Lynette Fay: Learning to say 'no' sometimes might be your best new year resolution of all

Saying 'no' presents a lot of us with difficulty. We are flattered to be asked to do things for others – it tells us that we matter. Yet learning to say 'no' is one of the most empowering things we can ever do...

Learning to just 'switch off' during your down-time can be a hard skill to master
Lynette Fay

DAY four in 2021. How are those promises to yourself going? Have you ditched the alcohol, the sugar? Have you started your Couch to 5k training? Perhaps you are embracing Veganuary? Every January, we pile the pressure on ourselves to purge and improve ourselves.

Whatever it is about the new year, we love to make a list of things that we feel we should be doing. I should be reading more, walking a little bit more, doing less of this, more of that – change my bad habits for good. Are bad habits all that bad? Who decides which habits are bad ones?

#JanuaryJumpstart is one of the hashtags trending on social media at the minute. "Be the fittest you have ever been" is the promise. It's the time of year when diet and fitness culture go into overdrive.

I've bought into this messaging so many times. I've done the detoxes, the dry Januarys, bought the juicer, the Nutribullet – and made and drank very strange combinations of drinks – in order to feel healthier. I think that I tell myself that it's about health, but it's really about weight. Losing weight or maintaining a weight or particular size are usually the motivations. Feeling healthier is the bonus.

Change is a good thing, and it's sometimes necessary. That said, often, when it comes to ourselves, change seems to come with the very high cost of self-criticism. Why must we be tough and hard on ourselves, particularly at this time of the year?

We have just been through a traumatic year where events have been unpredictable and every day has brought uncertainty. While the world is serving up hardship and adversity every day, the last thing we need is to be unnecessarily hard on ourselves to boot. Being kind to ourselves and others is the only thing that's going to get us through this.

Unless it's an act of kindness to yourself, January 2021 might not be the best time to embrace the 'new you'.

Piling the pressure on ourselves manifests in many different ways. Someone texted into my radio show last week asking for help. She was looking forward to some time off, as she had worked through lockdown and it has been a tough year. However, she didn't want to let the laziness kick in.

While I understand exactly what she meant, I wondered if this was another example of us being hard on ourselves? What's wrong with being lazy on a week off? I can honestly say that I embrace the laziness and opportunity to completely switch off any time I can. These days, I have to manage my time, things are more structured and, on some days, every minute is accounted for. Thankfully, this isn't always the case.

There was a time that when I had free time, I would constantly be on the phone; scrolling, checking email, messages, every means of communication with me. Now, when the weekend hits, the phone is left in another room and I do my best to disengage. I probably have an 80 per cent success rate.

We do love to be busy though, don't we? To be perceived as being a busy person means that we are important, doesn't it? A very wise person once told me that there are graveyards full of people who thought that they were indispensable. Although I heard what he was saying at the time, it took me years to understand what he meant. I spent many years being the busy person. Sometimes being so busy means that we miss what is under our noses – and that might mean that we are missing what's important in life.

Saying 'no' is something that presents a lot of us with difficulty. We are flattered to be asked to do things for others – it tells us that we matter. Yet learning to say 'no' is one of the most empowering things that any of us can ever do.

While saying goodbye to 2020 has given us relief, we can't be sure of the path ahead and what hand we will be dealt in 2021, be that by events in the world which are beyond our control, or our health.

Self-care and kindness have never been more important.

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