Dying Daily #332: Restraint versus Constraint

Constraining the Ego

We bank heavily on self-restraint in our lives, especially as adults. We are often oddly resistant to the idea of constraint as an alternative to restraint, even if self-restraint has failed us over and over. I think it has something to do with ego.

I am a mature, responsible adult. I make my choices. I should be able to handle this.

There is something simple and clean about constraint. There is also something necessary about it when we are trying to make a big change in our life. Part of the reason we resist it may be that it is effective, and we don’t want to change our habits.

I don’t like the idea of constraint. My ego tells me that I can power through things, that I need to overcome temptation and be strong. There’s something in there that tells me I need to defeat temptation. This doesn’t always work.

It rarely actually happens.

Removing Temptation

When I did the Whole 30 a while back, I almost didn’t follow through with getting rid of all the non-compliant food in my house. I told myself that I could make good choices and avoid the things I shouldn’t eat. I believed it too, but I went ahead and did what the program required and gave away four totes worth of food.

It’s a good thing I did too. You see, I had all the willpower and resilience in the world before I started the program, when I was unhappy with how I looked and felt and was all full of carbs and sugar. One day in though, things shifted, and my body started craving what it was used to, and I cannot count how many times I would have run to the kitchen and eaten a bunch of garbage and quit the program altogether. Not having it around makes all the difference.

Not having that immediate option made all the difference.

Plan Ahead

We have moments of motivation, and we have moments of weakness. We get sick, and we get tired, and we come home from work annoyed and fragile. We burn through all of our willpower throughout the day and don’t have much left for times of stress. These are the times where prior constraint is helpful.

There are times when we do not need to have a choice in front of us, but we have to set that up ahead of time.

Where do you need to constrain yourself?

What does your ego tell you about this?

Is the ego a reliable indicator of our capabilities?