New Year’s Resolutions are Actually Toxic

Written by: Li

Edited by: Mariah

Visual by: Tatiana

It’s 2022. New year, new you; time for resolutions! But why? Why are we expected to have resolutions, why do we have to change? The short answer is: you don’t have to. 

There is this constant societal pressure for each and every one of us to live up to the idea of a “perfect person.” Many of us are conditioned to believe that the New Year marks the supposed “ideal time” to butterfly into this better version of ourselves. However, there is no such thing as a “perfect person”, and a New Year isn’t going to change that.

 New Year’s resolutions may have started out as a structured way to approach self-improvement, but they have now become a ploy for the media and big corporations to use our insecurities against us to make even more money. In short, it’s consumerism – it makes you feel guilty about yourself so that you pay for various products or services that boost your ego. 

But really, you don’t need to change everything about yourself. 

With the coming of every new year, we see so many toxic, abstract goals that we are encouraged to set ourselves for the year ahead, such as: 

  1. Dramatic weight loss, muscle gain, or both.
  2. Stop being negative/always be positive
  3. Find “the one”
  4. Spend less time on social media or on the screen in general
  5. Stop stressing

These are just a few of the high-pressure resolutions being promoted to us in the media; many of which are great for self-improvement, only they are fueled by our own self-hate, pity, and embarrassment. Society’s view of us as individuals has so much power that we are shamed into feeling like we aren’t good enough. This in turn has an effect on our self-esteem, therefore pushing us to feel like we have to achieve these popularized goals within a certain amount of time in order to be worthy or desirable, etc. 

Working on yourself is not a bad thing, in fact, it’s great! If you want to become a healthier version of you, go for it, but “healthy” is a very subjective term; you can personalize it to your needs. If your idea of a “healthy lifestyle” is getting lots of sleep, giving yourself time to relax, and eating things you enjoy, then do that. If it’s mainly eating whole foods and exercising regularly, do that too. You can even change it up when you want to, it all depends on what you need, what makes you happy. Listen to your body. 

New Year’s resolutions are toxic and overrated; they are a disease. And like all diseases, they come with side effects:

  1. False hope, in the beginning, which then leads to low self-esteem. This phenomenon is also known as false hope syndrome

The false hope syndrome model suggests that someone affected by false hope tends to set unrealistic goals. At first, this planning provides them with a sense of control over their life, but once they begin making some progress they get a false sense of hope that they will be able to reach their unrealistic goal(s). Then as they continue working towards their target, the struggles increase and their progress slows. Eventually, they recognize that they won’t be able to achieve their goal and give up. 

  1. Developing a negative self-image after not attaining their (often unrealistic) goals

If someone is taking art lessons for the first time, expecting themselves to become a professional in less than a month but are then unable to meet that goal, it can result in them either internalizing the cause of failure, giving up, or subjecting themselves to more ‘false hope’ by continuing another unrealistic and damaging cycle of goal setting. This loop of disappointment can lead to the development of a negative self-image as people expect more from themselves than they can give. 

In order to break free from False Hope syndrome, try to be realistic rather than over-confident and over-optimistic when setting goals. This will prevent you from putting too much pressure on yourself, and feeling disappointed when you don’t reach your target that was most likely unachievable in the first place. 

Additionally, there are examples of goal-setting techniques that boost your self-esteem rather than lower it. Instead of resolutions, make SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and anchored within a Time frame. They are more sustainable in the long run, which will preserve your progress and help keep you motivated. If SMART goals are still too much for you, then simply start by making small changes to your life and habits that you will be able to continue over a longer period of time. Don’t worry if you slip up or if you’re progressing slowly, you will get there. Small wins are still just that: wins. 

“Start with small, but consistent actions, and steps as per the set goals. Also, review your plan of action regularly and fix the loopholes.” – Kavita Yadav

Works Cited

“3 Expert-Backed Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Are Toxic for You.” Healthshots, 24 Dec. 2019, Accessed 30 Jan. 2022.

“7 New Year’s Resolutions That Can Be Toxic AF, Because Remember You Are Enough as You Are.” Bustle, Accessed 30 Jan. 2022.

Maltezou-Papastylianou, Constantina. “False Hope Syndrome: Let Go of Unrealistic Goals and Expectations.” A Cup of Psyence, 14 Apr. 2021, Accessed 30 Jan. 2022.

tinkbm. “New Year’s Resolutions Are Toxic; Why Do We Desire to Change Who We Are?” Medium, 5 Jan. 2020, Accessed 30 Jan. 2022.