You may recall that in this New Year’s post, I mentioned not only wanting to focus on maintaining positive personal habits but to reduce the practice of several bad habits. Today’s post is all about how to kick a bad habit to the curb!
I’ve got a bevy of bad habits to choose from! But the bad habit that I was referring to in my new year’s post was that of using diminishing language. When in conversations with others, I often feel the need to downplay my interests or activities. It’s just a really small blog. It’s on silly topics: fashion, travel, etc. I just work as a contract employee. I’ve always just had jobs, never a career. And I’ve realized in doing this, I not only make myself feel a bit bad but also take away some of the opportunity for others to form their own, unbiased opinion.
Why Diminishing Language is Destructive
As is so often the case, I became aware of my own tendency to do this by first observing the behavior in others. Particularly other bloggers.
Many online blogging groups encourage you to post a small introduction when you join. And there are quite a few that go something like this, “Hi, I’m NAME, I don’t really have any super nice clothes like most of you and I’m plus-sized but if you want to follow me I’m @….” or “I’m NAME and a travel blogger. I’ve never been overseas and just focus on sites near my home, which I guess isn’t really travel but you can check out my posts here.“
I mentioned this to Natty Guy one day with the comment of “Wow, I thought her photos were great but she kinda talked me out of connecting with her based on that intro.” To which he replied, “Well, yeah but you do that a lot too. Less online but lots of times when we’re out with people.” Touché.
Personally, I think the tendency to do this comes from good intent. A want to display self-awareness and perspective. No. I’m not forging peace in the Middle East or eradicating diabetes. No. Nordstrom is not going to have a run on Spanx leggings a half-hour after I post a picture of myself wearing them. I’m mean, nobody likes an egotistical blow-hard, right? But maybe there’s a way to display self-awareness WITHOUT throwing yourself under the bus at the same time.
How to Kick a Bad Habit: Getting Started
To change a bad habit, you first have to be AWARE of the habit you want to change. Fortunately for me, Natty Guy is very helpful in this regard! 😏 Once you know what you want to change, find a trusted family member or friend who will make you aware (kindly) of WHEN you’re indulging that bad habit. Note trigger points like:
- timing (certain days of the week or time of day?)
- location (at work, home, kid’s activities?)
- social (when you’re with certain people?)
- emotional (when you’re dealing with stress or sadness?)
The more you know about the details of your behavior and what potentially triggers it, the easier it will be to come up with successful strategies for overcoming that behavior.
Set Yourself Up for Success
There are three primary ways you can help set yourself up for success when it comes to changing a bad habit:
- remove the temptation
- add a consequence
- replace it with a new positive or neutral habit
Because the habit I’m looking to change is fairly internal/thought-focused, I’m concentrating mainly on technique three: replacing with a new habit. Removing temptation is great for things you want to avoid, like eating less junk food or reducing time on social media. Adding a consequence is useful with habits that are easy to penalize without destroying your self-esteem in the process. Like dropping money in a swear jar to stop swearing or using something bitter on your hands if you’re a nail-biter.
For bad habits that more heavily involve your sense of self, like mine, teaching yourself to replace the thoughts or mental images that lead to your behavior is the best way to find success. The process isn’t quick, especially if you’re older and have had some of these thought patterns for years and years. But brain re-wiring can be done. And even small, incremental improvements can lead to perception changes and success!
How to Re-write Your Inner Narrative
In order to decrease my use of diminishing language, I need to come up with alternative dialogues to memorize. That may look something like this. “I love dabbling in lots of different things and being a contract employee has been a really nice way to find a balance between paid work and personal interests.” Once the alternatives are established, it’s just a matter of mentally repeating them until they become the new normal.
Here are a few other common examples of self-limiting language and how you might re-frame those thoughts:
|I should be able to do this on my own.||Everyone needs help sometimes. Discretionary requests for help aren’t pushy or abusive.|
|I’m going to look foolish.||Everyone is a beginner at some point.|
|I have to say yes to everything or people won’t like me.||It’s ok to look out for my own needs and well-being.|
Take some time to list a few of the inner narratives you’d like to change and ways you can re-phrase those thoughts in a more positive light. Remember, this is a process that will take some time and a lot of practice. But with diligence, you’ll eventually kick those bad habits to the curb!
For more on the importance of habits, check out The Power of Habit, Outliers and Better Than Before – all habit-related books that I rated 4-stars on GoodReads. Have a great week and until next time!
4 thoughts on “How to Kick a Bad Habit”
Hi Betsy. Wow midlife is sure a time of self-discovery, isn’t it? I can really relate to the bad habit of diminishing language. Why do so many of us do this? I love the way you rephrase the negative thoughts into positive ones. What also helps me is to remember something I learned from “The Artist’s Way”. I make a habit of writing down positive affirmations daily. These come from the positive things people have said about me. The next thing I know, I start to believe them and feel better about myself. Thanks for sharing this very thought-provoking post!
Great tip Christina! I practice something similar in daily gratitudes. Same thing, the more you repeat all there is to be grateful for, the less you focus on what might be “wrong” with your life. Love that we’ve bonded over some of these self-discovery topics! To your point, I think many women are age experience this. Part of me wonders if there isn’t a generational component. Quite a few younger girls I meet seem so confident and don’t apologize for their desires and seeing to their own self-interest whereas many of my generation were raised to not rock the boat or “grow a big head”.
Wonderful post, Betsy. I used to do this very thing and like you, my husband pointed it out. I first began to change my thinking by first always accepting a compliment with grace and a thank you. Then it started to trickle into other areas. As you pointed out, it can be easy to put ourselves down when describing ourselves – especially with so many amazing women around us! But I love your pointers for changing that narrative. Well done.
Thanks so much Loretta! I think many women can relate to this! Learning to accept a compliment gracefully, without negating it in some way, is such a valuable skill that ties in with this fantastically.