It’s a new year, 2021 has arrived and as we say goodbye to a year that has changed all our lives in so many ways, it seems we have not been given a rest bite from the onslaught of advertisements that appear at the start of every January. Despite the strangeness of these times and facing the continuation of living through and dealing with a pandemic, this new year seems to be no different in the marketing we are faced with. Marketing that claims because we have entered a new year, we must become fitter, healthier, more motivated and productive, smarter and generally better. A new year must mean a new you.
This is the focus of every new year in a culture where we are always sold more, more, more. In a society where we are taught to believe that what we have, what we do, and who we are, is not enough. And this is the message that has been constructed in order to make money. In the instance of adverts that insist, we need to be healthier, fitter and consequently slimmer. It’s a message that means that gyms recruit more members, detoxes and diets are sold by the millions and the whole weight loss industry is able to capitalise on the idea that you haven’t being doing enough and this is the only opportunity to right that wrong.
With the increasing and dangerous rise of social media influencers who are paid to peddle weight loss fads, these money making schemes and the messaging behind them are increasingly difficult to avoid. A message that promotes guilt and self -loathing. A message I am sick of seeing each new year. Yes, there may be some extra indulgence over the Christmas period and it can be a positive aim to try and set about a more healthier diet or get back to doing some physical exercise. But this should be because we want to do it for ourselves, for what is healthy for us and our individual bodies. We shouldn’t feel forced into this because we have been shamed into losing weight. The rhetoric of shame that surrounds these campaigns is what makes it so damaging. We do not need to punish ourselves for enjoying ourselves. We are fine the way we are. And crucially right now we are dealing with an unprecedented moment. We should be able to do whatever makes us feel good and slightly better about a testing and trying time. The last thing we need at the moment is to be made to feel bad about not following the latest diet trend or exercise routine.
It’s not just the diet industry that makes us feel guilty about not doing enough. I remember at the beginning of lockdown 1.0 seeing posts on social media that claimed Shakespeare wrote some of his best works during quarantine from a plague and so we should now finally have the time to write that book, or learn that instrument, or start that business. We were told there were no more excuses now and we mustn’t waste this time. If you did these things then I’m sure it may have been what helped you through, but the outside pressure of how productive we should be is not helpful or motivational. It’s toxic. We should be proud of ourselves for simply making it through and waking up each morning, getting out of bed and facing the day. Simply surviving during this time is enough.
So, the next quote on Instagram you might see about being ‘your best self’ can simply be you as you are now, doing whatever you are currently doing to get through. You do not need to become a new you just because it is a new year. It’s great to set resolutions and goals and intentions for the coming year if this gives you a feeling of focus and purpose, but these should be extras to who you are because you are good enough already. Welcome this year with goals, resolutions, a list of things you want to do or accomplish but don’t feel you have to re-create a whole new you. This is a new year but you can be the same you.
If you are interested in this topic and the conversations around it I can recommend following the movement of IWeigh, founded by Jameela Jamil, on Instagram, and listening to the podcast. Another Instagram page I found was @lucymountain, and her page @nobsguides, who also talks about the incessant messaging to change ourselves that we are bombarded with in January, and how to set healthier affirmations and intentions.
By Maya Nardoni
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