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Marriage… and Other Stuff I’m Meant to Do

Marriage… and Other Stuff I’m Meant to Do

Jumping

    Poor Delusional Me

    Being a single bloke in his forties draws all kinds of comments, suggestions, inferences and questions from a broad cross-section of people, with responses ranging from pity to surprise, through to outright jealousy. Apparently the most interesting thing about me (for some people) is my wife-less-ness (Craigism). Clearly there’s something weird, dark and dysfunctional about me that needs to be explored and explained.

    Or… I could just be a happy, single bloke.

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    Naaah.

    Pity

    Women periodically feel sorry for me (while simultaneously trying to hook me up with their sister, cousin, neighbour or girlfriend), while blokes have been known to ask if I’d be interested in trading lives with them. According to some people, I must be miserable, lonely, unfulfilled and emotionally inept. Apparently I just think I’m happy; I’m just telling myself that to make ‘me’ feel better about being tragically single. And lonely. Poor delusional Craig.

    Gotta say, my delusion is quite the place. You should visit.

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    The Happiness Fraud

    After all, we live in our head and we create our own reality don’t we? So if I think I’m happy and I feel happy then that would make me… happy. Wouldn’t it? Nope, apparently I’m in denial. Consciously happy but subconsciously miserable. All this time and I didn’t realise. So ignorant of me. I’ve been a happiness fraud without knowing it. I best start working on my frown. And my country music CD collection. If only I could find an unhappy married person to challenge the marriage-happiness correlation theory. As if I’m gonna find one of them.

    Oh well.

    Husband anyone?

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    A Rubik’s Cube with Hair

    Last time I spoke about being single on my site I was inundated with feedback on the matter. I personally seem to go through cycles where my wife-less-ness is of greater or lesser interest to other people. For me, it’s a non-issue but it seems that some people are always trying to figure me out. Apparently I’m some kind of complex human puzzle that needs to be solved. Or cured perhaps. Someone raises the subject with me at least once a week. Never smoked, never consumed alcohol, never been married = weird. At least once a week I hear something like “it’s strange that someone in your position (my position?) isn’t married.” Okay, it’s official; I’m strange. If not me, my situation.

    Ticking the Boxes

    But this article is not about my marital status, it’s about pressure, standards, expectations and the unwritten rules. You know the rules. Living in Western Society there are certain boxes which (allegedly) need to be ticked if we’re going to fit in and be seen as normal. The irony of normal being that while it’s apparently desirable, it’s not necessarily where happiness lives. In reality, some people’s (version of) normal is actually what provides them with the most pain, frustration and grief. We think we want normal but perhaps what we really want is exceptional. Abnormal even. After all, take a look at society’s normal and it ain’t really that attractive. In fact, we could say that it looks kinda broke, a little chubby, somewhat unhealthy, not particularly happy and decidedly unfulfilled (miserable) with it’s career.

    2.3 Kids

    Of course there are the accepted (expected maybe) social standards and behaviours; kind of like a life TO DO list. It’s not always spoken of… but it exists. All the stuff us normal folk are meant to do over the course of our normal lives. Marriage (at least once), kids (2.3 of them), annual holidays (2-4 weeks, somewhere warm), buy a house (pay it off over two hundred years – can’t go wrong with real estate), a sensible job (large firm, good conditions, something secure, potential for progression), weekly attendance at a house of worship (keeping in mind the eternal consequences of non-attendance)… you get the point. Of course there’s nothing wrong (at all) with aspiring to marriage, a good career, financial success, a couple of rug rats or a respected place in the congregation or the after-life, but the problem lies in our (society’s) consensual thinking that ticking these boxes automatically provides an individual with a better (more balanced, more fulfilled, more worthwhile, happier) life than the person who ticks zero (of those) boxes.

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    The Enormity of Conformity

    On some level we all want to fit in, but it seems that in trying to blend in with the landscape of humanity we often lose our purpose, our individuality and our sense of self. We lose, or maybe never discover, the real us. The us we could be. Should be. Rather than exploring our potential, our talent, our curiosities and our passion, we become what’s expected of us. We tick boxes. We keep parents happy. Bosses happy. We say the right things. Do the right things. We conform. We become another clone. And living in a world which so often punishes individuality, conformity is understandable. Sad, but understandable.

    Rules Schmules

    I often think about the impact that the great unspoken TO DO list has on our lives. The rules, the expectations, the pressure, the confusion, the embarrassment and even the shame of not conforming, not ticking all the boxes and not living up to society’s standards or the expectations of others in our world. Some of us have spent far too much time, ticking way too many boxes. Perhaps it’s time to stop.

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    Craig Harper

    Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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    Last Updated on November 9, 2020

    10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

    10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

    Bad habits expose us to suffering that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, breaking bad habits is difficult because they are 100% dependent on our mental and emotional state.

    Anything we do that can prove harmful to us is a bad habit – drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication are all examples of bad habits. These habits have negative effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

    Humans are hardwired to respond to stimuli and to expect a consequence of any action. This is how habits are acquired: the brain expects to be rewarded a certain way under certain circumstances. How you initially responded to certain stimuli is how your brain will always remind you to behave when the same stimuli are experienced.

    If you visited the bar close to your office with colleagues every Friday, your brain will learn to send you a signal to stop there even when you are alone and eventually not just on Fridays. It will expect the reward of a drink after work every day, which can potentially lead to a drinking problem.

