One common phrase I hear from people and see on social media is “new year, new me.” It’s a phrase I both totally understand, but also one that as a human and therapist strongly dislike.

First I’d like to offer the disclaimer that it’s not that I hate the idea of changing but I think it is much more nuanced than “new year, new me” and resolutions. I love it when people commit to changing and bettering things and themselves. I love helping people identify and implement the things they want different in their life. That’s why I am a therapist! So if you want to make resolutions or be different I completely support it. However, I want to make sure that you’re set up to do those things in a healthy and sustainable way.

The idea of “new year, new me” and New Year’s resolutions is something that sets most people up for failure. Change and growth is hard and even painful at times. If it’s changing yourself, that takes commitment and time. Commitment and time are two things that are vastly overlooked by the phrase “new year, new me” and New Year’s resolutions. Changing habits that you’ve been engaging in for years (say biting your nails, starting a new “diet”, disconnecting from social media) is something that takes effort. People often set New Year’s resolutions or expect things to be different just because the calendar has changed. But these are things that you’ve been doing a long time and so it will take a concentrated effort to work on them. In terms of time, most New Year’s resolutions fall off within a month. Gyms are packed the first couple weeks of January, but by February and March the business is gone. Expecting to break habits or make large changes without putting in both effort and time is, unfortunately, not realistic.

When we perpetuate the idea that we can flip a switch and be a new person with new habits because of a change in date, we set people up for a lot of feelings of inadequacy and shame. When we inevitably go back to our old habits, break our resolutions, we can feel like failures. After all, we were supposed to be different and new this year.

I believe the more healthy approach is acknowledging that what you’re setting out to do is not easy and it does not happen overnight. Know that change usually isn’t linear and there can be set backs. That does not make you a failure, it means you’re a human trying to do something very difficult. That way when things inevitably get hard, you don’t fall into a shame spiral. Another helpful way to approach the new goals is by knowing your reasons for doing it. If you want to engage less in social media, why? What are you hoping to gain from it? Then when it gets hard, remember what you are gaining and trying to get rather than just what you’re losing. Also, having other people helping keep you accountable is helpful to some people. As a therapist, I help people all the time in working towards and maintaining their goals. So know that if you ever feel like you need extra support, we are here to help.

If you want a new year, new you or a bunch of New Year’s resolutions, then do your thing and I hope you crush it! Just remember to be kind with yourself, don’t expect everything to change at once, and reach out if you need support.