‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays is a special seasonal feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which some of my favourite authors help me to celebrate the spirit of the season and spread a little holiday cheer. So, pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and snuggle in by the fireside as they answer the question: “What does the holiday season mean to you?”
About Anna Birch
Anna Birch was born’n’raised in a rural area on the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama. She traded in thick forests and dirt roads for the heart of the city, where she lives now with her husband, three children, and dog. Anna’s debut, I Kissed Alice (Imprint/Macmillan, Summer 2020), is a queer f/f You’ve Got Mail retelling that takes place in equal parts between a fictional Birmingham performing arts school and an anonymous fan fiction website. Outside of writing, Anna is a graduate student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the k-12 ESL program and she’s looking forward to being placed in her first classroom! She loves knitting, brie, and hanging out with her family.
Resolutions are a Trap, and Other Important Things Capricorns (As Well As Everyone Else!) Need to Remember Going into 2020
I am not the first person to say this:
They just are. It’s wild when you think about it – on the first day of a year, you open a contract with yourself that you are expected to hold for 365 days with exactly zero idea of what the year is going to hurl at you. It makes no sense, and yet year after year we find ourselves watching that God-forsaken Peloton ad for the 500th time, thinking it isn’t such a terrible idea after all. If you’ve got Capricorn anywhere on your chart, you’re particularly susceptible to this – we’re in *our* season, there are lists to be made, AND we’re about to walk into a sparkly new year tabula rasa style with nothing but big ideas for the future.
But here’s the deal, and my thesis for this whole thing: Every sign has their own struggle with mental health (and, of course, signs aren’t *attached* to particular mental health concerns, they can happen to anyone! Mental health care is important!). It isn’t uncommon for Capricorns to grapple with anxiety, and so many of our maladaptive coping mechanisms stem from trying to control our universe by should-ing ourselves to death. The thing is, though, we love setting goals for ourselves, and there is nothing wrong with that (actually, goals are a healthy part of being human). I’m going to wind this whole thing up by giving a few suggestions on how to approach this shiny new year with a plan that won’t wind up rotting your soul.
The Tyranny of Shoulds
The tyranny of shoulds is a concept coined by psychoanalyst — and founder of feminist psychology — Karen Horney. The gist of her theory is this: We have two versions of ourselves – our real self, and our imagined self. Think about your real self like what happens when you open your camera and it’s still on selfie mode – it’s you, but the reflection isn’t particularly flattering. Your imagined self is a sparkly snapchat filter – still you, but altered to a standard of beauty that isn’t realistic (and might even cause a whole other host of self worth issues if you aren’t careful).
According to Horney, shoulds occur in the places our real and imagined selves intersect. We have this idea of who we *want* to be, and this highly unflattering idea of who we actually *are*, and we start holding ourselves to these standards that end up hurting us even more.
We are perfectionists by nature, and shoulds are an unconscious way we attempt to control the parts of us (and other people!) that are innately human.
Where does this come into resolution talk?
Resolutions are shoulds in sheep’s clothing – change the way we look. Change the way we eat. Change the way we exercise. Sometimes they’re great in theory: People often resolve to quit cursing, or quit smoking, or make healthier food choices. Other times, they’re unrealistic to the point that they’re damaging: They are going to receive literary representation by the end of the year. They are going to sell their book. They are going to find a relationship that’s going to stick.
Capricorns like me tend to focus more on productivity-related resolutions: Writing x number of words in a year, getting a job promotion, saving money every month. Again: These are not all bad things! These are good things (although, things that require input by other people, like literary representation or a job promotion, are wildly unhealthy because you can’t control the choices of other people), but setting a standard for 365 days with absolutely no knowledge of what the year will bring is shoulding yourself. All things that correlate somehow to the prolific, productivity machines we want to see ourselves as. All high and lofty goals that will make us feel like a steaming pile of crap at the end of the year if we don’t hit 100% of them.
But here’s the deal: If you’re not careful, you’re potentially setting yourself up for failure.
But, Anna! I LOVE resolutions! What can I do instead?
Imaginary person, I am SO glad you asked! Like I said before, goal setting is an important part of being human. Capricorns need goals – we need a way to prioritize where we’re going to focus our energy, because let’s be real: We want to do EVERYTHING. Sometimes simultaneously. It’s a blessing, and a curse. If you’re a Capricorn with anxiety like me, goals help track progress and reassure us when we need it.
Instead of resolutions try this:
1) Monthly resolutions.
But, Anna! You just said resolutions are bad!
Yeah, for the entire YEAR. On the 30th or whatever of every month, set a resolution for the next 30 days. They will always be within the context of what’s already happening in your life, which will mean they’re much more likely to be realistic. We’re going for attainable, here, fam.
2) Set an intention for the year.
Think about the ways you’d like to direct your energy for the next 365 days. Do you need to focus on self-care? Set an intention to prioritize your body and your soul. Do you need to focus on your relationships? Set an intention to put your friends and family first. Allow your intention to be something that edifies your spirit and shapes the way you view yourself and your circumstances.
3) Self-reflect on how you’d like to grow, and choose a word or phrase for the year.
I know a lot of people who do this, and I love it. Pick a word for the year, and post it somewhere that you can see it every day. Meditate on what it means to you as your circumstances change over the course of the year. Over time, you’ll eventually develop a big word cloud of the words you’ve lived by. You’ll be able to identify all the ways you’ve grown – beautiful, right?
In summation: Take a temp check on how you feel about setting a resolution every year. If it works for you, keep on keeping on. But if you find yourself at the end of each year a little miserable about all the things you didn’t accomplish, give yourself permission to quit shoulding yourself and approach 2020 with a new perspective on setting goals. Karen Horney believed that we should find ourselves somewhere between the real and the imagined – somewhere between accidental Jabba the Hutt selfies and the overfiltered stuff that Snapchat is made of – and I think she has a point.
My intention for 2020 is that I will work towards self awareness, so that I can hopefully see myself exactly as I am – for better, and for worse.
Title I Kissed Alice
Author Anna Birch
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, F/F Romance
Publication Date May 26th 2020 by Imprint
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters ● The Book Depository ● Barnes & Noble ● IndieBound
For fans of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda and Fangirl, Anna Birch’s I Kissed Alice is a romantic comedy about enemies, lovers, and everything in between.
Rhodes and Iliana couldn’t be more different, but that’s not why they hate each other.
Hyper-gifted artist Rhodes has always excelled at Alabama’s Conservatory of the Arts despite a secret bout of creator’s block, while transfer student Iliana tries to outshine everyone with her intense, competitive work ethic. Since only one of them can get the coveted Capstone scholarship, the competition between them is fierce.
They both escape the pressure on a fanfic site where they are unknowingly collaborating on a graphic novel. And despite being worst enemies in real life, their anonymous online identities I-Kissed-Alice and Curious-in-Cheshire are starting to like each other…a lot. When the truth comes out, will they destroy each other’s future?