72488-11-trapped-memoriesI’ve been thinking a lot lately about self-discipline. Mostly because I don’t have any. To clarify: A lot of people talk about procrastination. Focusing is hard. Avoiding distractions is hard. To work is to procrastinate. I understand that I am neither alone nor unique here. Except, I’m pretty sure that, when I talk about procrastination with fellow, er, sufferers, we are talking about vastly different animals. This requires a little historical elaboration, so bear with me.

Growing up, I had heaps of self-discipline. Set my mind on doing something; did it. Mostly, this meant being an academic over-achiever. (Ok, it probably helped that I also had a photographic memory but still, I had to be disciplined enough to READ stuff). But, over time, this self-discipline morphed into an entirely less constructive animal. During most of my twenties, this resulted in two things. A ridiculously flawless academic record. And anorexia.

Now, before you start thinking this post is a mental health public announcement about my Struggles with Anorexia, let me be clear: it’s not. It was awful. I got over it. What it meant, though, was that, for the better part of my twenties, I perfected the fine art of self-discipline. As it turns out, I was excellent at it. Stay up all night three or four times a week to Get Stuff Done? No problem. Throw out the calorie counter and just eat nothing at all? Done. I have never been so productive as I was during that time. Or so thin. And unhealthy. The irony about that kind of control is that, in trying to Get Better, you have to simultaneously let go of control and be tremendously controlled about not being controlled. Recovery was a bitch. But here I am. 

There were consequences, though. (You can read about these in future fun-filled posts). One is that I appear to have broken my self-discipline. Being too successful at exerting control over oneself, with horribly destructive effects, can turn a person off this whole self-discipline business. That voice in my head that commanded my every move was not a very nice one. It also had to be silenced if I stood any chance of recovering. So I pretty much switched off my superego (for those non-psych readers, this is sort of the bossy parent part of your self that tells you should be doing your homework when all you want to do is watch tele). This was actually a pretty healthy move. Being less controlled is good. Eating is good. etc.  

But, unsurprisingly, some self-discipline is necessary for Getting Stuff Done. And since mine is broken, I am pretty sure that, when we all talk about our terribly bad procrastination habits, I win. I should perhaps mention here that I also happen to have a somewhat obsessive personality. Which means that hitting the refresh button on a Facebook page where absolutely no new activity is happening for 8 consecutive hours is nothing to me. Watching just this one episode of Downton Abbey before I start working again and finding myself, a day later, with a neck that’s gone into spasm, clicking on the next season’s folder, is a pretty typical work session. And don’t even get me started on Youtube and Glee. And then, when all those avenues have been exhausted, there is the old faithful: spider solitaire.

Did I mention that I’m doing a PhD? (and by doing, I mean I am currently registered with a tertiary education institution as a PhD student). Did I mention that today is (was?) PhD day? And here I am, writing this post. That voice of discipline is there. Oh, it’s still there. But I’m being healthy, remember? So I shall continue to ignore it.

I suspect this will not end well for me.


4 thoughts on “Self-unDiscipline.

  1. Gabriela says:

    Great writing, and rich thoughts… they leave me thinking too

  2. sherranclarence says:

    Perhaps there is some middle ground to be discovered here?

  3. […] have previously written about procrastination and my realisation that, somewhere in my late 20s, I broke my self discipline (a.k.a superego / panic monster). The challenge I faced then, as I do now, is to find a way of […]

  4. […] get me to work? I do seem to only operate on two modes of self control more generally in my life: utter extreme or none at all. I’m either all in, all the time, denying myself any other way of being or being in the […]

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