The Difference Between Self-Discipline and Self-Abuse

It goes without saying that losing weight requires self-discipline. In fact, as most of us have probably heard our parents say, achieving anything worth-while requires self-discipline. What does self-discipline look like?

I started taking piano lessons when I was 6 years old. When it comes to learning a musical instrument, self-discipline means sitting down to practice every single day even when you REALLY don’t want to and would rather be playing with friends. It means saying “this is worth the sacrifice of a few hours of play because it is important to me!” (Actually, when you’re 6 years old, it means your parents saying “you are going to sit down and practice because I said so”… but that’s a different story.)

I also used to take Tae-Kwon-Do in elementary school. Martial arts are all about self-discipline! In Tae-Kwon-Do, self-discipline meant control of your entire self: emotions, body, mind. It meant saying “I can break this board if I just believe in myself and practice the skills that my instructor has taught me.” (And also if I don’t aim directly at the knot in the board, ‘cus knots don’t break very easily!)

In middle school, I played basketball. Like any sport, it required a lot of self-discipline, and our coaches tried to help motivate us as well.

I once had a basketball coach who believed in motivation through degradation. The first time my coach yelled at me for screwing up, I beat myself up about it for over a week. I cried. I hated on myself.

My dad told me that this was a method used commonly on boys’ sports teams. But, I didn’t understand. He explained to me that when my coach yelled at me for messing up and told me how badly I’d just messed up, he was hoping that it would pump me up more and make me want to do better!

When it comes to the self-discipline of weight loss, I sometimes tend towards that coach’s methods when trying to bolster my self-control. The problem with that type of self-discipline, though, is that it leaves me feeling like a failure instead of feeling empowered.

“You are too fat for this cake, self! Fat you doesn’t deserve cake! Why don’t you just stop eating, fatty?”

That isn’t self-discipline; that is self-abuse. And, just like when my coach yelled at me for messing up, this type of inner self-degradation only leads me to feeling like a complete and total failure.

But losing weight DOES require sacrifice, discipline, and self-control. In the past couple of years, I’ve been trying to learn how to turn my self-abuse into self-discipline. I try to identify self-abuse by asking myself two simple questions before really harping on an “inner thought:”

  1. Does it empower me?
  2. Would I say it to someone else?

If it doesn’t empower me and I wouldn’t say it to someone else, then chances are it’s not something that I should be saying to myself. So, I try to think of the empowering version to motivate myself.

“No cake this time, self, but you can bring a piece home and plan for it tomorrow when you have the points.” (Weight Watchers Points, that is.)

This thought empowers me and does not leave me feeling hopeless or like I can’t do anything right. The immediate physical outcome is the same: I still don’t eat the cake. But, the total result is very different: I don’t go home and binge on cake because I hate myself so much and feel that I can never lose weight or be successful anyway.


That leaves me Points for stealing my boyfriend’s pizza! 😉


I felt like I had just one more thing to say…

As I’ve said about a million times on here, the hardest part of this journey has been learning to love myself. Degrading myself into starvation has been my method time and time again in the past. Yes, it makes me lose weight. Yes, it is faster than following Weight Watchers. But, if I lose weight rapidly, but degrade myself into action in order to achieve the weight loss, what have I really achieved?

I would rather love myself at 200 pounds than hate myself at 120.


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