By Nico Gurley
Self control, or will power, if you prefer, is relevant to nearly all aspects of life;
eating healthy, exercising, doing homework, not abusing drugs or alcohol, refraining from spending too much money. Most of us navigate our days having to exercise self control, usually somewhat successfully, but even those with the best self control fail at times. Our internal narratives play an enormous part in the success of this self control.
We have all done this: you plan on getting up early to get to the gym or go for a
run or do some exercise before starting the day, but once morning comes around you can come up with the best excuses to not get up right away, stay in bed and postpone the commitment to another day, today just is not the right day. There is also the student version of this scenario where you promise yourself that you will get started on that ten or twenty page research paper a few weeks before it is due so you will not have to pull an all nighter or two in order to get it done on time. But every time you tell yourself that you are going to get started on it, something more important comes up, like cleaning your room for the first time in a couple weeks, writing those thank you emails, writing your shopping list, etc…
Fortunately most of the time, the only person you are really letting down is
yourself, so there is no one to actually get mad at you and tell you how unreliable and worthless you are. That is, nobody but yourself of course. If you only let yourself down by procrastinating once in a while, well, it’s probably not such a big deal. However, if you are constantly letting yourself down, you could end up becoming your own worst enemy and critic. It is bad enough having to always listen to that incessant internal critic that has something to say about every little thing you do, or don’t do, but eventually the pattern of avoidance or procrastination that is established by your inner narrative can start to spread to the other aspects of your life: money, bills, work, social commitments, etc…
The problem is that when this begins to happen you start to become seen as
unreliable by everyone around you, then you are not only dealing with that pesky inner critic, but you are now having to endure the criticisms of all these other people, such as your boss, your friends and probably worst of all your family, which only leads you into a spiral of self fulfilling prophecies: you don’t do things you commit to because people expect you to flake, people expect you do be a flake because you don’t do anything you commit to. Once you fall into this downward pattern of behaviors it can be much harder to get yourself out again. Talking to a mental health professional can help you understand, hopefully even change your patterns of thinking and internal narrative to start breaking this routine and start working toward improving yourself as well as your quality of life.
By Nico Gurley