While we recognize the limitations of any singular blog post’s ability to answer big questions like the ones we’re asking, our intention is to not to tell you everything there is to know about this issue, but rather to open up a space for conversation, reflection, curiosity, and a consideration of all the other questions this one question sets in motion.
The Canary’s first meeting of 2022 was canceled the day of. There was some illness and some conflicting business and a general sense of ongoing recovery from the holidays. When we finally did meet a week later in a joyful state of reconnection and catching up, we brought up goals for the upcoming year, both personally and for our organization. We also discussed the negative response we felt to the New Year hype of resolutions and self-reinvention. In keeping with our values of intentionality, well-being, and truth, we took time to reflect on this and decided to each write a short reflection on how we approach the idea of reinvention at the start of a new year.
We hope you are able to have your own time to reflect on the question below. Feel free to let us know what things come up for you and if you have made any commitments or goals for this next revolution of time and space.
Why do we feel the need to reinvent ourselves at the beginning of the New Year and where does that influence come from?
“If there’s one thing I have learned this year it’s the importance of “others” to who “I” am.”
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“We as consumers need to recognize the distance between what happens on social media and what happens in the privacy of people’s actual lives, and be mindful about what we choose to believe and aspire towards.”
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“It is our human ability to remember and reflect on the past and to understand how it influences our present and future that creates the possibility of growth.”
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“In order to reduce those devilish outside forces that attempt to erode my foundation of solidity, I have had to create friction in how I access social media and the ongoing coverage of distressing news.”
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I am a listmaker. In fact, I am such a fan of lists and the sense of accomplishment I feel from crossing things off them that I start each one with “write to-do list” just so I have something to strike. I am also a huge fan of “fresh starts”. Whether it’s a new season, a birthday, hell, even a Monday can sometimes bring me that fresh start feel, I rejoice in the opportunity to begin again.
A new year for me is a fresh start and a blank calendar just awaiting a laundry list of to-do’s. However, a few years ago, overwhelmed with how quickly I was tossing aside my new year to-do goals, I added a simple one word prospect for how I wanted to “be” in each new year. We are all human-beings in that constant state of flux and flow, acting and reacting to our surroundings and circumstances. I figured if I could name one word for how I could hope to show up in that next circle around the sun, it would give me some foundations upon which to stand.
If for whatever reason, this is coming across as THREE simple steps to finding happiness and balance in your life this new year!!!! Please, let me assure you my annual attempt to establish baseline bad-assery typically struggles. I won’t say fails, because one word is easy to remember and repeat when presented with all of the life things thrown at you. In my twenties (I can say that now because I am 31), I so often started the year with words that required external approval from society. For example one year I went for “fit”, basically a false healthy version of myself that the media told me would make me ‘look good’. Another year I went for “love” not love for myself, of course, just finding a partner in order to fulfill what I had been conditioned to think I needed to be complete. In my most wise and advanced twentieth year I chose “fierce”. It was a matured notion of self awareness but secretly underlined with the idea of Beyonce’s stage name alter ego.
For 2022 my WOTY (word of the year) is SOLID. A term I hope to invoke in times of fear, questioning, difficulty and yes, counterintuitively, growth. Because this year I will find my security in the solid understanding of self. Already I have struggled. In order to reduce those devilish outside forces that attempt to erode my foundation of solidity, I have had to create friction in how I access social media and the ongoing coverage of distressing news. One simple click away to doubt and disorder is too easy. Like a school kid trying to avoid calling their crush, I keep deleting passwords and apps and letting my technology run out of battery. But creating this intentional distance allows me some space to really reflect on my feelings and gives me time to repeat my word in my mind so that my frame of reference is less malleable when I start to compare myself to others.
Checking my socials and scrolling through news has now become an item on my to-do list, rather than an unconscious habit. I do what I need to in order to make sure I am not missing anything IMPORTANT and move on. Then I get to do what I love to do most and cross something off with a solid black line and wait for the second hand to signal a fresh start.
We are asking ourselves why do we feel the need to reinvent ourselves each year and where does the influence come from? I would be lying to myself if I were to say that I am uninfluenced by the media I consume, because my perception is influenced by everything I consume: the books I read, the shows I watch, the music I dance to with my children, and the moments I share with others. Each day all of these tiny influences work to reinforce or counteract my current beliefs, and although I work hard to build my own perspectives, the influence is still there, shaping that perspective.
Some may hear the question “why do we feel the need to reinvent ourselves each year?” as a negative, but I think the act of reinvention is what drives us forward. It is our human ability to remember and reflect on the past and to understand how it influences our present and future that creates the possibility of growth. Honestly reflecting on and questioning our own decisions, habits, and actions each year provides the space for acknowledging both areas of strength in our lives as well as areas that we need to strengthen.
As one who is entrenched within technology and media at the beginning of each New Year, I like to take stock of my own habits of media consumption and the way in which I present myself online. While 2021 seemed to be a bit of a slow year in terms of my enthusiasm for sharing my life experiences with others online, I realized that the energy I once spent pushing forth thoughts online was funneled into other behaviors. I read more in 2021 than I have in the last 5 years. I transitioned from being a die hard physical book reader to an avid consumer of eBooks. I explored new genres in literature and worked to diversify my white dominant literary consumption.
Social media spaces which I had clung to in 2020 for connection shifted to the back burner as my work and home life transitioned from a status of digital isolation back to that of in-person human interaction. I refocused on building relationships in real-time and being in the moment with others, shedding all device distractions. Sure there were times where I would scroll on Instagram and feel maybe I should have posted more or maybe taken more photographs to share. 2020 was my most active year online. I posted weekly photo roundups, trying to convince myself everything was okay and we were thriving, but we weren’t, and we didn’t thrive, we survived.
