THE BLOG
01/28/2016 11:59 am ET Updated Jan 28, 2017

When New Year's Resolutions Conflict With Self-Worth

It's now a month into the new year, and it is a good time to take stock of those resolutions you made in the heat (or cold) of New Year's celebrations.

High on many lists is the determination to get into shape.

This is also high on the list of disappointments.

The problem is one of expectations. It's discouraging to go home to a dinner of meager calories, hoping to lose a few pounds, only to be confronted on TV with images of idealized bodies that are impossible for most of us to attain. Every program, every commercial, every sporting event, confronts us with an endless stream of attractive, fit and healthy-looking people. All the fan magazines are bursting with photos of movie stars straight from their trainers, or out-glamming one another on the red carpet. That's a tough act for anyone's self-image to compete with. (Just look at Barbie and Ken dolls and you can see where the problem starts.)

The invariable result is disappointment in our self, the lowering of our self-esteem, and the feeling of failure. Not a very encouraging way to start the new year.

Even worse, fitness DVDs could potentially cause psychological harm, according to a recent article in medicine.net. In a study of 10 of these DVDs, "researchers found that most of the instructors were slim, female and white, and typically wore revealing attire. That sends a subtle message about what people who are fit should look like," said Brad Cardinal, a kinesiology professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University and the lead author of the study.

Once you conclude that competing with the stars is an impossible goal, you're likely to throw in the towel on that resolution of yours. Too bad, because a more realistic, healthier and attainable goal for most of us is within reach, it just involves working within the framework of who we are, not who someone else is.

Instead of comparing ourselves to others, we should be comparing ourselves to the person we were at the close of 2015. By doing that, if we've been sticking to our resolution, we should be starting to have a feeling of accomplishment, rather than disappointment.

Take a cue from the old Saturday Night Live sketch where Stuart Smalley reinforces his confidence by saying to himself, "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And doggone it, people like me."