The habit of self

This past Sunday I was entered in a 7.5 km running event. I knew my chances of running the whole way were slim but I was still excited and confident to have a great run with a bit of walking thrown in, too.

As the crowd of runners moved across the start line, I moved along with them at my slow as fuck pace. Feeling good. One hundred metres from the start line and my breathing was staggered. I struggle for breath. What is going on? I can normally breathe just fine when I run any other time. Two hundred metres. Five hundred metres. Seven hundred and fifty meters and I was fucked. I had to stop running. What on earth is happening here? My body felt heavy, my breath was not filling up my lungs and flowing through my muscles and blood like it usually does and I hated it.

I hated myself.

The habit of self.

Bam!

I was flung back into my habit of self. Stuck in its messiness from which I was powerless to escape.

The next seven kilometres were hell. I nearly broke down in tears twice because of the thoughts running through my mind.

What caused such a mental breakdown for me, was the confusion and bewilderment at not knowing why I felt the way I did. My training has been consistent and I managed to run a 5k on the Friday before with some of the same heaviness I was feeling that day, but, I still managed with a little determination to run my goal of 5k and a small change in plan to run one kilometre and then walk for a minute or so until I reached the five-kilometre goal. I was proud of myself for this achievement.

I managed to break the habit of self in order to push through and leave that mess behind.

So, why was it so unbelievably hard two days later?

Did I not fuel properly the night before? Was it because I ate a small breakfast before the run (which I don’t normally do) so I had fuel to keep going? Is it because my body is going through the change (yep. That one) and it feels differently and acts differently now? Is it because I am just too fat and need to lose weight so I can feel lighter? Why am I always doing battle with my body? Did my mind create the soul-crushing defeat and make it worse because I couldn’t pull myself out of the mess? Is it because I suck at running and I should just give up? Is it because I am not worthy of having anything good in my life? Do I need to go deeper than ever before and figure out what the fuck is going on in the depths of my despair? Am I just making this harder than it needs to be? What the FUCK is it?

Maybe my incessant need to figure everything out sends me into a ridiculous spiral because I can’t figure it out. Maybe I just need to calm the fuck down.

My usual tactics were fighting against something larger than themselves. Their power was not strong enough to break the defences of my fucked up self.

This is just one example of how the habit of self destroys my life.

Today is a new day. Today I get to do things differently.

But, what about tomorrow? What happens when this habit of self takes over again? What do I do?

It is all a habit. Habits can be broken.

Maybe I am putting in the “wrong” kinds of effort? Maybe I am not being consistent enough? Maybe I am just too bloody hard on myself? Still.

For years now all the signs have been pointing to me incorporating more fun into my life. I am quite the serious person. Not all the time but, yeah, pretty much all the time. Fun does not come easily to me. Feeling fun instead of clenched and drawn tight is what I am used to. It is a habit.

I think this fun little fact is why I am constantly being flung back into my habit of self-deprecation. But, because being NOT fun is a habit, then it, clearly, is something I need to focus on in order to break it for good.

Focus is also habit. Focusing on the same old same old stuff. That same old same old stuff can be at either end of the spectrum. One end keeps you stuck in negativity and the other end has you tethered to the wonderful things about life. I know where I lived. It was dark, cold and very lonely.

“Habits are first cobwebs and then cables” Proverb

What exactly is a habit?

A habit is “A recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behaviour that is acquired through frequent repetition” (The American Heritage dictionary).

Habits aren’t always bad. They are actually quite helpful in our day-to-day lives. Exercising. Reading. Family time. Brushing your teeth. Taking the dog for a walk.

Habits lay their foundation over time. They are on repeat. They live in the subconscious. They are a constant monochromatic pattern predictably moving their way around our mind and throughout our bodies. They are same same but different with their patterns feeling drab and dreary. Bringing in new thoughts, especially nicer ones, feels hard. The patterns resist the new brighter colours. They work their way in and it feels good but eventually the old, familiar movements engulf the new colours so only the old monochrome colours remain. Although they don’t feel good, they do feel easier. It’s easier to let the old thought patterns swirl in their comfortable and familiar way than to constantly be working to insert new thought patterns that are unfamiliar, clunky and feel so much harder.

Today as I work through what happened to me yesterday, and as I write, I am being given revelation after revelation. Nothing new there. In fact, none of what I conjure up during these troubling moments is new to me. Its all the same information shared with me in a new way.

I know what to do. I have to battle myself to do it, though. The small self. The self that loves to wallow in misery, that loves the drama and that resists any change to its requirements of survival.

My awareness is key but sometimes that key is lost amongst the mess.

Here’s what I have narrowed it down to:

Awareness
Gratitude
Kindness
Focus
Fun
Replacement
Environment
Routine
Behaviours
Beliefs
Consistency

That is quite a lot to contend with. It, at times, feels overwhelming.

Our brains don’t help because when there is some kind of reward for a particular habit, dopamine is released, reinforcing the habit as something that is worthwhile. Let’s keep doing it because it makes us feel good. Even when it doesn’t entirely make us feel good.

We are very complicated beings. I don’t know about you, but this complexity is not always worth the effort to change it. Maybe that’s why we give up so easily? I can honestly say I do that. And, often. It is so much easier to stay in the comfortable and familiar misery rather than put in a hard effort to get out of it.

If I am being completely honest with myself, yes, I have done a great deal to change my way of thinking, feeling and believing but have I done enough to really make a difference? I guess the answer lies in my misery always creeping up on me and snatching me back into its clutches.

