Written by Elise Olmstead
It’s a new year, and you know what that means – time for a New Year’s resolution. I’ve never been much for resolutions, never felt too compelled to lose weight or change my lifestyle all that much, but over the past couple of years I’ve taken more strides towards self-improvement and have watched my friends changing their life for the better as well. It’s been very inspiring and a tell-tale sign that we are growing up!
Resolutions mean looking at yourself critically and mustering the courage to change, which can be painful. Looking at myself at all is something I avoid now, I will admit. I used to be able to casually pass a mirror without much thought, but now every department store mirror or even reflective windows on the street are an obstacle to be dodged. The bags under my eyes and the sagging skin on my face are a reminder of all those times I avoided looking towards the future in my 20’s. The years that I made no new resolutions, and kept myself blissfully ignorant. Now I wish I just wore more sunscreen for god’s sake — let alone quit smoking, drinking, etc. My husband assures me that I am still as beautiful as ever, but my anxiety over my looks often sends me into a tailspin of depression, which causes me to want to drown my sorrows into a glass of wine, which is just perpetuating the cycle of bad habits that created this whole thing in the first place.
It’s not easy for me to share this. Along with the anxiety comes feelings of shame over being “vain” and even worrying about my looks at all. I’m not supposed to be a shallow person, not supposed to worry about looks or material things.
This ideology is precisely why I am sharing my fears — because I know in my heart that so many of us, men and women alike, worry about these things but feel ashamed that we are even worrying about them. We spend so much time trying to transcend the pressures of mainstream society that we aren’t even allowed to admit that we still feel the pressure. We may be “woke” (whatever that means), but we still worry about wrinkles, about having babies, about having a 401K, or a white picket fence, and you know what? That’s okay! We don’t have to live in a hammock doing yoga and cleansing our chakras in order to be an enlightened individual. The matter of the fact is that we still live in America – we are still members of society, and how can we be good neighbors if we refuse to participate at all?
One of the most enlightened qualities that I can think of is honesty. Honesty with others, but most importantly honesty with yourself. I believe there is something sacred about sharing your truths with people, whether you are telling them about your life, your insecurities, or your deepest hopes and dreams. There is a right place and a right time for sharing these truths, and you have to make sure the listener is open to hearing them. But in the right setting, these conversations can be cathartic for both parties.
Honesty with yourself can be even harder than being honest with others. We have to be critical of our mistakes and flaws, but only then can we try to change. This includes not blaming others or blaming outside forces for how our life is going. This year my resolution is to practice radical honesty, to tackle that mirror and the face that doesn’t lie – every wrinkle and laugh line is written there as a reminder. I’m going to try to love it, and when I can’t, I’ll find someone to share my fears with instead of hiding in isolation. I hope all of your wishes for 2018 come true, and I hope you will share them with me!