Are you starting the new year with resolutions?

To lose weight? Exercise more? Give up smoking? Get a new job? Spend more time with your kids? Drink less? Earn more money? Get a puppy, or walk your dog more often? Start dancing classes? Take up painting? Get up earlier?

Sound familiar ... ?

Where do these things come from — and are they all good for you?

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The energy that comes with a new year can be a powerful force for positive change. But it also comes loaded with society's expectations — and social media is fertile grounds for peer pressure.
There's a new advert by Gillette razors that is addressing the issue of toxic masculinity, which is being discussed in a new way following the #MeToo movement.

Some think this is another overload of political correctness but before you dismiss it, please take note of the adjective "toxic" preceding the word "masculinity". This is not an attack on masculinity, but commentary on the over-the-top aspects.

Just like criticism of sexualised women in advertising is not an attack on women – it's about the appropriateness of sexual imagery used to sell sell sell.

The Gillette video urges men to lift their standards and to step up when they see men acting inappropriately to women, to other men, and even as children – to stop the repetition of "boys will be boys". It's caused a backlash with some people calling for a boycott of Gillette.

Twitter has been active with people like @BetteMidler balancing it out: "Guys, please calm down. It's not like #Gillette's asking you to shave your whole body, wear makeup, perfume, high heels; not eat too much in public and not be above or below a certain weight… Right?"

And @OhNoSheTwitnt: "Ads for women: Be thin, be thick, love your body, your boobs look bigger in this, dye your hair, embrace your grays, these pants are slimming, be feminine, wear makeup, look natural, hide your age…

Women: K.

Gillette: Men should be less shitty.

Men: Don't tell us what to do!"

And while that is true – advertising and magazing articles telling women what to look like, ostensibly to please men, saturate our media – it doesn't mean that men aren't subject to social pressure.

In response my friend posted on Facebook: "Ads for men: be ripped, have hair on your head, don't be fat, don't be thin, be tough, support your family financially, don't talk about your feelings, make sure the car works, know how to DIY stuff, be dumb about domestic stuff …"

She added: "The statistics of violence from men to women is appalling but it's not just the bullshit we market to women. Shitty social constructs affect us all and really foster toxic masculinity."

I read a hugely challenging comic strip about this, particularly around men and suicide. Please look it up – it's by Australian artist Luke Humphris and hosted on www.boredpanda.com

It talks about the potential tragic consequences of bottling up emotions and taking on the "be tough" message.

We know the skills we want in our children – yes, that includes reading and writing – but more importantly for life, it's being able to manage their emotions, to be able to practice conflict resolution, and to handle stress. Because we know without those abilities, there's not much point in being a genius at the other stuff.

So maybe a better resolution for 2019 is to be kind to yourself.

That might mean some changes but do them from a place of building yourself up. Feed yourself good food for your body and for your soul – say nice things about yourself, and watch those unrealistic expectations.

Then show your kids how you're approaching the new year in this way.

It's absolutely okay to work on improving yourself, but don't use it as an excuse to put yourself down. You are a unique and valuable part of this world.

Nicola Patrick is a Horizons regional councillor, works for Te Kaahui o Rauru, and leads the social enterprise hub, Thrive Whanganui. A mother of two boys, she has a science degree and is a Green Party member