‘Tis the season in which we get bombarded with messaging and marketing about becoming our best selves. Some of the messages we see are direct: Lose weight, be happy! Some of the messages are more coded: It’s finally time to make yourself a priority! At the end of the day, though, both avenues to your fragile post-holiday brain are focused on selling you the idea that this is going to be the year to get shiny and in shape. Maybe it’s even the year to get in control of your life, after a year spent in the throes of a pandemic and a version of the unknown none of us could have predicted.
I’ve been in the fitness industry for over two decades and I can tell you that those ideas are not worth pursuing, not now and not ever. I can also predict that this year will be a very lucrative year for wellness companies, as every single person I know—including myself—wants to be shiny and in control of their life in 2021. This may be the year that even the skeptical among us take the bait and hyperfocus on a diet, a new trendy fitness program, a juice cleanse, or an expensive vitamin regimen.
When I dial back this urge, even in myself, I discover that underneath it all is a simple desire to be healthy or, to be more fancy about that word, it is a simple desire to be in a state of congruency with my insides and my outsides. If I want to be shiny and in shape, the truth is that I want the simple state of good enough health. I want good enough digestion, good enough sleep, stable blood sugar, lack of illness, good enough mental health, and good enough connection with other humans. The hard fact, though, is that none of us have had Good Enough of any of that this year. And that is what makes us so vulnerable. Our standard of self care has slipped to extremely low levels out of a duty to make all the impossible things work. And we all want to reverse this quickly, don’t we? And we all believe that with a little bit of elbow grease and will power, we can change the course of our lives.
The reality is that this is not the case. No one could have done this year better. No one could have resisted the urge of the sweat pants, I promise. We’ve all just stayed above water and this is not the time to wish we had looked more graceful while flailing. Instead, what if it is the year to re-anchor ourselves to the basics of good enough health and surrender the outcomes of what that might look like for each of us?
For me, personally, this means that I am going to take stock of what Good Enough Health means and I am going to claim it without taking the bait which hooks me into the idea that I need to diet, tone up, or buy tons of skincare products. And I’ll admit there will be some grief in this process. I want to believe forcing myself into a container where sweaty, toned, smiling, tanned humans live will scratch the itch I feel. I want to believe that I can pummel myself into superhero behavior, which would mean that the difficulties of last year were my fault, which is oddly comforting. I don’t want to face the underbelly that we, as tender humans, are tasked with living in unpredictability every single day. And I don’t want to face that reality because then it means that it could happen again and it also means that my job is to find joy/health/peace/security even when it does.
So, what is the way forward then? I have chosen to greet this grief by freeing myself instead. If New Year’s is all about control and containers and cleaning up and betterment, I am going to opt out of that and instead choose to let myself find freedom in a new version of wellbeing. I mean, let’s face it. Doing it the other way has never ever worked for any person I have ever met. At least not sustainably. And worse yet, if we really dig into that, we’d discover that doing it the other way has actually caused more harm than good.
Here’s my hypothesis for this New Version of New Year’s: If I opt-out of containment and opt-in to freedom in certain areas, I will then measure my health on qualifications that equal congruency with my true self. And at the end of the day, when I’m old and I’ve earned my wrinkles, I’ll look back at 2021 and be proud of the choice I made. This takes courage. This takes letting go of the golden carrots that dazzle us with idle promises. This takes watching other people chase those carrots and not joining them. This takes believing in ourselves and in the long game. This takes surrendering our expectations and accepting where we are, right now. This takes all the icky yucky things we want to avoid right now because, holy crap, we want comfort and solutions.
But, stay in the muck with me. Focus on freedom. We will be tackling it all month in our January Challenge in the following weekly breakdowns, each one guided by a different expert:
Free Your Brain
Free Your Resolutions
Free Your Time
Free Your Body
It takes courage to believe this could work and it takes a teensy bit of messy, imperfect willingness to give it a shot. I will be here with you, each step of the way.