You’ve probably seen the lists. On Twitter, or Instagram or Facebook – people are posting lengthy lists of everything they have achieved in 2018. There are photos, links to work, and usually a deep, meaningful message about what these achievements mean to them.
Be it personal – an engagement, baby, buying a house – or professional – publishing a book, landing their dream job, every article they have written over the last 12 months – people are desperate to share their highlights and present a perfect package of curated, annual success.
It’s classic social media behaviour and it’s natural if your first instinct is to recoil from it. We want to roll our eyes at the sheer brazenness of the boasting. These aren’t humble-brags, these are brag-brags – and it’s everything we hate about social media.
After the first of these end-of-year lists were posted, it wasn’t long before the snarky, derisive backlash began. But why are we so averse to people sharing good news? Is it the deeply ingrained British sense of self-deprecation that dictates our behaviour?
Or does it come from a place of jealousy, comparison and insecurity? Surely we should be able to celebrate other people ’s successes, and our own.
We were taught as children that boasting is bad, that no one likes a show-off. Perhaps we’ve internalised that school of thought to an unhealthy degree. So instead of rolling our eyes, we should be applauding these lists. When so much of life is about struggle and hardship, we absolutely should take a moment to pat ourselves on the back for what we have achieved.
Surely you’d prefer open, honest discussion about things that we’re proud of, over the snivelling, insidiousness of humble-bragging. If you’ve achieved something and you want the world to know, you should feel empowered to tell people about it.
This is particularly important for women. Emma Case is a life coach who works specifically with women. She says she always encourages her clients to blow their own trumpets and celebrate themselves, because women, more than men, have been conditioned to believe they shouldn’t.
‘As women, we need to learn that celebrating our own achievements is not just OK, but is absolutely necessary,’ Emma tells Metro.co.uk. ‘We could all easily name three things that we did badly or “failed” at, over the year, but it’s high time that we learned to confidently articulate the things that we are great at too.
‘Change and progress often comes from a series of tiny steps combined, it isn’t always about the huge, defining moments. We could easily overlook these steps if we’re not conscious of them, which is why it’s so important to be aware of all of our successes – even the tiny things.’
It’s incredibly easy to fall into the trap of only seeing the negative things, the heartbreaks, the things we f*cked up, the jobs we didn’t get. But how would your outlook change if you stopped thinking about your year in terms of absence – the things you didn’t achieve?
No, you didn’t start that novel. Your boyfriend didn’t propose. You’re still nowhere near ready to put a deposit on a house. Looking through this lens of absence, it’s easy to view your year as a write-off. But that’s never the full picture. Even in a year of serious drama, upheaval and grief – there are always moments of light, moments of success, moments to be proud of. Even if it’s as small as – well, I survived, I’m still here. These are the things that should be focused on.
What you gained or learned. It’s cheesy, but taking the little wins and learning from them is really the only way you can grow and develop as a person.
So we’ve agreed that celebrating our achievements is a good thing. But why does it have to be at the end of the year? Does January really hold some magical power of regeneration? By now, we know the whole ‘new-year-new-me’ shtick is a tired, outdated construct.
You won’t wake up in January and suddenly feel like a different person. But that doesn’t stop us from being hopeful. We still pour out all our booze on 1 January, start paying for an expensive gym membership we will never use, write a list of the books we’re definitely going to get through.
Despite the overwhelming historical evidence to the contrary, we still believe that this January will be different. This year, we will be better. So maybe that is what January gives us.
The hope and the statement of intention. Just because we know ‘resolution culture’ is a construct, that doesn’t mean we can’t use it to our advantage. The dawn of a new year brings with it the hope of renewal.
1 January holds a certain promise of transformation – the chance to begin again, to wipe the slate clean, to become a better version of you. But Emma thinks that saving our celebration and self-reflection for the end of the year isn’t the best way to go about it.
‘I ignore January and rigid goal setting in favour of something much more fluid and effective,’ she explains. ‘True and lasting change takes time, so I’m a huge fan of having monthly or quarterly reviews of achievements and goals, rather than one huge, pressurised new year evaluation.
‘Doing it this way means I will already have a balanced view of what I’ve achieved, so there will be no disappointment or shock at the end of the year.’ Food for thought for next year. But that boat has already sailed for 2018.
If you want to shout about your achievements, then it’s time for a social media thread. But if the point of listing your achievements is self-reflection and growth, why not just write them down in a notebook? Why splash them over social media?
It suggests that what’s really happening here is a need for validation from strangers – nothing deeper. Francesca Dean, a disability rights campaigner and aspiring journalist, thinks it’s not that simple.
She says that for her, posting achievements online is a way of recognising the people who have helped her along the way. ‘I don’t think it’s about showing off whatsoever,’ Francesca tells us.
‘I like to share my achievements on Twitter because there are so many people who have helped me this year, and stuck by me through thick and thin. ‘I think reflecting on things that you’re proud of is key to determining your attitude for the new year.
But also, most importantly, it’s about recognising who was really there for you during ups and downs and showing gratitude.’
Francesca’s year has been an important one. She has achieved more than many people thought would be possible for her – and she knows that sharing those achievements is a crucial part of advocating for people living with disabilities.
‘This year I landed my own segment on local news programme, Granada Reports, I was a finalist in the youth journalism competition, Breaking Into News, I got my first ever job at Blackburn Youth Zone, and I spoke at ITV’s inclusion event.
‘I want to shout about these achievements because I have a disability, and I think there are so many people who don’t realise just what disabled people are capable of doing, as long as they have the correct network around them. ‘I’m so grateful to be an advocate for those living with a disability who can’t defend themselves or helping children who have been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy.
I know my parents initially felt as though there was no hope for me, but I’m happy I’m able to consistently prove that there is hope.’ Francesca’s achievements are unbelievably worthwhile, but you don’t need to have achieved anything nearly as substantial in order to deem it worthy of celebration.
Taking stock of the year, the highs and the lows is a fantastic way to gauge where you’re at, what you still want to achieve and how far you’ve come.
New year is traditionally about setting new goals. New things to aim for, new tasks to add to our to-do lists. But our to-do lists are already overwhelmingly long and they never seem to get any shorter.
Maybe a more useful exercise is to look back before looking ahead. This year, why not see what you can tick off your list before adding a truckload of new tasks to achieve?