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New Year's resolutions take time
January 12, 2009 - Bethany Fehlinger and Marjorie Stromberg
Recently I wrote a story for The Sentinel on New Year's resolutions and ways to keep them. I focused on common resolutions people make: those dealing with diet, exercise, and quitting bad habits. Through speaking with professionals about the issue, I came across one common piece of advice: make small, realistic goals, and work at them one day at a time. It makes sense, right? If goals are too big, people are more likely to fail. And if you experience a setback and then quit, your resolution won't get accomplished. The key is to accept setbacks and realize that a resolution, or goal, is something that always requires work. I think this is where many people go wrong. They expect themselves to work at something and then accomplish it right away. And then they get discouraged when they can't. And then they quit, and that resolution becomes one for next year. But the truth is, when it comes to changing your habits or lifestyle, nothing comes easily. It isn't an overnight fight; it can take months or years. But sometimes the things you work at the hardest pay off the most in the long run.
So where do MY personal experiences come into play when talking about resolutions? Well, besides getting to the gym and eating healthier, one of my biggest New Year's resolutions was to reduce spending on clothes, shoes and accessories. I decided more of my money could be put into savings for more important things. Like a car, in 50 years. While some may think I don't spend enough on clothes, others may think I shouldn't spend any on clothes. But this is a personal problem of mine and it requires a personal resolution.
I realize the importance of saving money, which is why I made the resolution in the first place. Although I love and need clothes, I don't need them as much as other things. I do clean out my closet from time to time, donating clothes or bringing them to consignment shops, so it's not like I save EVERYTHING. The problem is that my taste is always changing, and I always need something to wear to work, where I spend five days out of my week. Work clothes are skirts, nice tops and dresses, so my many legging-inspired outfits and jeans just don't cut it. I always need more. More, more, more.
Another reason for my resolution, besides saving money, is to try to teach me to control myself and set up boundaries. One of the things I lack is self control, especially when it comes to clothes. (And chocolate, but that's not the point.)
The resolution was to teach me to save for more important things, and to set limitations for myself. I've already established I have an obsession for shopping and fashion. Even if I'm not purchasing, I'm always looking. I don't want to try to figure out WHY exactly I always want more clothes; it's who I am and it's a passion of mine. Controlling it, though, is what I need to work on.
Now, my bills are always paid on time, I always have enough food, and I have plenty of money to spare. (Some of that money goes into savings.) I'm not shopping myself out of house and home. I know rent and electric bills come first, always. I'm not insane. Limitations do exist. I won't spend more than a certain amount on any item of clothing, shoe, or accessory, even if I LOVE it. So there are some limitations; I try to find the best deals and prices, and for me, quantity counts more than quality. Some may call it cheap, but I call it bargain shopping, and with my ever-changing taste in clothes, I think it's a waste to spend big bucks on something I might not like next year.
So what's the problem? I don't splurge on designer brands and I always have plenty of money. The problem is I always feel the need to shop. Of course, I don't always buy everything I want, which is another limitation, but I do buy...a few times a month. To me, that might be too much.
So what's the solution? If I limit myself too much, will I indulge bigger than I would have if I let myself have a little at a time? I was on a very strict diet about two years ago. I was thin, but not happy. I wasn't eating ANY sweets for about six months, which is a long time for someone who can't go five days without tearing into a Hershey's bar. My no-sweets rule backfired when finally I gave in and indulged way too much. One night I had a bite of a cookie, or something of that nature, and then went wild. I ended up basically undoing my entire diet in one night. Now, a normal person can be happy eating sweets in moderation. They stay in shape because they don't over do it. I am, however, a different story. The reason I didn't have ANY sweets is because I knew I had no self control. If I had one I would have 10. I knew myself well enough to know that staying away completely was the best way. But eventually it did backfire because I have no self control. So I guess my question is this: Can someone who doesn't have, and never has had, self control, work on gaining it? Or is it a lost cause, and should she just accept who she is?
I never considered my self-control issue something that ruins my life, but the issue is something I'm always working on. Will it ever be resolved? Does anyone ever fix something about themselves that they think needs fixing? Should I just accept that my self control issue is part of who I am?
The solution to my problem is to recognize that reducing spending on clothes is a resolution of mine, but I can't expect it to be be accomplished right away. I have to anticipate setbacks and accept them, but keep moving forward. Part of what makes resolutions so great is that there's no time limit. You can take as long as you like to work on something. Even if it takes years, you can be proud of yourself for not only recognizing something about yourself that you'd like to change, but actually working on it. We all have flaws, but some of those flaws make us who we are and give us personality. And there's no rush to correct that.
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