This post was originally written in 2019 and is updated and shared here.
Welcome 2020! New year, new you, right? Living your best life! #YOLO #blessed
Except, maybe not. And if not, what then? I hear you on this question, let’s look deeper…
A few months ago, I went to the stationers in a small market town where I see clients to buy a new journal (I chose turquoise and rose marbled paper cover, lined paper, gold gilded pages, if you were wondering)
It was then I first felt The 2020 Pressure™.
I saw a rack of gorgeously glittery, pretty, pink-teal-rose-gold notebooks and my excitement grew. Here, I would find a journal for me. But no, as I came closer I saw that all the notebooks had slogans on the covers, things like,
“Make 2020 the BEST”
“Go BIGGER in 2020”
“New Decade! Start it RIGHT”
“Best Year EVER”
They weren’t blank journals but diaries and they weren’t simply diaries but continued exhortations to live harder, bigger, faster, better. To achieve more, do more, see more, buy more, be more, more, more.
Quite frankly, I don’t need my diary to tell me off every time I pick it up.
(That’s why I chose to have an Earth Pathways diary, a Passion Planner and The Moon is My Calendar, because while effective organisation and implementation matters, but so does compassion. In fact, I don’t believe we can have one sustainably without the other).
I also struggle with the diaries basic premise; that more = better. I can’t say I agree. I think what’s happening to our planet and the increasing issues caused by late stage capitalism and symptom of unconscious, un-boundaried consumerism demonstrates that more does not equate to better.
Besides the drill-sergeant-with-glittery-pom-poms style affirmations of the diaries felt so tiring and off putting. [You can imagine them shouting, “Yay, Yay! You WILL have a super year! START NOW, lazy. You CAN do it! DO IT NOW!”]
Pressure and Promise
But there is the pressure, isn’t there? And the promise. The new year brings with it a pressure to be, do and have more. And a promise that if we do it right, if we buy the right things and try hard enough, we too can escape the challenges of being human and slip right into a world of perfection. Where everything is perfectly filtered, positive, light-filled and abundant.
Well, I’m sorry, but me and my shadows, my imperfections and messy humanity cannot be contained by something as limited as an Instagram frame nor a tiny iPhone screen.
I believe we are all much deeper than anything the aspirations promise us. We are wilder, freer, bolder, more scarred, more scared, messier, angrier and more human than that.
Power and Privilege
The pressure of aspiration blames us when we struggle. And while we may have lots of power, our life experiences are impacted by a complex and often competing social, environmental, political, biological, ancestral, systemic influences. The idea that you can simply choose to have a perfect life, through sheer will, isn’t something I recognise.
There are structural and systemic prejudices influencing us all, imparting different measures of privilege and persecution.
Goals and Going Harder
Planners and goals products often encourage us to dream bigger and there is a truth in that often people who hold identities which have been marginalised or persecuted can live with internalised oppression and curtail their dreams because they – consciously or unconsciously – don’t think someone who looks/is like them reach that goal.
And while I believe they can and should be able to reach the goals of which they dream, there is a real issue or prejudice and privilege in play. People aren’t dreaming small, just because no one gave them permission to dream bigger. It’s all a little more complex than that, quite frankly.
But it’s much easier to sell someone the idea that they can fix themselves with your instant-download product and finally be happy than it is to acknowledge the complex, intersecting layers or prejudices; racism, sexism, homophobia, abelism, transphobia, colonialism and systemic discrimination that permeate our societies and impact us on a macro and micro level daily. Because that’s scary…
“We think that if we just meditated enough or jogged enough or ate perfect food, everything would be perfect…
Doing this is setting ourselves up for failure because sooner or later, we’re going to have an experience we can’t control: our house is going to burn down, someone we love is going to die, we’re going to find out we have cancer…somebody’s going to spill tomato juice all over our white suit…
The essence of life is that it’s challenging. Sometimes it’s sweet, sometimes it’s bitter…
There is something aggressive about that approach to life, trying to flatten out all the rough spots and imperfections into a nice smooth ride.”
– Perma Chodron, When Things Fall Apart
Behind the Scenes
However, there are whole industries – the New Age Industry/Self-Help Complex, the beauty and “weight-loss” industries, much of start-up entrepreneurialism, all profit from us feeling like we need to fix ourselves.
Hidden under a lot of “empowerment” language around goals in the assumption that more = better. But that’s a capitalist notion, not a universal truth.
Let’s examine it for a moment…
If you are always expanding, is that sustainable for you, in your circumstances?
If you have a goal that feels well within reach, does that make you, or your happiness when you arrive at the goal any less?
Are you any less if you run a small business or a big business?
For me at least, I don’t think so…
What if you aren’t broken?
Many marketers consciously or unconsciously perpetuate our fears that we are not enough. This fear that may come from relational or cultural relational trauma (Raimondi) and it’s reinforced by marketing that borrows from manipulative and abusive tactics.
I mean really, funnel? Not ok.
What if you aren’t broken? What if you are a human who is struggling? You may need support, but not fixing or changing.
“Put down your clever and pick up your ordinary. Because your ordinary is potent” – Patti Digh
Your New Year
What would it look like to do the new year your way? After all, a new year is only a date from a calendar.
What if you made any shifts or changes when you feel ready?
Maybe in the spring, when things are starting to get a little warmer and lighter? Or in the Autumn for our Southern hemisphere readers.
Maybe you’ll make a change day by day, no pronouncements, resolutions, revolutions or promises, just gentle staying with yourself and making choices each day.
Especially for those of us living with chronic illness or life limits, picking what works for us is essential. I don’t know about you, but if I was beginning a new exercise programme, I would not choose the dead of winter to do it – dark, ice, cold, rain – no thank you. That’s not safe for me and my body.
Instead, can we notice all the pressure to perform, to conform and notice too, with gentle curiosity, what that brings up for us?
And then respond to ourselves from that place.
“How do driven, goal-oriented perfectionists find their way back to the lost relationship with their own heart? – Marion Woodman, Addiction to Perfection.
Notice what is behind something that’s pressuring us can be really helpful in unhooking from it and not getting caught up in that cycle.
Instead, can we start from where we are now and take whatever steps may be best for us, each day? That may be a big plan or it may be something much more gentle. Let’s approach change with an attitude of self-compassion and curiosity as we explore and find our way back to – or into – what works for us and our own, dear, beloved, painful, shining hearts.
How do you cope with new year pressure? Let me know in the comments!
Grace Quantock is an award-winning international wellness expert, coach, author, motivational speaker, certified Reiki master and spiritual response therapy practitioner. She is the founder of Healing Boxes CIC and The Phoenix Fire Academy. Currently living – and thriving – with often debilitating illness, she is the real deal and knows, firsthand, the emotional and physical roller coaster that accompanies diagnosis and life struggle. Currently, a resident of Wales, Grace loves reading, gardening and early mornings. She firmly believes that life is meant to be celebrated, and has made it her mission to help others do just that …joyfully and on their own terms. You can follow Grace on Twitter.
Image courtesy of Demorris Byrd.