Let’s talk about bad habits.
You know, those unhealthy things we do over and over and over and over. They come in all shapes and forms and I’ve certainly had my share of them. One of those was smoking. I know, okay, totally disgusting. But there it is.
When I was in the grips of that habit, I was deep in self-judgment about it. I thought about it all the time. I wanted to quit. I wanted to smoke. I wanted to not be a weak-willed loser. I was a weak-willed loser. I wanted to believe in myself. I didn’t believe in myself.
I suffered constantly with an internal battle about it, and I truly believed that it was the source of everything going wrong inside my head. If I could just drop this one bad habit, I would be miraculously transformed into a confident well-adjusted woman. I thought my nicotine addiction was the thing causing my stress, anxiety, and self-hatred (the line between bad habit and addiction can be a little unclear but my personal way of telling the difference is how hard it is to quit).
It was a vicious cycle I suffered weekly, if not daily. For years! First, I would smoke my last cigarette. Or if I had any left in the pack, I would drown them so that I didn’t have any in the house (didn’t trust myself to just throw them away… addicts will dig through the trash). While I was smoking my last cigarette, I’d be giving myself a little pep talk, “Remember this moment forever, Stacy, because you are never going to smoke again.”
Coffee in the morning without a cigarette would be tough but doable. Smoking isn’t really allowed on junior high campuses so the day was easy. Then on the commute home from work, the real war would begin.
“I really want one. I’m just stressed. It will relax me. Don’t do it. You’re a loser if you do it.” Then it was justification time. “It’s just one smoke. You don’t even really smoke that much. Geez, give yourself a break. You can buy a pack and just have one a day. You don’t want to quit cold turkey anyway.”
If you’ve ever had a bad habit or addiction, you know how that cycle goes.
And when you cave and lose to it, the shame is unbearable. It completely destroys your self-worth. I didn’t trust myself. I didn’t believe in myself. I hated myself for it.
The good news is that I eventually won the battle against the addiction. And I learned something interesting about myself. Quitting this bad habit that I thought was wreaking havoc on my self-esteem and well-being didn’t magically fix everything. With or without my addiction, I was still me inside. Same girl. The habit turned out to be a response to what was going on inside me. Stress, anxiety, self-hatred? Still there. I spent so long blaming the habit that I never truly saw that I needed to direct my attention inwardly to healing myself.
No magic pills.
I see this happen to people all the time. They quit the bad habit or addiction that feels like the source of all of their misery only to find out that it is actually what is going on internally that is the source of the suffering. It’s still there. It’s like that saying…wherever you go, there you are. Even if you left your bad habit behind.
You can lose all of the weight, stop spending the money, give up the gambling, drinking, stalking, drugs, or whatever. But, you have to look at why you have chosen that response to whatever is happening internally.
By the way, I’m not suggesting that you keep the bad habit and just do the inner work. Bad habits are unhealthy. Do please ditch them. But do the inner work, too.
First things first.
And here is a really good first step to do before you even get to the quitting or stopping. Just get curious. Go ahead and do the thing you want to give up. But before you do it, ask yourself what you are feeling right then. Do a little data collection.
I bet you’ll see a pattern and a pattern is like a big fat arrow pointing you in the direction of what needs your attention. That’s how you get it to stick when you finally quit the bad habit. That’s how you get the lasting changes without the relapses.
Oh and even though quitting won’t be equivalent to a radical mental and emotional make-over, I promise it will boost your confidence in yourself no matter what. Just do it.