Emily Postmodern: My New Year’s Resolution Is To Not Hate On Other People’s Resolutions

Here’s the short list of New Year’s resolutions I’ve made for myself in 2016.

  • work out three to  five times a week
  • quit smoking
  • eat breakfast everyday
  • drink less alcohol
  • drink more water
  • clean out my closet
  • lose 5, 10, 15 pounds and don’t gain it back
  • finish my thesis, dissertation, wedding thank you notes, christmas cards etc.
  • floss regularly
  • save money
  • don’t be so critical of self and others
  • watch less TV
  • learn to code
  • pay off debt
  • clean my house once a week
  • stop buying fast fashion
  • get a new job
  • learn to knit
  • start (or increase contribution to) my retirement fund
  • learn to cook

Just about everyone has one or two things they always come back to in an attempt to be a better version of themselves.  You or someone you know has probably resolved to do at least one of the above in 2016. Perhaps you have managed to make and keep these or other resolutions in years past, but the majority of us have a hard time succeeding at ours. The reasons we fail are complicated, but often boil down to aiming too high or trying to make 180 degree changes in a short time period. Sometimes it helps to have other people keep us accountable for our resolutions, but then when you break it can feel like all the more of a failure.

So when your best friend tells you for the fifth year in row that that is she is really going to do finally run that half-marathon this year, what are you supposed to do? Tell her you are sure she will actually manage to do that one thing this year, even though she never has before? Be a total downer about it and remind her of her history with this particular resolution? It isn’t always easy to find that middle ground that is somehow both supportive and honest. Whatever you do, when someone tells you their particular intention for the new year, just don’t laugh.

My research* concludes that health and diet resolutions seem to be the most common, especially among women. The problem encountered here is that they can run the gamut from completely reasonable to completely bonkers and even unhealthy.  If you best workout buddy wants to up her routine from three times a week to four, it can’t hurt to give it a shot with her. If after a month or so she has cancelled every time you plan to get that fourth workout in, maybe mention that you guys have a pretty good thing going with your thrice weekly Pilates dates and if she wants to get in that fourth session a week she will have to do it solo.

If you are already a gym go-er and your decidedly not gym inclined friend resolves to become one, before she goes full throttle into a gym, contract offer her a week pass to yours and extend the invitation to tag along on your workouts. Who knows, maybe she will convert, but if she doesn’t at least she won’t have invested in a membership she won’t use. In general adding exercise to life isn’t unhealthy, but in the enthusiasm of Resolution Season it can be easy to take it too far. Obviously we want all of our friends to be healthy people, but seeing someone fall into a potentially dangerous exercise routine can be worrisome.  You wouldn’t want to isolate someone by being critical instead let them know you are there for them in case they end up with a stress fracture from running too much.

Obviously, resolutions about quitting things that are in general bad for us or specifically scientifically proven to be life shortening and dangerous can feel very burdensome. Everyone deals with addiction and quitting differently, and it is extra hard to feel like you have the toolbox to help a friend when you are not a professional.  While New Year’s can be a great incentive to quit something like smoking it can feel like all that much of a failure if it doesn’t happen right away or if there are a few false starts. If you have watched a friend struggle with an addictive habit they can’t quit for years and you are afraid that they are just setting themselves up for disappointment again let them know you are around to talk about the struggles. If they are trying to drink less or not drink at all, offer to drink seltzer in solidarity with them at social gatherings or come up with non- booze centric hangs.  Ask them if they want you to call them out if they slip up don’t just assume that is your role. If they are dealing with a serious addiction issue hopefully they also have professional help to guide them and let them know what they should ask friends to do in the way of support- that is way beyond the purview of an internet column of unsolicited advice.

Don’t be afraid to offer support and commiseration to people trying to make healthy life choices for 2016. Don’t call people out if they abandon them though (unless they asked you specifically to do that). It isn’t phony to say “oh man, that sounds hard, let me know how it goes” instead of “yeah right, didn’t you try that last year?”. Remember in 2016 we all want to be better versions of ourselves and sometimes that starts with helping others figure it out too.

*32 and a half years on Earth, some light reading of lifestyle blogs, occasionally looking at the covers of women’s magazines while standing in line at Duane Reade, CVS, or Rite Aid, and even more occasionally skimming a very out of date magazine in a doctor’s waiting room.