Like millions (maybe billions) of other people all around the world, every December I sit down and think about the things that I want to accomplish in the following year. Usually, the things that I come up with are wildly overambitious, and when I inevitably fail at completing them I feel a sense of shame and frustration with myself that is hard to describe. Since I’ve been in grad school, the nearly universal sense of imposter syndrome and feeling of “always being behind” that resonates throughout academia has become incredibly clear to me. There is an impossible amount of work to do, and the strict deadlines that are part of getting a graduate degree or being a teaching assistant create a sense of pressure that can lead to detrimental effects on mental health.
Because school currently occupies such a large part of my time and nearly everything else in my life revolves around it, I’ve noticed that the types of feelings that academic imposter syndrome generates in regards to my output of academic work have begun to seep into every other area of my life. By internalizing the idea that productivity – no matter what kind – equals value or meaning, I have created a nearly constant negative dialogue with myself that I’m finding incredibly difficult to break free from. No matter how much work I get done in a day or a week, it’s not enough. There is no number of books read that is enough. I’m behind in journalling? I’m a failure!
In looking ahead to 2020, I am aiming to set goals that will help me to put this negative relationship with myself aside and be more mindful about the way that I view my efforts and accomplishments. This means a few things. The goals that I’m setting are not based on productivity or things to get done. They are more abstract or arbitrary than that: they are aimed at self-growth and mindfulness, and creating a dialogue with myself that is kinder and more fair.
One of my biggest vices is, to use a phrase of my mother’s, “biting off more than I can chew.” I tend to vastly overestimate how much I can get done in an hour, day, week, or month, and then feel frustrated with myself when I inevitably fall behind. Because of this, I am limiting myself to eight main goals for 2020. I know – this may still seem like a lot, but think of it this way: my 2019 resolution list had 29 items on it. See what I mean about overestimating my capabilities?
So, without further ado, here are ten resolutions for 2020 that I’m going to try my hardest to stick to.
1. Instead of being frustrated with all the work that you don’t get done, be proud of the work that you do get done.
This is probably the biggest – and most difficult – goal on this list. Because of my habit of stretching myself too thin, much of the stress that I feel results from not getting stuff done. Although this might be a bit optimistic, reframing the way that I think about my work/reading/productivity output might help to reduce both stress and anxiety and make me be a bit kinder to myself. Achieving this goal is going to require actively checking the way that I respond to my actions, an introspective act that I will probably find very difficult to do. BUT – and there’s a bit but here – I normally find most rewarding those actions that were most difficult to do.
2. Be sure to schedule in some downtime.
I’m quickly realizing that many of these resolutions or goals (whatever you want to call them) are efforts to combat what I think are my worst habits. I don’t typically have a super healthy work-life balance; I’m either doing nothing or working 24/7 with minimal sleep until any given task gets done. “Scheduling in some down time” is just a fancy way of saying that I’m hoping to reach a healthy (or at least healthier) work-life balance. Let’s see how that goes!
3. Integrate more eco-conscious habits in an effort to live a greener life.
If 2019 was anything to me, it was a year of realizations about climate change and the responsibility that I have as a citizen of this beautiful planet to do everything that I can to protect it. I introduced quite a few eco-conscious habits into my life this year – the details of which are going to be in a forthcoming blog post – and in 2020 I’m hoping to go further on my journey to living as eco-consciously as possible.
4. Be mindful about the way that you spend money.
Due to various circumstances that I won’t bother detailing here, my money has been stretched a bit too much for comfort over the last few months. While this has caused a lot of financial stress and anxiety, it has also taught me some invaluable budgeting skills that I never really practiced before. I really had to think about each purchase that I made, and although I definitely don’t wish for a repeat of the situation that forced me to develop these skills, I’m going to try my hardest to carry financial mindfulness ahead into the new year – especially considering that I have two big trips to pay for.
5. Make a concerted effort to be more present in every single thing that you do.
I’m as guilty as the next Millenial or Gen Z-er of living a good portion of my life through the lens of my phone. I recently started knitting again as a way of avoiding incessant phone scrolling while watching TV, film, and YouTube. Next year, I want to try setting my phone aside more. When I’m out with friends, I’m going to try to keep my phone off the table. When I’m out in public, I will try to resist the urge to automatically post what I see on my Instagram story. Hopefully, making this effort will shift my priorities from obsessively recording everything that I do to actually experiencing things.
The sole exception to this resolution will be my camera. When I’m travelling, my camera is like an extension of my arm. It is an essential part of my memory-making process whenever I get the opportunity to explore a new place. Taking pictures makes me think creatively about where I am in an effort to uniquely capture the beauty of the place – and it’s something that I don’t feel affects my presence in life experiences.
6. Continue cultivating healthy habits because you want to, not because you feel like you have to.
2019 introduced me to Body Positivity, a movement that I am incredibly grateful for. At the beginning of the year, I found something to criticize in every single photo of myself. Mid-year, I realized how toxic this was, and cleansed my social media accounts and only followed people whose posts spark feelings of joy (yes, I totally just went all Marie Kondo on you). Once I did that, I made the decision to change my diet to make me feel better, and I started walking everywhere. For the first time ever, a lifestyle change came about because I wanted to feel better, not because I wanted to lose weight or change the way I looked. In 2020, I’m hoping to continue the healthy habits that I developed in 2019, and maybe even develop a few more.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
This is another of my resolutions that is aimed at combatting what I view as one of my vices. I’ve always been fairly self-reliant and independent, and, while this is good in many cases, it can be detrimental in others. In the past, I’ve run into situations where my refusal to ask for help has led to consequences that could have been avoided if I had overcome my stubbornness. This results mostly from a fear that I have of burdening those who care about me. In 2020, I’m hoping to convince myself that asking for help is okay.
8. Journal more.
Okay, I lied about these resolutions not being about stuff to get done. But this “task” is one that I find truly helps me with self-reflection and growth. I started journalling seriously when I went to Scotland on exchange in 2016, and I found that it truly helped me to appreciate the things that I was lucky enough to be experiencing. Since then, however, it has fallen by the wayside. Because I’m in such a transitory period of my life, I think that my future self will really appreciate being able to see how I was feeling at this time – and it might help me to navigate my life as I’m experiencing it.
So there you have it!
Those are my 2020 resolutions/goals/affirmations – I have no idea what to really call them. I want 2020 to be a year where I really focus on myself. I spend so much time worrying about others, which tends to mean that self-care is not very high on my list of priorities. Some people might think that focusing on myself is selfish. I don’t really care; I’ve spent so much of my life focused on others that I think I’ve won the right to focus on myself for a little bit.
What are your 2020 goals? Let me know in the comments. I wish you all the best in the New Year, and see you on here in January!
Until next time,