Shouting shut the fuck up doesn’t always cut it. Its definitely helped along the way but it isn’t that ‘one thing’ that will fix everything.

Our habit of self encompasses all parts of ourselves. Our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, actions, behaviours, attitude and our reactions. They all become habituated into our subconscious over time. Whether it is in a nice way or an unpleasant way.

Awareness is great as it gives you insight into yourself and why you are doing what you are doing. Then come all the other components that have the ability to harness the habit.

Doing my best to understand myself and the mess I found myself in during the 7.5k run, resulted in this realisation; when you’re already doing something that feels hard, and even though there is the desire to change it in the moment, introducing another perceived hard thing is only going to make matters worse. Or, at least, not any better.

I love sharing all I have learnt as if I have it all figured out. To a point, maybe? I’ve certainly been gifted many wonderful insights into the workings of us complicated human beings but it doesn’t mean I am living a prefect, mess-free life. I long for that. I believe once I achieve this unrealistic ideal, then I’m that idea of perfection I have forced myself to live up to as a way of punishing myself even more because I know I will never actually get “there”.

For me, in this life, there is an added layer of pressure (if I choose to look at it that way, which I sometimes do) and that is that I am meant to do things the hard way. Knowing that doesn’t make it easier. Sometimes. Occasionally. I have this sense of responsibility to figure stuff out so I can make it easier for others to help themselves know more about who they are.

Its a catch-22.

Self knowledge is the most difficult knowledge. This statement originally means that we, as humans, are more aware of other people faults, behaviours etc than we are of our own. The meaning for me is that the more you are aware of yourself the more challenging it can become because if you’re not implementing the changes you want to see with the knowledge you have acquired, then it feels as if you are failing yourself. I have many moments where I question, with a mind full of angst and agitation, whether I am cut out for all this knowledge and if I am worthy of its power to change all of the stuff I no longer want inside of me.

I am failing myself. In the quiet I ruminate about my many misgivings and my numerous instances of habit.

I am focusing on the negative rather than the bits of my life which are actually good. The parts of me that are nice and kind and giving. My mind has never allowed me the fortune of such pleasure. Pleasurable pleasure bad. Pleasurable misery good.

So, how do I change these fucked up habits which are ruining my fucking life? (Oh, the drama).

One particular feeling is prominent. One definite action is required to break the habit of self.

Consistency. Practice. Scheduling. Prioritising. Listening to thy Self.

Waking up every morning, I almost immediately think about getting up and meditating, or having my quiet time as I like to call it. Less intimidating. Then the following thoughts consume that idea with reasons why I must not, cannot and will not get up and do it. I’m hopeless at it. I let my thoughts run wild (the irony). I am too comfortable and warm in bed. I’ll read instead, thats a form of meditation. I’ll do it tomorrow.

A cacophony of ridiculous reasons that reiterate how hopeless I am.

The habit of self.

My misery isn’t too strong. Its just a habit of belief.
I can be quiet for ten minutes in the morning. Its just a habit of thought.
I am good enough for all I want from this life. Its just a habit of feeling.
I can get up and move my body in a way I love. Its just a habit of action.
These thoughts and feelings are not who I am. Its just a habit of attitude.
My words are kind and caring. Its just a habit of reaction.
I can express my love without reservation. Its just a matter of behaviour.

Writing this has been extremely helpful. I have worked through the pain of yesterday to ease the misery of today.

Here’s what I have come up with to solve this persistent fluctuation of moods.

I set the intention of consistency and priority. I prioritise the importance of changing my habits of self from destructive to constructive.
An idea came to me earlier today to record my own empowerment meditation that is very specific to my habits of self. It will include positive reinforcement that I will listen to in the morning and right before I go to sleep.

There is some debate about how long it takes to change a habit. I think we all have heard that it takes three weeks for a habit to change but upon further investigation, there are many different time frames for which a habit can be transformed. It all depends on the person, the habit and the consistency they undertake.

With this piece of information I will trust my guidance to know when things have truly changed down in the depths of my being. The guidance I receive is not always well received. Thoughts talk over the top of the guidance, giving one silly reason after another not to be taken seriously. I do get talked out of some good advice.

Scheduling in these practices may sound time consuming and overwhelming but it is necessary when the days over before we know it. Other things have gotten in the way that are not as important but may seem necessary, or they are replaced with mundane and non-thinking activites.

A lot of these practices can actually be done in the moment. The one downside to this is remembering it BEFORE the habit of self takes place. Speaking kindly to yourself if you do “forget” is one way of ensuring the new habit of self has a chance of appearing in the right order the next time you need it.

What I need and what you need to change are going to be different. Every thought, feeling, belief, action, behaviour, attitude and reaction intertwine to tell a story about who we are. Or, who we think and believe ourselves to be. This story can be erased and rewritten. Line by line. Paragraph by paragraph. Chapter by chapter.

As a way to put all of this succinctly, I have created a download for you to print out and use that has put all of these words into more manageable and easier words to understand quickly.

To wrap up, I will say this one last thing. A repeat from many times before.

I am worth the constant effort of feeling better. As are you. Hold onto that one beautiful thought and it aggravates the mean thoughts. They don’t like it when we go against their judgment. Stand proud in the knowledge that you are worth it and those thoughts can go fuck themselves. 

And, shout SHUT THE FUCK UP whenever you need to.

You exercise this week is to grab the download, print it out and make it your own as you enhance the habit of self with a more loving and empowered you.

I found this video as I was writing this column. I didn’t actually listen to it until I had finished. I find Dr Joe Dispenza’s work to be very powerful. If only my habit of self listened to him more!

Have a watch and see what you think.

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