Two Toxic Habits that Steal Your Happiness
I was an addict. My addictions were not substance abuses. They were far more insidious. I fed my addictions every day, sometimes more than three times a day. And I successfully hid my addictions from everyone close to me. Underneath the expensive haircut and nicely tailored suit and the calm demeanor, I was a hotbed of toxicity.
Then I discovered running and it freed me. About two years before I started running, I had packed up my life in one suitcase and moved to New York to be with the person I loved, the person I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. He made a decision about our future without involving me, so we said our good-byes, and I found myself alone. For three years, I was someone’s plus one, now I was left with nothing. I felt like a zero.
There were a lot of dark days. But a special voice somehow penetrated my sorrow. A voice that sounded like the elder, more crotchety Clint Eastwood, and it said, “Okay kid, you got your ass handed to you, now what are you gonna to do about it?”
I joined a running group and it freed me. I loved many things about running. The outdoors and fresh air. Easy camaraderie with other women. Strong women. Women who didn’t seem to have a lot of hang-ups, and if they did, they were the first to poke fun of themselves. And they knew how to take care of themselves. I knew instinctively that these were women I wanted to model and surround myself with.
But what I loved most about running was how strong it made me feel. It was like all the shattered pieces glued themselves back and I was titanium.
At the same time I was feeling strong, I felt light. My legs were like wings that flew, and I would sprint until my legs collapsed underneath me, and the next day, do it all over again. Running replaced my old addictions.
Experts may disagree with me but I felt my addictions were far more dangerous than the other brand of addictions, and I know this is saying a lot. But when your enemy is within, when it is deemed socially acceptable, when there are no drugs to cure it, this to me is deadly.
My addictions were comparing myself to others and beating myself up.
It’s human if you find yourself doing them. But it’s inhumane if you let them run your life. Here are some of the approaches I took to get them under control.
Compare Yourself to Others
If you are perfection-seeking and have a competitive streak like I do (recovering overachiever), you’ll be more prone to compare yourself to others. It’s highly addictive, like a bowl of chips and salsa, but it will leave you feeling like you are never enough.
It’s never a bad thing to aim high. But if you have been practicing with the cello for a month and expect to play like Yo Yo Ma, then yes, very unrealistic.
Gratitude and contentment are key to loving where you are now.
Contentment is not the same as complacency. Contentment is the ability to pause and appreciate one’s efforts. It’s the ability to recognize not only how far you have to go but also how far you came. Without contentment, there would only be the relentless pursuit of “more” and the continual sense of dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction is the enemy of gratitude.
Beating Yourself Up
People close to me say I’m kind and empathetic and tolerant. But when it comes to myself, I must confess, I’m a full-on bully. Did you ever see Me, Myself & Irene where Jim Carrey's character and his alter ego beat up each other?
That was my internal dialogue in that video.
What naturally happens after you compare yourself to others is that you’ll start beating yourself up. You belittle your own efforts and achievements and rob yourself of the already low amounts of self-esteem remaining.
So I came up with a simple question.
If this weren’t me but a person whom I love deeply, would I say or think these awful things?
The answer, of course, was no! I would never be this unkind to people who are important in my life. I found the simple act of asking this question to help remind me that I deserve the same patience and compassion I normally reserved for others.
Ridding yourself of these habits doesn’t require a 12-Step Program but it’s hard work, and a good idea to keep working on it one day at a time