PERSONAL BOUNDARIES: LIVING WITHIN YOUR OWN
In my last blog, I looked at what it means to set personal boundaries for those who come in and out of your life. I talked about how to determine when you should say no, yes, or maybe to any given person or situation. Now let’s talk about how to do the same thing, but with yourself instead.
True self-control is something that eludes many of us despite being pursued by nearly every human being on the planet. Just think about it … all the people you’ve ever known, everyone you’ve ever loved, disliked, or otherwise — how many of them seemed to exercise total and complete self-control over their actions? How many people do you know with the ability to consistently resist cravings, not give in to lethargy, and always stay motivated?
Most likely, this person is something of a myth in your mind. A perfect, unattainable goal which you may strive for, but have little hope of achieving. But, what if I told you that self-control is not such a black-and-white affair? If self-control didn’t mean objectively saying yes or no to every situation within your own inner dialogue, but rather being willing to explore a nuanced and intricate array of inner truths, would that seem more feasible to you?
There are really only two things you need to know in order to improve your own self-control:
1. There is no such thing as a good habit.
- Habits are by definition things we do with a lack of intention. That’s a bad thing. There may be habits with positive overall or short-term outcomes, such as brushing one’s teeth or paying bills on time, but even these are behaviors which serve the individual performing them much better if done with clear, unquestionable focus and desire.In other words, it’s better to occasionally indulge in a craving than it is to routinely deny yourself life’s pleasures without thinking twice. When we do things habitually, we are gradually foregoing our own autonomy, one fraction at a time. Each time we unthinkingly consume those excess sugars, or indecisively decide to skip yet another run in the park, we are consenting with our own minds to slip into auto-pilot more and more frequently.For many of us, so-called “good habits” are one of our greatest tools for success and satisfaction in life. It’s understandable that the thought of losing such a resource would seem scary. But, if you’re intimidated by the thought that those good practices you call habits may not be so good, after all, maybe you’ll be relieved by this next news.
2. There is no such thing as a bad habit.
- Habits aren’t bad in and of themselves. They are simply moments in which we take a less involved role in our own decision making. Cravings are indicators of desire and/or need, but unfortunately, the ability to always decipher between the former and the latter is one that often eludes humanity.It is the behavior itself, and the immediate or long-term effects of that behavior, which we should be critical of. Or rather, we should criticize when the behavior is in discord with our own desires or intentions. By acknowledging a habit as being inherently “bad,” we are actually empowering the abstract entities of our own inner demons to maintain control over us. We are engaging in a tug-of-war with those demons, and it is a struggle which we can never hope to come out the victor.
At the end of each day, self-control is a one-on-one battle for each of us. In those moments when our control is tested, we seek to achieve dominance through our own exertion of willpower. But, our knowledge of our own biology and brain chemistry is too limited for us to win the battle of wills over our own instincts. Yet, if we give up in the midst of this tugging competition, it is only ourselves which will be left falling on the floor due to the sudden lack of resistance.
So, the only method of defeat is to band together – with ourselves. Instead of pulling at the rope with you on the other end, step forward and embrace your needs and desires. Embrace yourself for all that you want and hunger for, and you may find those things to become less elusive.
Living within your own boundaries is all about recognizing that they are there. And, once you’ve done that, you can come to terms with the dimensions of your own boundaries, as well as the consequences for attempting to go beyond them.
If you’d like help learning how to navigate this struggle, this battle of wills, please contact me to discover creative solutions to your own life’s challenges.