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While a certain amount of self-discipline is needed in the self-development process, it’s important to evaluate where potentially harmful and counterproductive behaviours begin.
I certainly have crossed that line many times in my life.
There was a time when I battled anorexia, restricting my food intake in an attempt to mirror the unrealistic beauty standards portrayed in magazines. Then, I shifted my focus from controlling my food to excessive exercise, running hours every day. While from the outside, it might have been seen as me taking care of myself, in both instances, it wasn’t an act of self-love—quite the contrary.
Deep down, I was self-loathing and struggled to find the path to self-acceptance. My efforts were driven by a desire to conform to society’s perceived expectations. Maybe if I looked like this I would be accepted and loved…but this only left me feeling miserable about myself.
The Power of Self-Discipline
Self-discipline is the ability to control one’s impulses, emotions, and behaviours in pursuit of a specific goal or set of goals. It’s the driving force behind creating change through consistency and perseverance. When harnessed effectively, self-discipline can lead to success in various aspects of life, from academics and career to personal fitness and relationships. It helps us maintain focus, manage time efficiently, and resist temptations that might lead us astray.
Eventually, self-discipline can melt into who you are. When I started eating food without dairy and gluten, it was a bit of challenge and I had to keep focused and remind myself of the intention behind it: a healthy body that did not react to those toxins and felt vital not tired. Eventually, it just became who I am. It is not hard; there is no doing my best now—I just don’t eat gluten or dairy. I feel good and it is completely embedded in my lifestyle. No pushing. It just is.
However, there’s a fine line between self-discipline and pushing too hard. When the pursuit of a goal becomes an all-consuming obsession, it can have detrimental effects on physical and mental health. Below are some signs that you may be pushing too hard.
Five signs you are pushing too hard:
1. Physical health decline: Overworking yourself without adequate rest and recovery can lead to physical exhaustion, chronic stress, and even physical injury. Pushing too hard can also disrupt your sleep patterns and nutrition, further compromising your well-being.
2. Mental health struggles: Excessive self-imposed pressure can result in anxiety, depression, and burnout. Constantly pushing yourself to the brink can erode your mental health and lead to feelings of inadequacy, frustration, or even hopelessness.
3. Strained relationships: Neglecting personal relationships in the pursuit of your goals can strain friendships, family bonds, and romantic partnerships. An obsession with self-discipline may make you less empathetic and less available for the people who care about you.
4. Diminished enjoyment: When your sole focus is on achieving a goal, you may lose sight of the joy and satisfaction that come from the journey itself. Life becomes a series of tasks to be completed rather than experiences to be cherished.
5. Misalignment with your true purpose: When your drive to push yourself toward health or spiritual goals is solely rooted in the desire for external validation, like appearing attractive or achieving financial success to gain approval from others, it’s a sign of misalignment. Ask yourself why you’re pursuing these goals. Is it solely for the sake of physical appearance? And if so, why? Is it for external approval, or is it because you genuinely want to nurture your body, rekindle your vitality, and deepen your love for life? An intention grounded in your ultimate well-being will be a wholesome one.
So, how do we navigate this fine line between self-discipline and pushing too hard?
Here are some strategies to help maintain a healthy balance:
1. Reconnect with your highest intention: Reflect on the core motivation behind your actions. Why are you pursuing your goals? What makes them genuinely significant to you, independently of external pressures or societal expectations? Is it to nurture a vibrant, healthy body that enables you to savor life with your loved ones, embark on adventures, and engage in activities that truly ignite your spirit? Seek out the authentic and harmonious intentions behind your aspirations. And if you struggle to identify intentions that resonate with your inner self, consider revisiting and redefining your path and objectives.
2. Set realistic goals: Ensure your goals are achievable and aligned with your capabilities and resources. Break down larger objectives into smaller, manageable steps.
3. Listen to your body and mind: Pay attention to physical and emotional signals that indicate you may be pushing too hard. Fatigue, stress, and persistent negative thoughts should not be ignored.
4. Prioritize self-care: Schedule regular breaks, practice mindfulness, and make time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Remember that rest is an essential part of the self-improvement process.
5. Seek support: Share your intention, goals, and challenges with friends, family, or a coach or therapist who can provide perspective and support. Sometimes, an external viewpoint can help you recognize when you’re crossing the line.
6. Reevaluate your goals and intention: Periodically reassess your goals and their significance in your life. Are they still relevant and meaningful? Adjust your objectives as necessary to maintain balance.
Self-discipline is a valuable trait that can lead to personal growth and achievement, but it must be balanced with self-care, compassion, and a realistic assessment of our limits. The line between self-discipline and pushing too hard can be precarious, but with mindfulness and self-awareness, we can tread it safely and enjoy the journey toward our goals.
Remember that true success is not just about reaching the destination but also about the quality of the journey.