It’s never a convenient time to stop a bad habit, especially one that serves as comfort and protection in your daily life. We lead busy lives that we fill with all sorts of projects, activities, tasks and jobs that we’ve decided to focus our energy on. We feel powerful and on top of our game when we can utilize all of our strengths and conveniently forget about those areas that make us feel vulnerable and weak. Some people turn to drugs or alcohol to forget about pain and stress in their lives. Others turn to food, morphing a harmless action into a compulsive and unhealthy habit. Some of us try to compartmentalize our emotions, only addressing those feelings that are helpful and comfortable to the situation at hand, and casually ignoring areas that may be important but also are stressful, scary, and/or uncomfortable.
While in progress, these processes seem to work just fine. We can function at a high level in select areas (many times professionally important) of our lives with a sacrifice that often times we don’t even notice. Obese people don’t always cognitively connect their weight to their feelings, but an emotional tie is always there. Smokers don’t always see the cigarette as a band-aid to uncomfortable feelings until they try to quit.
At some point, we realize these things are unhealthy. If we want to live a long time, we can’t be overweight and smoking. If we want to live joyfully, we can’t ignore the barriers that keep us from gaining personal depth and goals for our relationships.
Lately I’ve come to see an array of behaviors and thoughts that act as protective walls against many close relationships (and all of those scary feelings that go along with them). The sides of me that I see as weaknesses and vulnerability get covered up with thinking that people don’t want to hear about my thoughts and feelings, that guys aren’t romantically interested, and that I am feeling more or less than the one holding my hand. As I become more and more aware of these little voices in my head that tell me to pull back, I realize the need to redirect them, to reason with them so that I can move forward. I also realize how difficult this is and how stressful and weak the whole process is. I feel the uncertainty in the background of other areas of my life, areas where you couldn’t touch my confidence before. Many times, because of this, I feel the desire to call off the whole effort and go back to “thriving,” sacrificing one little weakness of being difficult to get to know for a whole lot of strength in other areas.
This is the moment when the quitting smoker relents because they really need a cigarette to calm them down or when the dieter stops by McDonald’s for a burger and fries that don’t even taste good anymore. This is the time when you know you’re doing something you don’t want to do, but you do it anyways and you don’t really understand why.
However, as tempting as it is to forget what I’ve learned and to leave my new self-discoveries behind, I believe it’s important to keep going. I know it’s important to what I want to do and who I am to keep pushing. The truth is that we don’t know what comes after we let go of our crutch. We had it there to protect us from something, and we’re vulnerable to what may next. Luckily, another truth is that we love adventure, and everyone knows that risk and danger are inherent components of any rewarding adventure. So as I strike out on my hopeful mission to break my habit, I’m trading the mindset of feeling overwhelmed with what’s at hand to the much happier attitude of being excited for what’s to come.