If you've ever had a friend or significant other suggest, "we should go to the gym more after New Year's," or "let's cut back on drinking," or "why don't we stay in more this year," you know the subtle sting that it leaves you with. New Year's resolutions are personal, and when you assume that other people have the same values and opinions about what in your life needs improving, you're expressing unsolicited judgment on their lives, and it's not only uncool, but potentially damaging.
Bustle talked to an expert about the effects of making "we" resolutions with friends or partners, and we were backed up by clinical psychologist Dr. Jephtha Tausig, who was quick to say that it's crucial to speak only for yourself when setting intentions for the new year.
Though it's totally plausible that you and the people around you will end up sharing resolutions, it's important that coming to that realization is an independent journey. Though any journey is better endured with a buddy, making life improvements is a subjective concept, and private. Just because we've been encouraged to make or share our resolutions since grade school doesn't mean that as adults we should be required to as well. It's time to be a little bit more sensitive about the the way we regard each other's lifestyle choices and stop assuming that we're all on the same path, or that there is only one path that is right.
"When we make a New Year’s resolution, we are trying to change something about our behavior or sometimes our perspectives or thoughts. This is extremely personal and reveals more about how we feel about ourselves, and less about how we feel everyone else should comport themselves. So, it’s important to stay respectful of others in terms of their resolutions," Tausig tells Bustle, reminding us that we're not required to make resolutions in the first place. This exercise is elective, and according to Tausig, "we really cannot compel our friends, significant others, and family to make certain resolutions (or make resolutions at all) if they don’t wish to." Instead, we must think of our own course of action, and hold only ourselves accountable. Even if it's coming from a loving place of concern, Tausig says it's "not our place to determine this for or dictate this to others."
While it's not appropriate to ask someone to join in on a resolution with you, it is OK to share your resolution with others, so long as you are clear that it only pertains to you. You can simply state your plans to your close ones and see what kind of response you get. If they don't express that they're on the same page, leave it there. But if they explain that they too have the same goal, you can start a conversation about working to achieve it together. Just keep in mind that just because you might have a shared goal, and just because you might make plans to support each other, doesn't mean it's your job to hold this person accountable.
"It’s important to honor the individual’s perspective in terms of what they feel is appropriate for themselves in the new year," Tausig says, meaning, it's not your place to chide your friend on failing to join you for a sweat session or chastise them for ordering another drink.
The lesson here is that no matter what path you're on, even if it's the same one as your loved ones, resolutions remain personal, and are never the responsibility or within the jurisdiction of someone else. At the end of the year, what matters is how you feel about your life and the choices you've made to get you where you are.
Jephtha Tausig, PhD, Clinical Psychologist