A Ramble on Wellbeing in 2020 – Diet Culture, Societal Pressure & The Theory of Time

The New Year is a time for a fresh start and new beginnings. Wait, it is, right? New Year is seen as a time to make resolutions and be a better person, but under the surface it invites a lot of self-criticism. More often than not, the idea of “bettering” ourselves is often lost amongst a sea of the things we are expected to be. It’s so easy to jeopardise our own mental health without realising the consequences of searching for happiness in places that cannot give it to us, in order to exceed unrealistic expectations set by everyone but ourselves. Let 2020 be the year that you put yourself first and break out of the mould.

The pattern I tend to see when resolutions are made is “I need to do more than I am doing” and “I need to be more than I am”. Yes, a new year can be a new opportunity for progression and motivation, but you are not a superhuman. As nice is it would be, you do not have 8 limbs, a clone or the ability to freeze time. Making manageable goals in 2020 will prevent you from hitting a wall before you’ve even started making changes. I understand how easy it is to make a list of all the things you want to change about yourself and your life but if you don’t take it one step at a time, you’ll get burnout. In addition to this, if you don’t feel ready to make changes yet or you want to make them RIGHT NOW THIS SECOND – that’s fine! I don’t mean to get too deep here, but time is a social construct. We could spend hours talking about Einsteins theory of relativity and discussing whether time speeds up or slows down depending on how fast you move relative to something else, but at the end of the day? New year is a construct created by humans. We spend so much time ruminating about the end of the year, but thinking that a new year starts in 10 hours from now? That can seem really terrifying. Your brain can go off on a tangent and before you know it, you’re questioning who you are, what your purpose is and where you’ll be in 10 years time or whether we really will be killed off by global warming.

Stop. Breathe.

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I mentioned in my previous paragraph that you do not have the ability to freeze time. I’m sorry to say, that still stands. However, what you do have is the ability to take things at your own pace. The sun will always rise and set no matter what has happened that day, the earth will continue to spin and life around us will go on as usual. It’s so easy to get swept up in the motions, to feel like we need to rise and set and spin and go on like clockwork and this is not the case. Sometimes, we need to step back from the cycle and take some time to ourselves. Taking this time out can cause a lot of guilt, and I know myself that sometimes I sit around and watch Netflix for a little while and then I’m like WHAT AM I DOING? I CAN’T REST, I COULD BE VISITING FAMILY OR VOLUNTEERING OR BLOGGING OR TEACHING ENGLISH IN CHINA OR CREATING A TIME MACHINE TO TELL 8-YEAR-OLD ME TO MAKE A YOUTUBE ACCOUNT SO THAT 22-YEAR-OLD ME COULD BE A MILLIONAIRE. Stop. It’s okay to take time out for your mental health. Yes, social media will always be unwanted pressure. Yes, Sandra will continue to post her achievements, Michael will probably get another degree and Kelly is still on her gap year helping build schools for the less fortunate. Just remember, everyone is on different timelines. I guess we can disprove Einsteins theory in this instance (I can hear the physicists shaking in their boots) – just because everyone else appears to be moving faster, that doesn’t mean your time is running faster too. You do not have an expiry date for success or happiness, and it’s okay to do things in a different order than society wanted you to.

Another version of “success” that’s ingrained in us from a young age? The way we look. If I asked you what the most common resolution is, what comes to mind? Weight loss. As the year nears to a close, gym memberships and diet fads come out in full force. We’re seeing before and after pictures left, right and centre and consequently feel we need to conform to this idea too. I know from personal experience that I’ve felt like I’m not good enough because I am more like the before picture than the after. I’ve measured my self-worth through someone else’s progress and allowed society to warp my perception of beauty, and that’s what these diet fads profit from. At the end of the day, insecurity makes money and diet culture thrives off of it.

This is not to say that having a healthy lifestyle is wrong or should be discouraged. My resolutions for 2020 are to eat more veggies for my own wellbeing and to exercise as an outlet for stress. My point is, if your NY Resolution is to lose weight, please ask yourself why. Are you doing it for yourself and your physical/mental health needs or is it because societal pressure makes you think you need to be the after photo? If it’s the latter, then please hear me out. Your weight does not determine your self-worth. The number on the scales is not what gravitates people towards you. You are so much more than this, and you deserve to feel happiness that isn’t overpowered by guilt caused by other’s perceptions on how you should look and live.

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Recently, a lot of my blog post inspiration has come from reading books. Matt Haig is usually my go-to-please-motivate-me author, but I was reading something yesterday called “The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse”. It’s about a boy who gets lost in the wilderness and meets some friends along the way, but there were some pages that really stuck with me. As they’re trying to find their way home, they stumble upon two swans and the boy asks “How do they look so together and perfect?” to which the horse replies “There’s a lot of frantic paddling going on beneath”. This reminded me that the front people put up might not always be their true self. Social media, for example, is a highlight reel of someone’s life. The bits they want you to see. X got a scholarship and Y got married but X and Y are unlikely to make a status about how they got made redundant or post an Instagram photo of themselves unable to get out of bed in the morning because they’re depressed. If you take any real life lessons from this blog post for 2020 – take everything with a pinch of salt.

In another part of the book, after they’ve walked through the storm to get to where they are, the boy sighs and says “we have such a long way to go”. The horse responds “yes, but look how far we’ve come”. As the decade draws to a close, it’s habitual to reflect on everything that went wrong. The what if’s, the “oh my GOD why did I do that?!”s and the downright fuck ups. Instead, try to look back on everything that went right. The friends you made, the people who reminded you of places, the places that reminded you of people, the times you fell in love, the books you read, the films you watched, the things that made your eyes light up and the things you shared with others that made their eyes light up the same way. The seasons, the memories, the milestones, the adventures and the things you overcame to get to where you are now. We may not be superhuman, or able to freeze time, but we are here and we are able and we are worthy. Here’s to 2020, putting your wellbeing first and doing what makes you happy.

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