by Nicole Nelson
The end of the year usually includes some alcohol, some pop music at a New Year’s Eve party, and some nondescript self-reflections which usually turn into the repudiated New Year’s resolutions. Almost all of us can agree that these resolutions are overrated and overstated. You’re probably not going to inexplicably start going to bed early every night, drop those extra 15 pounds (you’re better off with them), fully abstain from alcohol, or save half of your salary in 2017. Very often we make these plans for self-improvement out of obligation because it’s a “new year and new you” and not necessarily because we have planned or are ready to actually make changes. It takes preparation and motivation to make lasting modifications to our lives, especially when it comes to healthier lifestyle choices.
Resolutions to work out more or eat fewer carbs come from a “fix it” mentality instead of a self-love mentality. (For the record, nothing is wrong with eating bread.) Feeling the need to fix yourself is a harsh place to start off your year; instead come from a place of compassion in order to grow as a person. If you’re anything like the majority of us out here, you’ve been resolving to work on the same monotonous resolutions for years now with little result. Why not put these commonly neglected resolutions aside this year? You’ll get back to the gym when you are feeling ready and you’ll probably eat more veggies in the summer. Instead, make this year’s resolutions more about bettering yourself mentally and emotionally in order to better your social, queer, racial, and cultural communities.
Navigating this world as a member of the LGBTQ community can be glorious but it can also be dangerous, especially in the sociopolitical climate we are living in. We have been hearing messages of solidarity and calls to band together as this new administration begins its first 100 days in office. However, it is difficult to act on social change if we ourselves are feeling lost, misinformed, or overwhelmed.
Here are three resolutions to consider when looking to take better care of ourselves, get involved, or preserve safety (and sanity) as 2017 gets underway.
Self-care is the ability to take care of oneself physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. Very often self-care is abandoned in our daily lives when stress starts to rise. Make it your resolution to make self-care a priority, though this isn’t an easy task. Self-care is not just a pleasure-based act of getting a monthly massage, binging Netflix shows, or eating ice cream every night after dinner.
Self-care also means setting boundaries for yourself, asking for help even when it’s hard, and saying no to plans or responsibilities to prevent over-commitment of your time and energy. Start small. Go for a walk at lunch, go out once a week with your partner, or if you feel that your social life has become too overwhelming, opt to make plans only on Fridays to give yourself more time on the weekend.
Commonly, self-care is perceived as a selfish task. It is not. Think about the oxygen mask analogy. You are told on an airplane that in an emergency you are to put your mask on first before assisting others. They tell you to do this because if you pass out you won’t be able to help anyone; it’s the same idea with your self-care. Your mind, body and soul need to be nourished and functioning well in order for you to show up for and support others, whether that means professionally, socially or romantically. As Audre Lorde said, “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Be A Better Ally.
Being an ally means recognizing the injustices in and around our communities and standing with groups of marginalized folks, queer or not. White folks working to end racism, cisgender folks working to undo transphobia, able-bodied folks working to dismantle ableism…you get the idea. To be a good ally means you listen to the needs of those you are there to support; you make space for their voices to be heard. Do not drown out the voices of those you are advocating for with your own needs. Working on your ally skills also means learning how to admit when you screw up and apologize sincerely when you make mistakes (and you will). Learning to be a bit more humble and acknowledging when you have hurt those around you is a great skill to practice this year.
Being an ally goes far beyond the LGBTQ community; allyship is just as important for combating racism as it is when promoting transgender rights, reproductive rights, or rights of folks with disabilities. Becoming a stronger ally for your own and other communities is a lifelong process and not something you will be able to cross off a list by 2018. But that’s okay. Again, start small. Listening to and advocating for our racial or queer communities could mean calling elected representatives to provide constituent opinions about legislation; calling out homophobic or racist jokes online and when among friends, or practicing saying “I’m sorry” to hold yourself a bit more accountable. It is a vulnerable spot to be in when we have offended the people we are trying to help, but is a part of being a good ally. Keep practicing those skills; being conscious takes time and effort.
Staying informed and seeking out opportunities to learn during this new year is a powerful resolution. Deepening our minds and understanding of the world around us is one of the best things we can do for ourselves and our communities (helps with being a better ally too). Continuing education and seeking knowledge can take many forms, which perhaps makes this resolution an easier one to tackle.
Diversify where you get your information and ask questions. Read a book by an author you’ve never read. Look through Wikipedia pages about influential people or pioneers, or read international news articles. Seek out authors, lecturers and scholars who you don’t share identities with. If you’re white, able-bodied, and cisgender read the experiences of trans folks, people of color, or those with disabilities. You could also watch documentaries or TED talks, or follow bloggers or Twitter accounts that maybe you usually wouldn’t (all from the comfort of your smart phone!). Doing one of these things each day can help us gain perspective and empathy for the world around us. Opting to remain the same, to get our information from the same sources, from the same people, can lead to close-mindedness, complacency, and stagnation. Stay curious, my friends.
These resolutions of self-care, allyship, and continuing to learn all work together. You need to take care of yourself in order to help others and you need to be informed of the world around you in order to make knowledgeable decisions for yourself, your families, and your communities.
Just like “typical” resolutions, these are not immune to neglect, either. As you may have experienced in the past, it is easy to give up and remain stagnant when we are pushing ourselves to make changes. Let yourself off the hook a little bit. There’s no deadline to self-care or learning; these are lifelong pursuits. You may be surprised–incremental changes can add up to a lot of personal growth and social change by next year. (Boy, do we need it.) However you decide to move forward and better yourself this year, do so with patience, commitment and perseverance. Here’s to a happy 2017!