Happy New Year: Why January should be about self-loving, not self-loathing
The week after Christmas I got sucked into that giant worm hole of time known as The Comments Section, after reading an article posted by a well known online magazine that I follow. I usually like the stuff they post; their About section states that they make ‘interesting, inspiring, original content for busy women’. I’m a busy woman and I like to read interesting and inspiring things, but this one article about women being domestic mules at Christmas time was neither interesting nor inspiring, and it didn’t resonate with me at all. I told them this, wittily stating that I was nobody’s house elf, and I felt pretty pleased with myself when 150 other women liked my comment, showing that they also agreed with me. So you can imagine the dramatic eye-rolling that went on when, travelling back from a cosy New Year break in the Peak District yesterday, I found myself reading yet another uninspiring and uninteresting article by the same publication. The feature (which I believe is actually rehashed from last year, making it completely unoriginal too) was about how January is the absolute worst month of the year to be a woman. Yawn. In case you were wondering, it’s because we’ve totally pigged out over Christmas and are now filled with mortifying guilt and self-loathing, perpetuated by the body-bashing headlines of the Daily Mail and pictures of skinny people on instagram. I’m not denying this stuff exists. Of course it exists. The tabloid press, gossip magazines and social media is a toxic concoction of images and ideas, cruelly woven together to make women hate themselves. That’s why I try to avoid it at all costs. I don’t want to give these publications my time, my money or my emotional energy. So what I definitely don’t need, is a supposedly feminist journal reaching into my safe-zone to tell me about its toxic content, in a bid to rally us all up to weather the self-loathing patriarchal storm known as ‘January’ together. I think the article was supposed to be satirical, but it wasn’t entirely clear, and in the concluding paragraph, the author did not sound like she was laughing. She sounded beaten. I don’t want to begin 2018 feeling terrible about myself, or ashamed for having had a really nice time with my friends and family over the last ten days. Call me demanding, but I expect something a bit more inspirational from this modern era of female prime ministers, Wonder Woman and Moana. I was about to add this bolshy tidbit to the article’s comments section yesterday, but then I remembered how annoying it got last week when I became inundated with notifications every time someone else chipped in with their own POV, so I gave the article an angry face emoji and thought to myself, ‘Maybe I’ll write my own inspiring article about how to celebrate January.’ And that is what I did. Instead of feeling guilty about everything I ate over Christmas (my body weight in roast potatoes and Kettle Chips if you must know), I’ve made an inventory of ten great things that I did in 2017 in a bid to counteract the online negativity apparently aimed at me and other womenfolk this month, and I urge you to do the same. We’re generally not very good at celebrating our proud moments, so I feel like a bit of a pioneer doing this. If you manage to get through the list and you’re not totally sick of me by the end, I’d love to hear about your proud moments too. 10 things that happened in 2017 that I definitely don’t regret: 1) In February, I learnt how to build a website (something I thought I’d never do), and it turned out to be quite successful. It enabled me to achieve another awesome thing which is….
2) I started a blog. And strangers read it! I have to admit I’m really very proud of this one. It’s been so much fun to put together and I’ve met some brilliant people in the making. I don’t even care if it never gets bigger than its current band of loyal followers. It’s out there, in the ethereal realm of cyber space, and I put it there.
3) Somewhere between the months of January and May, I went from being vegetarian to vegan, back to vegetarian (when I really thought I couldn’t live without cheese), and then back to being vegan again, where I’ve firmly stayed put ever since. As hard as it’s been sometimes, I honestly believe it was the right choice to make: better for the environment, better for animals, better for me, and the lovely people at Kinda Co. are currently meeting all my delicious cheese-based needs. In 2017 alone, eight of my other friends joined the movement along the way. I feel like I’m riding a powerful wave of change. It’s exciting.
4) In May, I also had the honour of being a bridesmaid for my oldest university friend, which involved not only helping her get ready, and showering her with lovely gifts, but also facilitating her getting into a roll top bath in her wedding dress. The whole day was beautiful, but that might be my highlight.
5) In July, my husband and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary together, with a rooftop cinema screening of Lion and a falafel wrap. It was almost as perfect as the wedding itself. Here’s hoping for many more together (anniversaries and falafel wraps).
6) In August, I went to France for my cousin’s wedding. It was a beautiful day shared with beautiful people, and took place against a breathtaking backdrop of rolling hills. I came back feeling wonderfully exhilarated from having travelled alone and exploring this new and majestic place. I had also conversed successfully in a French patisserie and I felt invincible.
7) Also in August, I went to New York and Toronto to visit my best school friend. I soaked up every minute of seeing her brilliant face and meeting her wonderful friends. She made a bold move to go and live out there more than seven years ago, and I miss her every single day, but seeing how happy she is makes me love and admire her in equal measure, and I don’t begrudge her one little bit.
8) In September, with the help of an incredible stranger, I started to properly grieve the loss of my mum. It’s a long journey to make and I wouldn’t say I’m there yet, but I’ve learnt that there’s definitely some truth in the expression, ‘It’s okay to not be okay.’
9) In October, I was was shortlisted for a writing competition and had my story published in a book. Okay, it was a free book given out to people at the awards ceremony, but it was such a huge achievement for me. I wished I could have travelled back in time to tell my twelve year old self not to cry over Roger Hargreaves’ daughter rejecting my idea for a Mr Men story. ‘Chin up, buttercup,’ I’d have said. ‘Your time will come.’
10) To help turn this list into a nice round 10, I’m throwing in the fact that I successfully nurtured and educated another class full of children last year. During which time, I consoled many a broken heart, fished a bracelet out of a toilet and choreographed a robot-themed dance routine to Seven Nation Army. All in a day’s work. I promise that this article is not just an excuse to blow my own trumpet, and to prove it, I have also prepared a non-exhaustive list of amazing things my friends have done throughout 2017 as well: One of my friends bought a house and is renovating it pretty much single-handedly (in between her 14 hour working days). The friend who got married this year totally smashed the idea of a traditional first dance right out of the park. She grabbed hold of the mic and belted out Everlong, while her newly-appointed husband played guitar. I loved her a little bit more in that moment.
Another friend built a website and got her interior design business up and running. Another friend ran the London Marathon. Another one did a triathlon (just for fun) and placed in the top 6 women. Another friend started a charity breakfast club, raising money for refused asylum seekers. My sister organised a mass clothes swap, raising over £1000, and collecting several bags of underwear and sanitary protection for women’s charities. A woman I met through my blog continued her aid work for people living around the world on rubbish dumps, raising £52,000 through a celebrity shoe auction and then went out to Cambodia to help deliver the aid. My good friend from university travelled to Greece on her two weeks off, to offer emergency aid and medical assistance to refugees living in temporary camps. Another friend lost her dad and gave birth to her son within a couple of months of each other, and somehow got through the other side. In fact, ten of my friends gave birth last year (ten!), all carrying their babies tirelessly for 9 months and bringing new life into the world. So you see, January is not a terrible time to be a woman at all, or a man for that matter. It’s not a time to regret eating too many mince pies or missing a few gym classes in December. It’s a time to look back on the year that’s passed and think, “Right. I aced that last year, what’s next?” January is amazing, because it’s the start of something new, a whole new year in which to do amazing things. 2019 is a whole 365 days away, imagine what you can achieve in that time. January is just the beginning.