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@HEARDinLONDON #blog

Habit change, perfectionism and learning to feel familiar with your emotions

Updated: May 30

Do you know why most of us find it insufferably hard to change habits? It is because we have convinced ourselves that the only way that we can change is if we bully ourselves about what we have been getting wrong.


Often, we have an underlying thought there is no room for compassion or we will slide into our old, lazy ways and never achieve goodness. And even when we do manage to create change by shouting about our faults, it is nearly always temporary.


This is the learning style most of us grew up with, so it is not surprising this is also the way we speak to ourselves.


But it is also not the only way.


Many of us weave a good chunk of perfectionism into the idea of habit change, and there is a strong narrative that if we don't get things right, it makes us wrong. Cutting ourselves some grace and humanity is a way to neutralise this.


Habits and patterns can be hard to change, especially when we try to do it through criticism and shame. However, when we understand the underlying reasons and motivations behind our actions, we can find new ways to meet our needs, and the habits may change on their own.


For example, if you are a 2 am scroller, you may want to reduce the hours you spend with a mini-computer attached to all human knowledge in your hand, so you tell yourself you’re an idiot for staying awake, you should know better, and you’re going to have a horrible day tomorrow now. None of these thoughts are particularly conducive to relaxing. What they do is make us feel terrible. And what do you do when you feel terrible? You look for escapism, like, I don’t know, doom scrolling on your phone…


Often, for many of us, our response to this is to try and convince ourselves not to use the phone and make our phone use the problem. If we were to look at some of the underlying causes, perhaps set some clearer boundaries and work on communicating our needs a little better, we may not need to be distracting ourselves from our emotions with our phone in the first place.


I believe a significant part of the problem for a lot of us is believing that we do not have time to deal with our emotions until we are perfect at everything else. SO we just need to list all of our faults and this will make us realise we should be doing better. But we already know we want to be doing better. We behave like having feelings is an indulgence. But the feelings do not stop just because we’ve decided we do not want them. And ironically, it often causes us to have more of them.


It's important to remember change takes time, and it's not always a linear process, but the more you deny your emotions, the louder everything tends to become. It's okay if the habit doesn't change overnight, but by understanding the underlying need and finding new ways to meet it, we can make progress towards change. What are the feelings you are wanting to create here? What are the feelings you are avoiding?


When we choose to learn in this manner, with grace, curiosity and an open-hearted observation, no matter what the outcome or the duration of the process, what we teach ourselves along the way is compassion for what is, rather than a tirade against what shouldn’t be, and only good things grow from this.





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