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willpower: discipline or desire?

April 4, 2015

Throughout the years on this blog, I’ve had a lot of frustration with myself about my need to relearn the same lessons over and over. I’ve felt like I’m not moving forward, or not moving forward quickly enough; at time’s that’s just been my perfectionistic voice talking, but at times it has simply been true.

So for the past few months I’ve been contemplating this question: Why is it that I find it far easier to tap into my willpower in all other areas of my life (relationships, school, career, creative pursuits) than in the arena of my physical health?

Buried underneath this question was an even deeper one: Is willpower more about will or power? Is willpower a matter of discipline, as it is so often used in our culture to mean, or is it a matter of desire?

I have to believe that, at least for me, the later is true. Willpower is about the strength of your desire, the power of your will. I haven’t been struggling all of these years with my weight and my health because I lack discipline, as is evident in my persistence and successes in other areas of my life. If I trace it all back, I’ve only been successful in losing weight when I have had a strong belief that that is what I want.

The next question would be: Why wouldn’t you want it? Isn’t that what this blog is all about, the desire to be your healthiest self? Yes, this desire is the place from which I started this blog… but this doesn’t mean that that desire is a constant. In fact, this desire is something I struggle with very much, and it is the core of the issue.

It’s intricate, but I think these are the main factors that have held me back at one time or another from wanting to lose weight:

  • wanting to push back against unfair/unhealthy/unproductive pressures to be thin
  • wanting to only do it for the right reasons, which feels impossible when the wrong reasons seem to be everywhere
  • wanting to prove/feel that I am in control of my own body, which ironically is impossible to do unless you know what you truly want for your body
  • wanting to shield myself from unwanted male attention

I find it interesting as I write this to notice that all of these factors are wants, desires. Here are the other wants that do make me want to be my healthiest self:

  • wanting to be a healthy role model for my little sister
  • wanting to feel confident, strong, and capable
  • wanting to be physically capable to do whatever comes up in my daily life
  • wanting to stop hiding or feeling judged when I go out
  • wanting to be alive as long as possible to create and to love

Conflicting desires…. what do we do with them? We acknowledge their validity. We make peace with them. Only then we can see them at their actual size and see how they compare with one another. Even then they won’t go away, but they will be put into perspective.

My brother recently had a baby, and he told me that nothing else in life gives you the perspective that becoming a parent does. I have yet to experience this, but I want to. In fact, the perpetually growing desire to have a baby in the next few years is helping me put my other desires in their place. Yes, I want to protect myself from the unhealthy pressures to be thin that I’ve been subjected to in so many ways throughout my life, and yes I enjoy the ability to go out with friends and not be bothered by very many men… all of that can be true, but it pales in comparison to what I really want: to be a healthy mom for a healthy baby, to be a healthy parent with Sam, and to live a long and productive life with my art and with my family.

Do I have to be stick thin to do this? Absolutely not. I just have to be my honest-to-goodness healthiest version of myself, and that’s what I’m working harder than ever to be.

❤ Diana Banana

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