This post resonated so strongly with my philosophy in life that I was compelled to reflect on the importance of this phrase and how it has personally impacted me.
An important life skill I wish I had cultivated earlier on is self-discipline:
(n.) The ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.
Self-discipline is like a superpower, helping you overcome the many villains of the self, not to mention with compound effects in the long term.
What self-discipline has done for me
I’ve struggled with self-worth issues. In fact some days I still do. I’m sure we all do, unless you are that rare shiny indestructible unicorn and if so, please contact me. I have so many questions for you.
Most of my 20’s was spent in waves of self-loathing: there were many things I didn’t like about myself. And based on my choices and decided lifestyle at the time, I didn’t think I was a good person.
Today, I’m here to share why self-loathing exists, and how self-loathing can be transformed into self-worth through self-discipline.
Your inner voice, my inner Asian Tiger Mom
I grew up in an Asian immigrant family. This comes with high expectations, and by happenstance I had an inner voice that came with even higher ones. Combined together, this was an equation for I-grew-up-never-feeling-good-about-myself.
My inner voice wanted me to do, and be, so many things. And I felt like her expectations of me were so far from the reality of the situation. There seemed to be such a large gap between the person I was, and the person I wanted to be.
The inner Yina had so many opinions about how she wanted us to live our life, the things she wanted us to do, how she wanted us to behave, what she wanted us to know.
While researching this topic, I was fascinated to discover that there is a whole corner of the Internet dedicated to studying the inner voice, and its impact on conscious and subconscious beliefs.
It is usually tied to a person’s sense of self, particularly important in planning, problem solving, self-reflection, self-image, critical thinking, emotions, and subvocalization (reading in one’s head).
My inner voice often berated me that I was not doing enough. And to be quite frank, I honestly wasn’t doing much in my 20’s. I would hear the things my inner voice was dissatisfied with when it came to my behavior, but I would just take it and not do anything about it.
It was quite discouraging actually; I felt like I often disappointed my internal self and her expectations.
It’s only in hindsight now that I understand the cause for my feelings of self-worth: the disconnect between my inner self and my external behavior.
It got to the point that I was sick of feeling of this way: a catalyst for change is when the pain of doing something is greater than the pain of not doing it. This finally got me off my ass to start doing something about it.
And so for every behavior or action my inner voice took critical note of, I decided I would take action to rectify it.
In essence, when my inner voice told me I was lazy and I should be the type of person that can wake up early and be productive, I dragged my sleepy ass out of my warm bed, splashed cold water on my face, and got dressed.
When she said I spent too much time distracted on my phone, I deactivated my accounts and deleted the apps on my phone.
If she wanted me to not be lazy and workout first thing in the morning, I rolled out my workout mat.
I attribute this process of pushing myself to listen to my inner voice, and not silence it, as one of the milestones that made me realize I was someone capable of doing things I said I would set out to do.
From self-loathing to self-worth
The path from self-loathing to self-worth is paved with self-discipline.
There is a powerful relationship between the two: the more you choose self-discipline over the whims of your emotions and desires, the more you will like and value yourself.
By choosing to do the hard instead of the easier thing, you increase your sense of self and self respect. Because you are deciding against the easier short term result, you bring your external self one step closer to the inner self you imagine yourself to be.
Each step in this direction reaffirms this, and helps improve the image of yourself you have in your head, not to mention the image others perceive of you as well.
Self discipline is powerful. Mastering this skill leads to improved self worth, inner strength, self confident and self esteem, which has been scientifically proven to improve happiness and wellbeing.
The nature of self-discipline can be boiled down into two words: taking action.
Self discipline = Action
Self-discipline is the resolve to challenge the innate human desire for instant gratification, pleasure seeking and pain avoidance behavior in exchange for a larger goal.
One of the main characteristics of self-discipline is the ability to forgo instant and immediate gratification and pleasure, in favor of some greater gain or more satisfying results, even if this requires effort and time.
Self-discipline is about leaning into resistance. Taking action in spite of how you feel. Living a life by design, not by default.
But most importantly, it’s acting in accordance with your thoughts – not your feelings.
You might not feel like writing a blog post, running eight miles or waking up before dawn, but you know doing them is conducive to your happiness, wealth, and success in the long-term.
You never need to feel motivated when you know what must be done.
Self discipline is a choice.
It represents a decision you make to follow through on the image you have internally of yourself, and necessitates force of will or strength to carry out. When you chose self-discipline over self gratification, it gives you power and inner strength to fight your procrastination, that desire to stay in bed, or the path of least resistance and instead to choose and pursue growth.
Self-discipline doesn’t necessarily represent an ascetic lifestyle, nor the battle-hardened personality of a Marine. It expresses itself as an indomitable will, the ability to fight temptations and distractions in the overpowering desire to reach your goal.
It is, in fact, an extremely important life skill and “one of the most important pillars of real and stable success.”
Leverage it to help yourself, your image of yourself, and your goals.