"Dear Expie" is a semi-weekly, anonymous column answering student questions on relationship troubles, family woes and more. This week, Expie answers questions about friendships, goals and being single.

If you’ve got a question for Expie, email ExponentOpinion@montana.edu. All submissions remain anonymous.

Dear Expie,

I gave making a New Year’s resolution the good ol’ college try, but I’ve already failed at it. In fact, I failed at all of them, and while I won’t go into detail about what they were (they were pretty basic anyway), I am feeling a little dejected now. Can you help me figure out what to do next? Should I keep trying, or just give up for good?


 

- Resolved to Try Again Next Year?

So, January is over and you’ve realized your New Year’s resolution was either too unrealistic or too overwhelming. And that’s ok. While it’s always good to be bettering ourselves, it can be detrimental to our health and confidence to put too much weight and pressure on these resolutions. Most commonly, New Year’s resolutions revolve around mental and physical health. However, it’s important to note that being skinny or always being happy are not indicators of strong mental or physical health. Sometimes, they can even be the opposite.

The point is, though, that resolutions might work for some, but if they don’t work for you, you can’t beat yourself up about it. That’s going to be worse for your health than anything else. The key to health isn’t creating unattainable goals, excessively dieting, reading more self-help books or trying to change your mentality on your own. While it’s not inherently bad to want to lose weight or improve yourself, you should get to the root of why you want to make those changes and address those issues first.

Is it a comparison or self-confidence thing? If so, be honest with yourself, and before you make any goals, research what a healthy body looks like for you, not for other people. Are you struggling mentally with worry or stress? A solid support system and a counselor, and medication for some, will be more beneficial to you than any cleanse or book. There’s no goal you can set for yourself to address these issues.

While New Year’s resolutions are good for some, they’re not a one-size-fits-all idea. Goal-setting is important, but it needs to stay realistic and attainable, and you need to start small so you can work your way up to something bigger.

Dieting isn’t necessarily bad, but before you start, consult a nutritionist and work out a plan that’s actually healthy for your body. While reading is always a good idea and self-help books can be motivational and encouraging, no book is going to fix your mental health, because it’s not broken. If you find yourself struggling with depression, anxiety or some other form of mental illness, talk to a doctor and find a support group before you hit the books.

Dear Expie,

I already hate Valentine’s Day, but this year it’s somehow gotten worse: Everyone in my friend group is dating, and I am not, which is already annoying enough without the added cupids and love letter everywhere reminding me of this. While normally all of us singles would make plans together, I’m the odd man out this year. What do I do now? I’m trying to be happy for my friends, but I’m also pretty bitter that our longstanding tradition is coming to a close.

- Loveless and Feeling Left Out

With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, it can be hard to avoid noticing all the couples surrounding you, especially if you’re the only person in your friend group not in a relationship. First things first, don’t let this observation turn into jealousy or bitterness against your friends who are dating. Be happy for them in their happiness, and recognize that their decision to be in a relationship during this season doesn’t make them better or worse off than you, you’re just in different places.

Second, now that you’re happy for your friends but still feeling lonely and left out, talk to your friends about the way you feel. Singleness isn’t a bad thing, and you shouldn’t feel like a third wheel (or maybe even a 7th or 9th wheel) in your friendships. See if you can find times to hang out with your friends without their significant others around, or ask to be included in more group activities. While couples need times to be together just the two of them, they should still make time for their friends.

Additionally, don’t let yourself feel lesser because you’re not in a relationship. You might feel lonely, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with not dating, especially as cuffing season is wrapping up and heartbreak is running rampant. You’re avoiding a lot of drama here, and that’s not something to worry about missing out on.

Dating is cool if that’s what you want, but relationships aren’t the end all, be all of life, and you shouldn’t let yourself feel down for not being part of one. Don’t be afraid to branch away from your dating friends and hang out with more single peers. Chances are, your friends aren’t leaving you out on purpose, they just didn’t know it was an issue. Communication is key in relationships of any kind, and friendships are some of your most important ones.

 

Dear Expie,

I haven’t talked to my best friend back home since I returned to school. While normally I would have been the first to notice this, I’ve been so caught up with everything here that all the time just… passed by. They’re wondering if we can hang out when I go home next weekend, but I already agreed to other plans with people here. Am I bad friend?

- Sorry, I’m Already All Booked Up

It’s that time of year when friendships are beginning to change, especially if you’re a freshman. Maybe you’re growing closer to the crowd of people you share a major with. Don’t feel guilty about that. You’re not a bad person for desiring to hang out with people who share your interests and passions, whose study schedules line up better with yours and who you feel more comfortable around. The reality of life is that friends truly do come and go; each season of life will bring you the group of friends you need for those few years, and it’s ok if they’re not around for a lifetime.

If you’re concerned that you’re going to hurt someone’s feelings by building new friendships, don’t be. Friends new and old should be supportive of you branching out and getting close with those people, because chances are, they’re making new friends, too. Don’t let guilt or fear of losing old friendships to keep you from building strong ones with the people you need to be surrounded by right now, and don’t feel like you have to pick and choose between your friends.

It’s never a bad thing to build new friend groups. So, don’t stress about training to maintain your old friendships and keep up on the new ones, but don’t feel like you have to cut off old friends, either. Say yes to plans when they’re offered, but don’t overextend yourself to hang out with a different friend everyday. You’ll end up exhausted if you do. Find a way to be comfortable with letting go of old friendships the way they always were, because chances are those friends are finding new people they connect with, too.