by Marianne Schnall
By now, for many of us most of our New Year’s Resolutions have come and gone. We start the new year with all sorts of good intentions, and then realize how hard they are sometimes to actually keep! Maybe it’s because oftentimes our new year’s resolutions, as well intentioned as they are, frequently have an ingredient of superficiality and self-loathing lurking at its root. Last year around this time, when I was promoting my book Daring to Be Ourselves, I remember talking to a sales manager at a major bookstore chain, and she was telling me how the only type of books that they display during their “New Year, New You” campaign are exclusively around diet and exercise. So in other words, about altering how our physical bodies look. Not to say that this isn’t a worthwhile goal, it’s good to exercise and it’s healthier to lose the excess weight. But usually the end goal in weight loss and fitness campaigns are toned abs and a supermodel physique, both unrealistic and pretty meaningless pursuits. Toned abs generally don’t bring inner happiness and fulfillment! So I propose a different kind of resolution and revolution this year, this time, an internal one. One in which rather than obsessing on all we think needs “fixing”, we make it our goal instead to celebrate those things we like about ourselves, and love and accept ourselves for who we are. This means consciously steering clear of the media’s negative messages about what a woman’s body is supposed to look like or that urge us to be someone other than who we are. Genuine beauty comes from a feeling of happiness and sitting comfortably and confidently in our own skin, a glow you can only get from residing within your authentic self. Let’s resolve not to waste our time and energy beating ourselves up about all the things we think are wrong with us and our bodies, but instead to celebrate our uniqueness, the individual qualities that make us who we really are and what we personally have to bring to the world.
And that is why I love this video clip from actress and comedian Margaret Cho who has always found multiple forums to encourage women to love and accept their bodies, and to not let others define our beauty or our worth. When I had the great pleasure of interviewing her a few years ago, she put it this way: “I always thought that people told you that you’re beautiful—that this was a title that was bestowed upon you, that it was other people’s responsibility to give you this title. And I’m sick of waiting, people! I think that the world is pretty cruel to women in what it considers beautiful and what it celebrates as beauty. And I think that it’s time to take this power into our own hands and to say, “You know what? I’m beautiful. I just am. I’m just a beautiful woman.”
I wish everyone a happy and joyous 2012, one in which we use the new year as a milestone to jump start our goals related to respecting, taking care of, and loving ourselves and our bodies for what they are. We can still set all sorts of meaningful goals for ourselves, as long as we are sure that these are our goals, not ones imposed on us by others, the media or society, and will ultimately help us to achieve health, happiness, and inner fulfillment and empower us to contribute our unique special gifts into the world. Not only will we be happier individually, but the world will be a better place too.
Marianne Schnall is a journalist whose writings and interviews have appeared in a variety of outlets including CNN.com, The Huffington Post, The Women’s Media Center and O, The Oprah Magazine. She is also the co-founder and executive director of Feminist.com, as well as the co-founder of the environmental site EcoMall.com. Her new book is titled “Daring to Be Ourselves: Influential Women Share Insights on Courage, Happiness and Finding Your Own Voice”.