If anyone tries to make you feel silly for making New Year’s resolutions, ignore them. Yes, we can make commitments to change our behaviors, stride towards our goals, and improve our lives any time, but there’s something about bringing in a new year that invigorates and inspires us. You shouldn’t feel any shame at all if this is the time of year you set new goals and hit the reset button. This year, though, I want to give you some advice on how to take a more feminist approach to making resolutions that affirm and validate who you already are and support who you are working to be.
Become comfortable saying ‘no’
It took me a long time to realize that I was allowed to say “no” to people. I remember growing up and hearing “no” more than I ever felt comfortable saying it. When I became focused on expanding my career, I thought saying “no” would cost me beneficial opportunities; as a Black woman already facing obstacles because of my race and gender, I thought I should jump at any chance to get my name and work “out there.” I ran myself ragged saying “yes” to everything and my mental and physical health suffered because of it. Eventually, I realized that declining requests for my time and energy afforded me an even better opportunity to focus on improving my self-care and nurturing my own passions and creativity. And there is something uniquely empowering about being able to make your own rules and act according to what feels fulfilling to you rather than caving to the pressure to appear accommodating and “easy to work with.”
It’s also time to get better at saying “no” to friends, family, and romantic partners. Of course, we feel obligations to help the people we care about or go along with ideas they have and plans they make. But what if you simply do not want to? You don’t have to sacrifice your wants and needs to be a people-pleaser, even with people you love dearly. “No” is a complete, powerful sentence.
There is something uniquely empowering about being able to make your own rules and act according to what feels fulfilling to you rather than caving to the pressure to appear accommodating.
Take a major career risk
If you are employed or working on becoming employed, 2020 is the year you need to take a major risk. Research shows that women are 21% less likely to be promoted than men, are more likely to over-invest (obtain more education, training, and certifications), and are less likely to apply for positions and promotions until they feel sure they meet all, or most, of the criteria than men are. Women also struggle with accessing the same career-building resources as men, so we often feel shut out of competition for opportunities for advancement or feel we have to work way harder to get half as far as men do. We wait until we are 100% qualified to make a move while men make moves when they’re only 60% qualified even though we are more likely to get hired than men. It’s time to disrupt this trend and turn it on its head.
Apply for that position you saw on Twitter or LinkedIn. Schedule that meeting with your supervisor to discuss a pay raise or promotion. That side project you’ve had on the back burner for two years? It’s time to get it cooking with hot grease. We’re not promised tomorrow and there are few things more painful than living with the regret of never having at least tried to make your dream come true. Dig deep into your resources, ask your tribe for help, and let 2020 be the year you put your plans into motion.
Reclaim your body
Women still struggle with bodily autonomy, even in the 21st century. There are still so many social and moral restrictions that attempt to limit what we do with our own bodies. When we’re not dealing with stringent aesthetic requirements, we’re battling sexual shaming. When we’re not navigating threats to our reproductive autonomy, we’re trying our best to stay safe against threats of sexual and physical violence. Being women means living in a world where everyone feels they have the right to tell us what to do with our bodies and they’re certain they know the best ways we should go about it.
Do you want to lose weight, like many others hope to do in the new year? Don’t feel bad about it. My hope is that your reasons are based more on how you feel deep inside and not on fatphobic societal pressures to be smaller. There are healthy approaches to weight management that don’t involve deprivation, overexertion, and other forms of suffering, so don’t cave to the latest gimmick or fad. If possible, consult with a nutritionist or therapist who specializes in body image and healthy living, and design a sustainable plan that works for you.
Maybe you want to dig deeper into your sexuality and sexual preferences in the new year. Leave the shame in 2019 and embrace your right to pleasure on your own terms. It’s not just about going out and having more sex, though that might be one result. You should also educate yourself more about your options by reading books, attending classes, or even hiring coaches who specialize in helping people strengthen their connections to their sexual selves and improve their overall sex lives. If you struggle with sex because of past trauma or indoctrinated fears, this is a good year to seek out a sex-positive therapist who can help you work through roadblocks and feel more sexually liberated. And if you have no interest or desire to have sex, lean into that even more — you’re not wrong! Being sex-positive means accepting all sexual orientations, preferences, and options, even if the option is abstinence or avoidance.
Leave the shame in 2019 and embrace your right to pleasure on your own terms.
“Love” may be one of the most universally misunderstood emotions that trips many of us up because we aren’t always communicating about it with the same language. What love means to you is not what love means to seven billion other people, so it is extremely important that you work on defining love in a way that feels right and best serves you. It starts with you and before you can fully love others and expect reciprocity, you have to know what looks like and means to you. Let this next year be the one during which you do some introspective emotional work and identify what are the key characteristics of love that satisfies and edifies you.
I don’t think I began to fully love myself until I was in my mid-thirties and, looking back, I attribute that to not really knowing enough about myself to fully and deeply love who I was. As I became more committed to defining what love looked and felt like, I realized more and more that I wasn’t even loving myself in those ways, so it was odd that I expected others to love me according to these rules. Redefining love changed my outlook on life and had a deep impact on how I engaged with others — I stopped allowing negative people access to my heart and spirit, I became more discerning in my decision making about who I shared my love with, and I began to put myself first and foremost, even above my child, because I realized that if I didn’t prioritize loving myself, I would be no good to him as a mom. My biggest lesson learned in the process of redefining love was that I’d long denied myself the greatest love I could have and will ever experience: self-love.
The new year brings feelings of hope and affirmation that we should embrace and use to our advantage. With so many other people making their own resolutions, it’s a great time to find accountability partners and set your life on a new course. However you decide to ring in the new year, remember that your next steps are all about you, what empowers you, what keeps you safe, and what brings you the most joy.
Happy New Year!