I have been thinking lately about the difference between self-discipline and self-denial. I have often prided myself on how much self-discipline I have, but I am beginning to wonder if my self-discipline is more about self-denial. Am I disciplining myself to do things that are truly helping me to achieve my goals? Or am I, instead, withholding things from myself to deny my own happiness?
When I look back over my life history, I think I must have subconsciously believed that success in any endeavor required suffering. That sounds crazy, even to me, yet when I look at the evidence it must certainly be the case.
I present as my first exhibit the fact that I stayed in a very unhealthy marriage for over twenty years, thinking if I tried hard enough for long enough, I would succeed in creating a happy marriage. It didn’t work. I suffered, but I didn’t succeed. All I did was deny myself and deny the truth until my denial almost destroyed me.
For my second exhibit, I present my long history of subjecting myself to various diet regimes. I don’t mean the kind of diet where weight loss is the goal. I mean the kind where I am trying to resolve a particular health issue and I think the answer might lie in NOT eating a particular food or food group.
I have never agreed with the FDA’s food pyramid, and have always been a rebel when it comes to the Standard American Diet (SAD), but in my quest for healing I have tried some crazy stuff! My kids will never let me forget a certain vegan raw foods phase I went through and a really bad black bean recipe that scarred them for life.
To be fair, I was under the care of a health practitioner who firmly stood by his approach, but it didn’t work for me. It didn’t bring healing. All it brought was hunger.
So, here I am today, wondering where the line is between self-discipline and self-denial. I don’t want to throw in the towel completely on being self-disciplined, but neither do I want to cross over into thinking I have to suffer in order to succeed at something. A smart person would probably notice they were suffering and realize misery does not lead to happiness.
A smart person would ask themselves, “Is this thing I am doing bringing positive results right now? If not, why am I doing it?” That’s what a smart person would do, and someday . . . I hope to be that smart person!
“Even a good thing can become destructive if taken to excess.” – Brandon Sanderson, The Alloy of Law