Published: 17 January 2022  (Updated: 24 January 2022)

Bah Humbug to Blue Monday! Could sticking to our New Year’s Resolutions boost our self-esteem?

By Debbie Hunter, Director of Commercial Affairs, CTPA


Earlier this month I read about a new survey revealing the ten most common New Year’s Resolutions for people in the UK. According to the findings, these are some of the goals that many millions of us will have set for ourselves this month…

  • Get fitter and take more exercise
  • Spend more time with family and friends
  • Be more aware and take care of mental health
  • Sort out finances and cut back spending
  • Take up a new hobby, sport or other interest
  • Look for a new job

As I considered some of the most popular Resolutions and thought about what my own personal goals might be for the year ahead, something really struck me about the line-up. Almost everything proposed offers a proven boost to our self-esteem.

Having worked at CTPA for more than four decades (!) I’ve watched beauty trends come and go. We’ve seen our personal care favourites reformulated and rebooted as our knowledge of the science has increased. We’ve welcomed brilliant new brands to the market. But the subject of self-esteem, and our industry’s effect on this, has remained an enduring interest for UK cosmetics and personal care companies.

I’ve been privileged to lead a number of research projects for CTPA over the years exploring the changing shape of the UK’s self-esteem over time, and the web of factors that influence this. I can see the same inter-connected factors in the survey of the nation’s New Year goals for 2022.

It’s no surprise to see that getting fitter and taking more exercise is a top personal goal. A New Year offers a chance for a clean slate after the festive period. But the concept of boosting our self-esteem by feeling better about ourselves is certainly not a new one.

Over the years, ‘confidence in our appearance’ has endured as the highest factor affecting our self-esteem, according to our research archives. It has been cited by as many as 71% of people as something “very important” to building this.

Interestingly, when we’ve looked at the role our industry’s products can play in this regard, everyday life essentials such as toothpaste and deodorant score highly for supporting self-esteem, just like products such as colour cosmetics. This really reinforces how fundamental simple acts of personal care, as well as those which more obviously change our appearance, are to our sense of self-worth.

Some other popular resolutions might, at first, seem less relevant to self-esteem. For example, the commitment to sorting out our finances and cutting back spending. However, three different research waves CTPA ran over the course of one decade showed that “being financially successful” was one of the fastest growing factors affecting our self-esteem.

In fact, one in five of us (19%) cited financial success as key to self-esteem in 2004. By 2013, this figure had more than doubled to 43%. However, “a rewarding job, regardless of salary” was consistently cited as an even more important factor during that period. It seems there are self-esteem boosting benefits in both highly rewarded, and highly rewarding roles especially where credit is given for a job well-done. Food for thought for 2022 job searchers.

For those of us not in the market for a new job this year, resolving to take up a new hobby, sport or other interest could also be a catalyst for self-care. Our historic research suggests at least a third of us see taking up a new skill as a good way to build our self-esteem. Perhaps because the act of succeeding in something new helps to spark new-found self-confidence? I know for me, putting myself back in the hands of a riding coach has rekindled my enthusiasm for self-improvement, giving me energy and purpose for tackling other tasks too.

After two years of social distancing restrictions, it’s no real surprise to see that spending more time with our family and friends has made the 2022 Resolutions shortlist. But perhaps more of a surprise is the positive footprint that our loved ones can leave on our feelings. Our research projects have consistently shown that ‘supportive families’ are the second most important influence on our self-esteem. Something cited by more than two-thirds of us.

From enhancing our physical health and wellbeing, to learning new skills; and getting financially fit to finding family time, it seems that many of our 2022 Resolutions could also bring a welcome self-esteem boost. So, it seems to me that sticking to our New Year goals may be even more worthwhile than we first think. Yes, we may end up with a more toned tum (my horse will certainly thank me). Yes, we may master the perfect banana bread (doubtful but I can try).  However, best of all, we’ll be building up our confidence, sense of self-worth and wellbeing. That’s got to be a reason to stick at it!

Note: All consumer research referred to is based on third party polling of 2000+ UK adults carried out in 2004, 2009 and 2013.

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