What If You Stopped Believing Your Bad Habits Are Bad?

coffee beans and crumbs on a plate
image by basswulf

“I really need to start leaving some food on my plate. I always eat every last bite. I probably eat so much food I don’t actually need just because it’s there…”

I was saying this to myself in my head the other night after dinner. I’ve said it many times. But that night, for whatever reason, some part of my brain argued back:

“Why? Why do I need to stop clearing my plate? I’m not even a little bit overweight. I eat mostly healthy foods. Is eating everything I’m served–by myself or others–really an issue? Maybe I’m filling my plate up with the perfect amount for me. Maybe the typical restaurant serving is actually appropriate for this fat kid in a little body. 

I’ve heard plenty of times that my clean-plate habit is bad, so I believed it was.

But is it really that simple?

Other “Bad” Habits of Mine

I skip social outings to stay home and read (am I making myself unhappy?), and I do a very poor job of keeping in touch with friends (am I making myself lonely?). I often don’t eat breakfast until several hours after waking up (am I screwing up my metabolism?), and I sometimes eat big meals very late at night (am I screwing up my sleep?).  I wear gym clothes and no makeup for work (am I hurting my productivity?), and I avoid talking on the phone (am I hurting my business?). I rarely stop to take pictures of special moments (am I failing to capture memories?), and I just can’t make myself post regularly to social media (am I failing to promote Alternative Badassery?).

Without context, most would consider these habits bad, or at least counterproductive. But let’s take a closer look…

They’re Habits Because They Serve You

That whole internal debate over whether finishing all my food was truly problematic spurred a series of evaluations of many of the habits I’ve been thinking I need to break. Bailing on happy hours, not reaching out to friends, only sporadically interacting on social media–what if we said “Resting and relaxing, enjoying quiet time alone, keeping private things private” instead? Well, then it all just sounds like an introvert‘s means of self-preservation, doesn’t it? I’m merely behaving as I’m naturally inclined to behave.

What about my late eating schedule? I don’t know, I haven’t actually noticed any negative side effects from this routine. My metabolism seems to be humming along just fine, and I’ve tried everything under the sun to help me sleep, including experimenting with what and when I eat–that doesn’t seem to be a factor. What’s interesting, though, is that shifting my eating times back usually means I get more done in the day, because I’m able to allocate more of the morning–when I’m at my best–to other tasks. I get to breakfast after my brain power dies down a bit. What’s the problem here? Why do I keep thinking I need to change this?

As for not “getting ready” for work, I am no more productive with makeup and presentable clothes on. Again, I’ve tried it. All getting dressed and pretty does for me is take up time in my day that I could be working. And phone calls? I’m horrible. I’m awkward and ineffective on the phone and always rush the conversation. My business is better served if I stick to email. It’s just a stronger form of communication for me.

Oh, and never taking pictures? Turns out I may remember more of the experience by not snapping a photo of it anyway. Sweet.

Are Your Bad Habits Actually Bad?

I’m not saying you should rationalize smoking a pack a day, or finishing a bottle of wine or pint of ice cream every night. C’mon.

Maybe, though, what you’ve been told is a bad habit is actually a helpful practice in your life. And maybe, then, you can give yourself a break about needing to change things. You can ignore the advice that’s good for most people and just go with what works for you.

I’m betting you can avoid some future failed New Year’s Resolutions this way. What do you think?

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Your thoughts?
  1. Janet says:

    Yes, yes and YES!! I totally agree, and a lot of my bad habits that I’ve been thinking I have to break are the same habits that you have. AND I’m not lonely, unhappy or deprived – even with my ‘bad’ habits. I actually feel quite ‘in balance’, and when I don’t I usually try to immediately do something about it. When I do feel like contacting a family member or friend, I do it. Mostly I neglect it totally, but they love me anyway. When I feel like I’m spending too much time browsing the net, then I get up and go spend time in the garden. When I’m hungry I eat, and even when I eat LOTS it doesn’t affect my metabolism or body badly, since I eat gluten-free, unprocessed, mostly veggie-based & organic food anyway. When I vary from the healthy foods it’s usually because I’m very stressed, and when things are calm again I return to healthy eating. So I think it’s all about balance that FITS YOURSELF. Nobody else can ever understand what you are going through and what you actually need. It’s about doing whatever comes naturally to you, at any specific time, regardless of what other people regard as the ‘better’ habit.

    • Cassie Nolan says:

      This: “So I think it’s all about balance that FITS YOURSELF.” Bingo, Janet. Exactly. We should all just do what works for us.

  2. Katharina says:

    Hi there! I just found your blog and couldn’t feel more inspired about this post. I’ve beaten myself up because, when there are drinks, I should go out; when I leave work at a decent hour, I should go to the gym; when someone asks me to go on a trip, I should definitely go. The truth is, sometimes I’d rather read a book, go to bed early and save money. Does that really make me unhealthy, unhappy and lonely?

    • Cassie Nolan says:

      Exactly, Katharina! All those “should”s. Like, says who?

      Happy this resonated with you. 🙂

  3. Eve says:

    You are a great inspiration!

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