"This year, I will strive for - no, fall into - comfort"Hannah Castle

I know the lure of a new year all too well: the enticing project that is the design of an improved self. My plans are a hurried Pinterest board, my tools, new Notion pages. With these and a scathing self-appraisal, I begin my yearly remodelling.

Three years ago, my New Year’s resolution became saying ‘no’ more often. Already acutely aware of the outdated self-absorption which comes with an external aesthetic redesign, I hid, subconsciously perhaps, beneath the pretence of a year of serious, internal work, and a newly-16-almost-an-adult self-awareness that I had overcommitted myself in the year prior. Yet, purposefully or not, I began to say no to nights out, dessert, anything I viewed as wanton, unnecessary - and, as it turned out, pleasurable. The new Hannah was to be forged from asceticism and self-discipline. She became insular, removed, and hell-bent on becoming a version of herself that was necessarily ephemeral, existing only in my wishful conception of her, manifested in Instagram stories, a new body, and lifestyle, which highlighted what little I gained to obscure all that I had lost.

“And so each new year became a negation of myself - of who I am and what I truly want”

Realising the misery that was a life half (and falsely) lived, I made a radical change the following year, resolving instead to say ‘yes’. Yet, among the hurricane of New Year’s pressures, whose gale-force insistences knock your feet from underneath you, this became a ‘yes’ to a toxic crusade of self-improvement once again - a ‘yes’ to overexertion (both physical and mental), to aspiring, and planning, and analysing and critiquing, and thus back to saying ‘no’ once more. And so each new year became a negation of myself - of who I am and what I truly want, questions which, by December, became ever more difficult to answer.

What feels to me to be the primal urge to reinvent, to rip away the excesses of yourself, like the outer leaves of the 59p iceberg lettuce which will now be your lunch in the new year, seems undeniably female in whom it afflicts. As women, we are encouraged to undertake a yearly audit, in which we examine all that requires fixing, masochistically drawn to whichever yardstick will provide the harshest resultant comparison. Perhaps that blindingly critical lens comes in the form of our friends or younger selves, though more likely from women we have never and will never meet. Through rose-tinted glasses, their lives and bodies are bathed in a glow of ambrosia - which they would never touch, of course, they’re on a juice cleanse for January. Pitted against one another, resolutions amongst women are often competitive in nature, driven by a need to be the most improved, most beautiful - yet, of course, the most humble.

“The monkey’s claw of New Year’s has warped each objectively healthy decision into a destructive standard”

The most recent iteration of these timeless demands on our womanhood is becoming ‘that girl’: the social media trend which encourages us to become whatever we read into 5 seconds of an infuriatingly aesthetic TikTok, usually comprising salads, organised planners and neatly drawn timetables, workout sets modelled on a toned figure, and morning walks to the library in an entirely new (but thrifted, of course) outfit. The distillation of a complete lifestyle overhaul into just a few seconds feels like the culmination of the growth of shorter and shorter form content; from blogs to Instagram to TikToks, it has become ever more easy to curate an online persona, veiling the realities of the life allegedly lived.

Certainly, there is an often unspoken privilege in the ability to change oneself entirely - the new wardrobe for the new you, who is adhering strictly (at least when sober) to Veganuary and, as such, needs to work out at the nearest Planet Organic alongside her gym membership. Yet, even when I have found myself in a position to attempt this, the monkey’s claw of New Year’s warps each objectively healthy decision into a destructive standard, of which I either fall short, or achieve, losing myself in doing so.


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This year, I will strive for - no, fall into - comfort. I will work from bed, wearing reindeer fluffy socks warmed on the radiator long past the Christmas season. I will drink hot chocolate with lavish helpings of whipped cream, and relish in licking the excess from the tube on the way back to the fridge. I will luxuriate in my spiteful rejection of each past resolution: biting my nails back down, basking in the afternoon sun when it wakes me at 12pm, and revelling in each bad decision made. I will tell people that I love them and hope that one day I can say the same to the mirror, to the Hannah I have returned to, who dances and sings and cries and shouts. I will walk, not run, and choose the easier yoga posture, and the path more travelled.

And I will give myself grace if I do none of these things and less.