January 7, 2020

Leave the mantras behind: It’s a new year, not a new you

By Ben Goldberger —

As the world celebrates another trip around the sun, people are setting new goals for the new year to better themselves, often using the slogan “new year, new me” for motivation. 

While a very rallying phrase, the idea of starting over clean in the new year is inaccurate and harmful.

In a recent tweet, psychologist and author Matt Haig wrote, “You don’t need a new you. You don’t need replacing every year like another iPhone. Do not throw yourself away like another piece of plastic trash.”

Haig is encouraging people to stop adopting the idea of starting the year as a different person, completely disregarding the person they were in the past year. People learn from their mistakes and prior experiences, and disregarding these experiences will only inhibit people from becoming a better person. 

Contrary to popular belief, self-hatred is an extremely inefficient motivator. Many people use negative thoughts about themselves as motivation to reach a goal but instead are hindering any progress towards that goal. 

A 2012 study by Angelina Sutin and Antonio Terraccino supports this claim, showing that people are 2.5 times more likely to gain weight after receiving discrimination based on their weight.

Even though the discrimination in the experiment is not coming from within, the results still show how negative thoughts are inadequate motivators towards reaching a goal, often causing the individual to regress away from their goal. 

Since disregarding all past experiences limit progress towards one’s goal, it is frankly impossible to become a “new you.” 

As writer Poorna Bell says in an article with Stylist, “We aren’t characters from “The Good Place” or “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. There are no reboots to our existence, no magic machines that can erase our sad and painful memories.”

Setting the goal to change who we are completely is unattainable and when we don’t reach that unreachable goal, we return to the self-hate and anger that inspired the setting of the goal in the first place.  

An easy way to break free from this never-ending loop of disappointment can be avoided by tweaking the attitude around setting goals for the new year. 

“Love the old you,” Matt Haig continues in his tweet, “Improve, evolve, do better, but head towards yourself not away.”

By acknowledging the bad habits and experiences and experiences it is easier to make more attainable goals. 

A way to set these goals is by modeling them after the S.M.A.R.T. goal approach. This helpful acronym stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-oriented goals. 

For example, instead of saying “I will lose weight this year,” set a S.M.A.R.T. goal like “I will lose 50 pounds by May by running two miles three times a week.” This goal has a deadline, is specific, and can be realistically completed. 

Reflection is such an important thing to do throughout your life, making New Year’s such an amazing holiday. But as important it is to reflect, it is even more important to respond to this reflection in positive ways. 

This year, instead of thinking “new year, new me,” make resolutions that have high levels of success self-love.

Graphic by Shayla Kerr // The Louisville Cardinal 

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