After a year of surviving life consumed by digital spaces, I was spent, disengaged and disinterested in finding my spark online and I spent most of 2021 fighting with myself. Judging myself for my silence online, for my lack of interest in the news, for my inability to motivate myself to create, but today as I write this I resolve to let go of that judgment as I move through 2022. To forgive my lack of voice because I was tired and needed to rest. To forgive my lack of interest because sometimes we need to reflect on what we know and not seek out new information. To forgive my creative stalemate because sometimes it is more important to just be then to be more.
by: Maddie Stewart
I often notice how influenced I am by things in the media. Almost every aspect of my life is influenced by the media, whether it be how I think I should look, or the ways in which I could be living a better life. With the rise of influencers and “that girl” culture, I find myself asking how I can improve myself on almost a daily basis.
As we start the new year, it’s not uncommon for people to think of resolutions, many of which involve ways in which we can improve ourselves and our lives. I think nowadays, the resolutions we make are heavily influenced by the media and how online platforms encourage us to focus on ourselves and our self-image online. Personally, I know that mine are. I would love to say that I don’t let what I see on social media influence my own self-image, but I can’t, and although I’m aware that I let it, the outcome doesn’t seem to change. I see all of these amazing women that get up at 4 in the morning to work out and then have an extremely productive, and not to mention aesthetically pleasing, day. Whereas I have a hard enough time getting out of bed before ten on a weekend. I constantly compare myself to complete strangers.
The rise of social media has let us present the best versions of ourselves to the public, whilst encouraging us to hide all the parts of ourselves and our lives that are imperfect, vulnerable, and insecure. And yet we don’t seem to think that other people are doing the same exact thing. We take what they post as the truth, yet I’m sure that the women waking up at 4am who look perfect are battling their own demons, even if they hide them from public view. I’m not shaming or putting anyone down for doing that because I do the same thing. We as consumers need to recognize the distance between what happens on social media and what happens in the privacy of people’s actual lives, and be mindful about what we choose to believe and aspire towards.
After reflecting on this past year, my new resolution is to be more mindful with my media intake and focus more on actually achieving my personal goals instead of constantly setting unachievable ones based on what I see throughout the media.
The urge to reinvent oneself at the end of every year, to set new resolutions and break bad habits, to do all those things on your life to-do list that you haven’t mustered the discipline to accomplish yet, and the ritualized reflection and focus on the ‘self’ marked by the passing of time took on a new significance for me as we moved from 2021 to 2022.
New Year’s Eve is and has always been my favorite holiday. I’m a nostalgic person, someone who loves to look back in my mind through all my favorite memories and moments, feeling gratitude for the people and circumstances that made the year what it was. I’m also someone who is energized by beginnings and endings. Even the ending and beginning of each day, both with their own routines and regimens, guided by the reliability that the moon will chase the sun into the horizon and eventually back into the sky, fills me with a sense of reassurance and possibility. And of course, I love a good party. Every year, on the day of the Winter Solstice (Dec 21st), I carve out some time to take a long walk to a cafe to sit down and write my New Year’s resolutions, which often sound something like “always be honest, no matter how inconvenient”, “be more present at home”, or “reconnect with old friends” – vague enough that even small incremental progress counts for something.
As I reflect back on what motivates this period of self-reflection and attempted reinvention, it strikes me that in a world where so much is out of our control, where life can be fundamentally altered by the emergence of a pathogen, a natural disaster, a family loss, or a political conflict, focusing on the self can be a refuge; something solid to grasp onto day in and day out when everything else feels unstable. I can’t control or diminish escalating tensions in Europe, but I can put boundaries around my consumption of the news. I can’t lessen lockdown restrictions, but I can be sure to always use hand sanitizer and wear a mask. I can’t solve climate change and reverse biodiversity loss, but I can recycle and go vegan. I can’t change big tech’s algorithms to make social media less addictive, but I can delete my accounts. Whilst I certainly seek refuge in these small sources of control myself, I wonder if this focus on individual habits and self-reinvention is perhaps missing a large part of what makes us who we are, and, significantly, how we actually change ourselves and the world around us: our relationships to, and with, others.
2021 was a very difficult year for my family and I, one that changed our lives permanently. Amidst the neverending bustle and business of day to day life, it can be very easy to take for granted the people we love and the experiences we get to share; whether everyday, every weekend, or every Holiday season; whether in times of joy or in times of crisis. And in our increasingly digital world, it is becoming more and more tempting to zone out into our device of choice and to feel isolated and numbed by the messages and media we consume – which can often result in the coping tendency to pull further into ourselves, thereby missing opportunities for connection with others. But if there’s one thing I have learned this year, it’s the importance of “others” to who “I” am.
So, my resolutions for 2022 have taken on a slightly different tone, with more of a focus on the person I am and can be for others, and less of a focus on my individual goals. I am going to make time for the experiences and the people that matter and not allow myself to make excuses for neglecting my relationships with others, especially those special people without whom I know my life wouldn’t be the same. I am going to try to enrich the lives of those around me, both professionally and personally, however subtly. And I am going to resist the temptation to hide from difficult realities in digital spaces, and commit to reprioritizing the unique opportunities for individual and social change that exist in my relationships with others, both online and offline. 2022 will be a year in which I turn my gaze outward, not inward.
actions to take
Reflect on your own New Year’s resolutions.
Share your experience with us! Connect with an AC member for a one on one chat.
Reflect on where your perception of self and others come from.
questions to consider
What outside influences help to shape the goals and expectations we decide we should set for ourselves each year?
How might the media be shaping our self-conceptions and pushing us towards this need to focus on the ‘self’ instead of others?
What happens to a society that only focuses on the ‘self’ and not the ‘other’?