Rethinking the meaning of New Year resolutions for 2021

by Sumayyah Smith (she/her)

Photo above by Polina Kovaleva from Pexels


2020 was a tumultuous year was defined by civil unrest, a stressful election, and a global pandemic. I dealt with plenty of hardships and the unpredictable nature of 2020 left me uncertain about the New Year. Personally, I haven’t been able to set my typical resolutions like waking up earlier or drinking more water. It feels inappropriate to have those goals in not only today’s social climate but even with my own mental turmoil from 2020.  And plenty of people share the same sentiment: feeling so emotionally and mentally drained by the past year that they don’t know what to make of the new one now upon us.

This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to set resolutions for 2021, but maybe it’s time to redefine them. There are plenty of goals we can still set for ourselves while keeping in mind our own needs and the needs of our community. Here are some ideas:

Shift The Focus

Maybe we shouldn’t set superficial resolutions, but rather focus on recharging and healing from such a challenging year. But what exactly does this mean? Well, instead of putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves to “start off strong,” we can allow ourselves to breathe. More importantly, we can appreciate the amount of strength it took for us to get here.

As a Black woman the past few months in 2020 have felt draining. The struggles and tragedies within my community have become a spectacle to this country, and during our fight for equality, many of us BIPOC have severely neglected our mental health. Although the fight is far from over, I do think the end of the year was an opportunity for us to rest. It was a time for us to reach out to those around us and connect, reflect, and repair as a community. And that time doesn’t have to end. There’s no magic time in which you have to place your rest and self-care aside; it can continue as a priority for ourselves into this New Year.

This can include reaching out to BIPOCs in your circle, getting involved with community action that aids marginalized groups, and donating to charities. Personally, I’ve been more present in the lives of my BIPOCs and LGBTQ friends and discussing the impact this last year has had on them.

Now that the pandemic is worsening, we all feel incredibly limited in terms of goal setting. For example, my resolution for 2020 was to travel internationally for the first time, but once COVID-19 shutdown the world, I watched this dream dissipate. Try to focus on smaller goals that are in your control, like emotionally investing in yourself and your friends, family, and loved ones.

My Resolutions

At the beginning of December, I told myself I wouldn’t set any New Year’s resolutions. Most of my goals and plans for 2020 fell through, so I didn’t bother creating new ones. But once I realized that resolutions could be deeper than wanting to a take a trip somewhere or getting in shape, I reconsidered it.

One of my biggest goals is to start therapy – something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but have always put off. The mental strain of 2020 inspired me to finally take the steps towards psychotherapy. Another resolution I set is to be more active in my relationships. Although the pandemic has made hanging out with friends tricky, I still want to make an effort to call and FaceTime more.

As we’re being urged to continue hunkering down in this winter surge of COVID, I’m diving deeper into my creative projects like writing, dancing, and painting. I use these outlets to ease the struggles of social isolation and create goals for myself. I’ve been so lucky to get a lot of freelance writing opportunities lately and even the chance to take some in-person dance classes, too. I want to make sure my artistic momentum is sustained heading into the New Year, so in the final weeks of 2020, I spent time been prioritizing my creative endeavors.

Lastly, I want to take better care of myself. I’m working towards this by staying present and not focusing too hard on the future and resting. Recently, I’ve been taking breaks from work whenever I feel stressed, and also picking up more leisurely hobbies like playing video games and baking. I’ve been enjoying yoga, journaling, and long walks more, too — already setting a self-care routine makes me confident that I’ll be able to begin the New Year feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.


Did you enjoy this commentary? Then check out the Charlotte Pride Magazine! Click here to read our special end-of-year magazine full of features, articles, and commentaries chronicling our lives and our community in 2020.