    Kicking negative behavior patterns and steering clear of them requires a lot of willpower, and there are many reasons why breaking bad habits is so difficult.

    1. Lack of Awareness or Acceptance

    Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.

    Many people will not realize that their communication skills are poor or that their procrastination is affecting them negatively, or even that the drink they had as a nightcap has now increased to three.

    Awareness brings acceptance. Unless a person realizes on their own that a habit is bad, or someone manages to convince them of the same, there is very little chance of the habit being kicked.

    2. No Motivation

    Going through a divorce, not being able to cope with academic pressure, and falling into debt are instances that can bring a profound sense of failure with them. A person going through these times can fall into a cycle of negative thinking where the world is against them and nothing they can do will ever help, so they stop trying altogether.

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    This give-up attitude is a bad habit that just keeps coming around. Being in debt could make you feel like you are failing at maintaining your home, family, and life in general.

    If you are looking to get out of a rut and feel motivated, take a look at this article: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)

    3. Underlying Psychological Conditions

    Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to start breaking bad habits.

    A depressed person may find it difficult to summon the energy to cook a healthy meal, resulting in food being ordered in or consumption of packaged foods. This could lead to a habit that adversely affects health and is difficult to overcome.

    A person with ADD may start to clean their house but get distracted soon after, leaving the task incomplete, eventually leading to a state where it is acceptable to live in a house that is untidy and dirty.

    The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real to some people. Obsessively checking their social media and news sources, they may believe that not knowing of something as soon as it is published can be catastrophic to their social standing.

    4. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good

    One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.[1]

    We’ve all been there – the craving for a tub of ice cream after a breakup or a casual drag on a joint, never to be repeated until we miss how good it made us feel. We succumb to the craving for the pleasure felt while indulging in it, cementing it as a habit even while we are aware it isn’t good for us.

    Overeating is a very common bad habit. Just another pack of chips, a couple of candies, a large soda… none of these are necessary for survival. We want them because they give us comfort. They’re familiar, they taste good, and we don’t even notice when we progress from just one extra slice of pizza to four.

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    You can read this article to learn more: We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

    5. Upward Comparisons

    Comparisons are a bad habit that many of us have been exposed to since we were children. Parents might have compared us to siblings, teachers may have compared us to classmates, and bosses could compare us to past and present employees.

    The people who have developed the bad habit of comparing themselves to others have been given incorrect yardsticks for measurement from the start.

    These people will always find it difficult to break out of this bad habit because there will always be someone who has it better than they do: a better house, better car, better job, higher income and so on.

    Research shows that in the age of social media, social comparisons are much easier and can ultimately harm self-esteem if scrolling becomes a bad habit[2].

    6. No Alternative

    This is a real and valid reason why breaking bad habits is difficult. These habits could fulfill a need that may not be met any other way.

    Someone who has physical or psychological limitations, such as a disability or social anxiety, may find it hard to quit obsessive content consumption for better habits.

    Alternately, a perfectly healthy person may be unable to quit smoking because alternates are just not working out.

    Similarly, a person who bites their nails when anxious may be unable to relieve stress in any other socially accepted manner.

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    7. Stress

    As mentioned above, anything that stresses us out can lead to adopting and cementing an unhealthy habit.

    When a person is stressed about something, it is easy for bad habits to form because the mental resources required to fight them are not available[3].

    We often see a person who had previously managed to kick a bad habit fall back into the old ways because they felt their stress couldn’t be managed any other way.

    If you need some help reducing stress, check out the following video for some healthy ways to get started:

    8. Sense of Failure

    People looking to kick bad habits may feel a strong sense of failure because it’s just that difficult.

    Dropping a bad habit usually means changes in lifestyle that people may be unwilling to make, or these changes might not be easy to make in spite of the will to make them.

    Overeaters need to empty their house of unhealthy food, resist the urge to order in, and not pick up their standard grocery items from the store. Those who drink too much need to avoid the bars or even people who drink often.

    If such people slip even once with a glass of wine, or a smoke, or a bag of chips, they tend to be excessively harsh on themselves and feel like failures.

    9. The Need to Be All-New

    People who are looking to break bad habits feel they need to re-create themselves in order to break themselves of their bad habits, while the truth is the complete opposite.

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    These people actually need to go back to who they were before they developed the bad habit and try to create good habits from there.

    10. Force of Habit

    Humans are creatures of habit, and having familiar, comforting outcomes for daily triggers helps us maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

    Consider people who are used to lighting up a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or eating junk food when watching TV. They will always associate a phone call with a puff on the cigarette and screen time with eating.

    These habits, though bad, are a source of comfort to them, as is meeting with those people they indulge in these bad habits with.

    Final Thoughts

    These are the main reasons why breaking bad habits is difficult, but the good news is that the task is not impossible. Breaking habits takes time, and you’ll need to put long-term goals in place to replace a bad habit with a good one.

    There are many compassionate, positive and self-loving techniques to kick bad habits. The internet is rich in information regarding bad habits, their effects and how to overcome them, while professional help is always available for those who feel they need it.

    More on Breaking Bad Habits

    Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] After Skool: Why Do Bad Habits Feel SO GOOD?
    [2] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
    [3] Stanford Medicine: Examining how stress affects good and bad habits

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