by accident.
I’m not telling you to ignore everything that is painful and terrifying about this moment in our shared history. What I’m hoping for, instead, is that you won’t miss the small joys that appear, even in our darkest hours.
These moments keep us resilient, don’t they? Where would we be without them?
6. I will embrace earnestness.
I still get self-conscious when I feel genuinely happy. When I get excited about a room I redesigned on Animal Crossing,* or I’m incredibly moved by a slam poem, I have this tendency to try to mask the intensity of what I’m feeling.
I never wanted to seem “too eager” about, well, anything. But life is far too short to edit my joy, even if it seems ridiculous to everyone else. So I’m giving myself permission to be obsessed with my hobbies, talk for too long about my sticker collection, dance like a goof when the mood strikes, and be sincerely and totally myself.
Now is the time to hold onto what brings light into our lives.
*(If you play Animal Crossing New Horizons, come visit: DA-9034-9382-0265, ^_^!)
7. I’ll say what’s wrong, even if it feels silly.
I’ve been dating my partner Peter for a little over a year, and we’ve had an intentional practice of naming when we’re hurting or sad, even if the “reason” is nonsensical or small. No emotion gets dismissed between us.
And let me tell you, it’s been life-changing.
For starters, these things are rarely, if ever, an “overreaction” — it just takes some processing and safety to uncover what’s hiding beneath it. And since emotions build, we’re much less likely to ignore an issue and let it fester if we’re transparent and kind with ourselves and one another.
These have been hard but healing conversations. We’ve both learned so much about ourselves and our needs. And as people-pleasers, it’s challenged us to move away from fawning, and to show up with emotional integrity.
10/10, highly recommend. It’s honestly the only way we’ve survived quarantine together.
8. I’ll make room for grief.
So many of us have experienced loss, but with a global crisis happening, it’s easy to get swept up in the bigger picture while neglecting our broken hearts.
That’s why I’m trying to hold space for my grief. I want to take intentional time to check in with my heart, listen to those sad songs that make me think of the people I’ve lost, cry about the life I used to have (however simple it may have been), and talk to the ghosts I spot at the foot of my bed at night.
Don’t let anyone convince you that your grief is inconvenient or misplaced or inappropriate. Grief doesn’t care about the election, the pandemic, or anything else happening in the world that you’re supposed to care more about.
In fact, the more things change, the louder grief becomes. All the more reason to honor it and hear it. Listen. Let it speak.
9. I’ll challenge myself not to operate from a place of fear and scarcity.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my scarcity mindset — and not just because I keep running into issues buying toilet paper.
Sometimes I cling to things that aren’t good for me because I’m afraid there isn’t enough to go around. Lousy relationships, bad jobs, restrictive habits — I am constantly holding back because I am afraid of going without.
This is a legitimate trauma, of course, because many of us have had to go it alone (without support, without a safety net, without resources) in the past. But if we let anticipatory fear make decisions for us every time, we’re unlikely to take the measured risks that will bring us greater happiness in the long run.
I don’t know about you, but 2021 is going to be the year that I step into abundance; I believe that I am worthy of more, and I’m determined not to write myself off without trying for it.
More than anything, though? My goal in 2021 is just to take really good care of myself.
It’s still a global pandemic, last I checked. Which means, at the end of the day, our lofty goals get to take a backseat as we try to survive this collective trauma.
Whatever that looks like for you, I hope you’ll be gentle with yourself as you navigate this. And when the clock strikes midnight, wherever you are, I hope you’ll be celebrating — just like I will — how much you’ve endured to get here.
You’re doing great, okay?
Sam Dylan Finch is a resiliency coach, writer, and media strategist based in Portland, Oregon. He’s the blogger behind Let’s Queer Things Up!, a columnist at Healthline.com, and the Social Media Manager for PsychCentral.com. You can say hello on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or learn more at SamDylanFinch.com.