Self-control is a word I generally dislike. After years of being overly self-controlled, I sort of threw self-control out the window by the time I was a senior in college. It seemed overrated, unnecessary, restrictive, joyless and totally void of fun. So, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered last week that people with a lot of self-control are happier.
In my experience, self-control has meant self-punishment—a tool for coping, a method for sucking pleasure and laughter out of any given situation, and a way of making myself feel like I had, well, control over my life (namely through calorie restriction and rigorous exercise). I’m learning, however, that there is a big difference between being self-controlled and between being controlling.
In the past, I’ve tried to control all of my surroundings to make myself feel like I could make it through the day—calories in, calories out, hours of sleep logged, hours of work done, etc. I strived to manipulate my own actions with the hope that it would somehow change the outcome of my surroundings. That, my friends, never works.
Self-control, then, must be something very different than I’ve been imagining in my mind. According to Wilhelm Hofmann and his team of researchers at the University of Chicago, self-control is defined as “the ability to override or change one’s inner responses” and to refrain from acting on impulses. And according to the results of their study,
“The more self-control people reported having, the more satisfied they reported being with their lives. And contrary to what the researchers were expecting, people with more self-control were also more likely to be happy in the short-term. In fact, when they further analyzed the data, they found that such people’s increased happiness to a large extent accounted for the increased life satisfaction.”
So surprising, right? It seems self-control is actually more connected to achieving goals and living our lives with intention rather than being controlling people who punish ourselves and never have fun. And I suppose I’ve spent enough time living a life generally lacking in self-control, and that now could be a good time to start building up my personal willpower (and certainly prayer life, as I’ll need a little help).
In reflecting on all of this, I can’t help but think about specifics: In what ways could more self-control help me be a happier person? Where in my life could exercising self-control help me achieve personal life goals, and make my day-to-day life more fulfilling and satisfying? How can more self-control help me be more of the woman I’m striving to be and capable of being? I don’t have the answers yet, but I’m certainly starting to ponder.
Do you view “self-control” positively or negatively? What does your relationship with self-control look like? How has that impacted your self-image and overall satisfaction with who you are and what your life looks like?
Image via @dailysomething on Instagram
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This is part of the Love Yourself Linkup—an ongoing series by women around the web focusing on self image and body image. In our posts, we will talk about our thoughts on these subjects, tell stories of our personal experience, share what has inspired us, challenged us, and more. Read my previous posts in the series here, and join the conversation by hitting “enter” below.