Friday, January 9, 2004

Why bother resolving on futile change?

Maggie Downs

While some people were making New Year's resolutions last week, the tradition is dying among young professionals. In fact, it may already be dead.

Face it, it's futile.

Resolutions are either not kept, or they are forgotten ... well, right about now.

"I don't need one more failure in an already disappointing life," said Ariel ("Just Ariel"), 22, of Over-the-Rhine.

Lose weight? Exercise more? Save money? Quit smoking?

Those are the very same resolutions made last year.

So why begin the cycle again?

"Why should I just keep making plans I won't keep?" said Brad Blackburn, 27, of Avondale.

"I don't know anyone who even tries to make resolutions anymore. It's just a waste of my time and energy."

There is a more positive school of thought - people who say their lives are already in pretty good shape.

"Some people try to quit smoking or say they're going to exercise more," said Mike Irwin, 26, of West Chester. "I already go to the gym five times a week, and I don't smoke.

"I really don't have anything else I need to work on."

Even those who aren't so perfect accept that. They may have problems, but they're OK with them.

Perhaps this self-acceptance stems from a society saturated by women's magazines. In this culture, any sort of vice is rationalized. Any dysfunction is tolerable.

In this month's Cosmopolitan, a distraught reader who can't lose weight asks for expert advice.

The therapist writes, "Your weight isn't your 'main problem.' It's your low self-esteem. Your weight is merely a symptom of that low self-esteem - if you felt better about yourself, you would treat your body better by eating healthfully and exercising."

In a piece called, "Not makeovers, makebetters," this month's Glamour preaches, "You're pretty darn fabulous already."

The nutrition and health section in the current issue of Jane encourages readers to "embrace their lazy life."

Whatever happened to publications that told me how inadequate I am?

Even Seventeen magazine gets in on the action. In the "My Life" column, the writer says her inability to dance and her hand-me-down clothes are a burden - the "curse of the middle child," she calls it.


Take a dance class and hit a sale at Lazarus.

We live in a society where few people are held accountable for their actions. An overweight man can sue the fast-food chains that helped him pack on the pounds. Tobacco companies are responsible for the health consequences of smoking. And the unemployed suffered from poor self-esteem as children, according to the National Association for Self-Esteem.

In such a world, are people going to make legitimate efforts to improve their lives?

No, says Melissa Frank, 26, of Fort Wright.

"Take me, for example. I'm only a social drinker, and I smoke, but it's recreationally," she said. "I'm pretty happy with myself. I'm better than a lot of other people, at least."

Me, I resolve to cut back on the magazines this year.

If I fail that, maybe my self-esteem is to blame.


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Downs: Why bother resolving on futile change?
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