Do you promote making a New Year’s Resolution or accepting yourself as you are?
Signed, Status Quo
Dear Status Quo,
Cultivating a sense of self-love and esteem is paramount for gay men considering our largely oppressive, homophobic, and heterosexist environment that can breed shame, low esteem, and stress. While I therefore encourage gay men to accept themselves as they are above all else, unhealthy coping strategies like self-sabotaging or self-destructive behavior are not in alignment with self-love, self-care, and personal growth. So I support personal change that promotes health and self-esteem -- any time of year.
New Year’s is probably the most popular time we celebrate change. Each year about 1/3 of Americans will make a New Year’s resolution. But try whatever we might, most of us go back to or old ways by Valentine’s Day. It’s really hard to change our behavior. "Bad" habits like overeating, overshopping, oversexing, smoking, drinking excessively, drugs, underexercising, and the like are comforting. We pleasure ourselves with the "bad" stuff. We’re seeking to unwind and feel good. Via our problem behaviors, we’re actually trying to self-soothe ourselves, self-medicating inner pain. It’s an act of attempted self-love.
No one I know really wants to decrease the pleasures in their life. The problem is that poor choices can end up hurting us. Many of us will die from health related illnesses due to "bad" habits to control stress. So why isn’t that enough to stop us? Since we do "bad" things to ourselves to relieve uncomfortable feelings, we’re looking for an immediate fix. Under such emotional duress, living longer can seem so far away that it doesn’t take priority in the here and now. If whatever we’re doing to cope is physically addictive, then we can feel compelled to do it even more.
Almost anything can be used in a self-destructive way if we’re out of balance with it. Work, exercise, tanning, TV, internet, caffeinated drinks, supplements, and other things we don’t usually associate with being "bad." The point is, that anything can be addictive if we are using it more than is necessary to cope, if it’s out of our control (we can't stop it for long), and if it's causing problems in our life or relationships. How do you know if you’re addicted? Take this simple test. Try stopping and see what happens.
You probably know what you need to change. However, here's my top 10 list for New Year’s resolutions just in case you might need some ideas.
1) Give Up A Bad Habit: smoking, binge drinking, drugging, overeating, sexual compulsivity, etc.
2) Begin A Good Habit: dieting, exercising, meditating, yoga, volunteering, etc.
3) End A Bad Relationship: get out of negative unhealthy relationships that make you feel bad.
4) Renew A Broken Relationship: forgiveness, solutions, moving forward together.
5) Start New Healthy Relationships: meet more friends, date, join a supportive community that interests you.
6) Be Better With Money: budget, spend less frivolously, don’t overspend.
7) Do What You’ve Been Putting Off: talk about IT, finish that project, join that group, take that trip, apply for a new job, etc.
8) Make That Life Change: move, get a pet, commit to him, open your relationship, become a parent, etc.
9) Start To Put Yourself First: it is not selfish, but practicing self-care to include YOU in the equation.
10) Stick To It: Behavioral change is hard, but worth striving for to be the best person you can be. Get support from loved ones, a twelve step program - even professional help.
Quote: "It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power." - Alan Cohen
All The Best, Angelo.