Resolving to help others instead of fixing myself

I am taking herself out of the resolution question in 2021 and focusing on larger ills.

Monika Warzecha January 2, 2021
a hand passing a paper heart to another hand

After a year of disconnection, helping others feels like a decent use of good intentions. GETTY

I always feel a bit uneasy about this time of year. It’s when we’re meant to focus on our personal health and self-improvement. There’s the ask: what’s your resolution? But the unsaid, shadow part of that question is often: How are you fixing yourself this year? How do you intend to become prettier and thinner, more productive and less gross?

I, for one, am tired of myself. I am tired of spending so much time in my own company amid a pandemic that has blown us apart and into separate bubbles. I am tired of staring at my face in Zoom calls. Even if COVID-19 never happened, I’d probably still be a little tired of myself after years of anxiously wondering about how I should make myself better.

And so after a scary year, a sad year, a cruel year of disconnection, I don’t really feel like focusing on me — maximizing my workout routine or hacking my schedule or optimizing a damn thing. In a year where people’s lives and livelihoods crumbled, I’d much rather focus on, well, what’s out there.

I’m mostly healthy, if a little down-in-the-mouth. I lost my job but was then supremely lucky to get another one within a couple of months. Instead of the endless treadmill of self-improvement, maybe it’s better to take myself out of the resolution question in 2021 and focus on larger ills. This year, I plan to just give cash regularly to a charity, a non-profit or an organization that’s trying to address the yawning disparities in the health and well-being of those who are rich and those who are not, a gap that’s worsened at an alarming rate amid the pandemic.

Resolving to quit smoking is a noble goal. So is trying to improve your metabolic health. Getting a decent amount of sleep is great. Taking baths often, calling your mom more, learning to bake bread, remembering to floss — all good. Drag one of those jade rollers up and down your face before bed if it feels nice. But so much talk about “wellness” and “self-care” deserves a raised eyebrow and aggressive air quotes. These terms have been adopted by quacks, Instagram influencers and a billion-dollar diet industry that’s far more interested in selling stuff than anyone’s long-term health.

I know myself well enough to predict that if I buy a kettlebell on January 1st, it will be collecting dust by February 1st. Donating to a food bank is not going to solve hunger. I realize charity has its limitations when it comes to baked-in, systematic problems. But set, monthly donations feel like a decent use of my good intentions and money at a time when so much seems to be falling apart for so many.

On a selfish note, it will probably make me feel a bit better too. At a time of physical distancing, when a lot of my waking life is spent staring at a screen and trying to reach out to far-off, little faces in tiny squares, it might do me good to feel more connected to something outside myself and home.

Monika Warzecha is an editor at Healthing.ca.

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