Nowadays, the arrival of a new year is synonymous with the advent of a ‘New You’. The phrase ‘New Year, New You’ has been adopted by many of the mainstream advertising giants when it comes to the conception of their January campaigns.
Take Barclays for example: in their latest ‘Barclaycard’ advert, the banking company leads potential customers to believe that, should they take out the card, they are guaranteed to fulfil their lifelong dreams. These dreams once seemed impossible to the customers’ old, Barclaycard-free, inadequate selves.
The same can be said of countless other companies, playing on the idea that with a new year comes an opportunity to completely reinvent oneself, going from the old ‘incomplete’ and ‘imperfect’ you, to a new, shinier model.
This stance is particularly dangerous when it comes to health and food. We are constantly inundated, throughout the New Year period, with new diet fads, fitness regimes and health foods. Mainstream TV channels such as BBC One and ITV are filled with lifestyle programmes encouraging a complete reinvention of one’s diet, exercise schedule and routine in general, with programmes such as Eat Well, Spend Less being a prime example of this. This heightened focus on diet and exercise is a danger to those dealing with eating disorders, low self-esteem and body image.
Self-punishment is an inevitable outcome of the attempt to strive for self-perfection. What these programmes, adverts and articles don’t remind people is that it’s okay to take your time. It is virtually impossible to reinvent oneself in the space of a month or two and trying to change everything in your life all at once is inevitably counterproductive.
Instead of pushing for a completely new persona and forcing people into the mentality that they need to strive for excellence whatever the cost, we should be encouraging self-love and self-healing.
The new year is a good time for self-reflection, and there is nothing wrong with setting reachable, realistic goals, but putting excess pressure on oneself to instantaneously become something which may not be within your grasp can be a damaging way to start off 2018. January is already a problematic month, with the day-light hours still minimal and the post-Christmas blues being a very real issue for many. Putting an increased amount of pressure on oneself to stop eating those carbs or stick to that fitness schedule is arguably a step too far.
For many students, the pressure to be that ‘perfect’ person is already too much. An increased amount of expectation is put on students and young people to achieve those perfect grades, to maintain that stellar social life and to keep up with the latest trends. For many the intensification of these expectations is particularly acute at new year. This culture of rejecting one’s flaws and inhabiting a new persona whilst still balancing life under the pressures of academic work and social expectation is not a sustainable or healthy way to enter into a new year.
Rather than encouraging people to reject their flaws and problems in favour of an idealistic, superficial and rushed attempt at self-perfection, we should be focusing on taking time in the new year to concentrate on self-love. Be kind to yourself.
While making gradual and well thought-out changes to one’s life is no bad thing, we should not be pushing people into unsustainable and perfectionistic routines with the ultimate goal of creating a new self.
Image: Laura Spence