Repetition = Internalization = Work - Erin's Inside Job

Repetition = Internalization = Work

Repetition, Internalization, and Work. The process of changing harmful thoughts and behaviors

I’m sure you’ve heard that it takes “21 days to form a new habit.” (~ish)

Throughout the process of recovery I often become frustrated because even though I objectively KNOW certain things, I have a hard time actually believing them at my core. Let’s break it down so that you don’t have to wade through my nebulous thought process.

Here are some examples of things that I objectively know and accept as true, which means I would offer the same statements to anyone I meet:

  • I am worthy of love
  • I have a right to be fairly compensated for the work that I do
  • It is appropriate to set boundaries in any and all relationships (work, friends, romantic, etc.)
  • I am capable of accomplishing any goals I set
  • I need to take care of myself before anyone else (as evidenced by securing your own oxygen mask first in those super exciting, spiraling airplane descents)

I seem to KNOW everything that I need to do, every action that I need to take, but taking that first step is often the hardest. I KNOW all of these things like “feelings aren’t facts” and that I am an awesome person who deserves to be treated as such, but actually and decidedly internalizing those things has often been a struggle.

Changing patterns takes time. Lots of time. Lots of work. It’s not something that you do overnight after thinking or behaving a certain way for a number of years. I get frustrated because I am impatient. I want a quick fix even though I know there isn’t one and actual life-long change comes from putting in the work.

So to actually internalize all of these things that I just KNOW, they need to be repeated. Weekly, daily, hourly, or even minute-by-minute sometimes, I have to tell myself that I am worthy of love. I have to hear from other people that I deserve to be fairly compensated for my work because sometimes it takes a different voice for it to finally register. I have to read over and over again that I am capable of accomplishing any goals that I set.

Repetition = Internalization.

I can be a pretty stubborn person. I like to do things my way, ignoring other people’s advice, until I burn out or everything is ruined or some other awesome ending. (Sometimes I do things ok). I can’t tell you how many times in early recovery I was told what I needed to be doing and I responded with “I know.” Over and over and over again, usually multiple times in a conversation.

What stopped me was fear, but that’s a whole other post for another day. Even though I was an annoyance to others and also myself because I would stagnate despite knowing what to do, I’m grateful that those people didn’t stop telling me the same things day in and day out. It took me time, but one day those things clicked.

That doesn’t mean that just because I finally heard them I immediately changed my behavior and thinking patterns. It meant that I accepted what others had to say and now it was my job to act on it. That’s the work.

Internalization → Work.

In the aforementioned examples, here is what the work looks like:

  • Not allowing myself to be disrespected or in unhealthy relationships. Positive self-affirmations.
  • Asking for what I am worth and not expecting anything less. Standing my ground.
  • Setting boundaries on behaviors I will not tolerate and being willing to stand firm. Informing a work environment that when I leave work I am done for the day and not answering phone calls after work hours.
  • Taking each step I need to in order to reach a goal, even if I am scared I will fail.
  • Focusing on putting myself first (e.g., not spending a disproportionate amount of time with friends or spouse at the expense of my own time, looking inside to determine what I need for self-care and making those things a priority).

I think a lot of my KNOWING came without true internalization. I could easily know something, but without believing it wholeheartedly, I would be incapable of actually acting on anything.

Sometimes there are great leaps and sometimes there are baby steps. As long as I’m moving forward, either pace is ok by me (unless you catch me on an impatient day). ☻


  • Can anyone else relate? How has this shown up in your life?
  • What things have taken you a long time to internalize and act on?
  • How do you break the pattern of unhealthy thought and behavior?

Thanks as always for Amanda for letting me think out loud.

20 comments on “Repetition = Internalization = Work

  1. I can relate to this SO much. The majority of my 20’s was all about knowing what I needed to do, but definitely failing to put it into action, and fear was (and still is) a big part of this. It’s like the saying that sometimes we have to keep repeating the same mistake until we finally make it right with ourselves. It takes time and patience and requires a full development of self-love. Seems like you’re doing really well with this all now and valuing yourself the way you should. <3
    Erin recently posted…Living in a Grey WorldMy Profile

    1. I’m trying! I’m glad to you see you on the same path after reading your post today 🙂

  2. I am someone who is quick to recognize unhealthy behavior in myself, but it can be hard for me to stop it. Like, I totally know that I am digging myself into a hole. But I can’t stop digging. And thinking, the entire time, why am I continuing to dig this hole? Alex is great on helping me stop behaviors by calling me on them. For me, it often takes just someone else saying, stop being an idiot/bitch for me to be like I KNOW, THANK YOU for saying something, I couldn’t stop! It’s like I need just that marginal amount of public shame, lol.
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…Thinking Out Loud : Colonoscopy Prep Edition (Procedure Results and Updates)My Profile

  3. I’ve been in this position for the past two years, and am trying to follow through on what I know I need to do. Then I start backsliding, and there’s this voice telling me I should know better, but as you said fear gets in the way. I’m trying to do what I know is right, as painful as it is because it’s going to leave me heartbroken. Thanks for this post, Erin, it was timely for me today!
    Bri recently posted…{Try This Thursday} Kaeng Raeng Daily Green Energy Drink reviewMy Profile

    1. I totally understand. I make progress and then regress. I guess it’s all about progress, not perfection, but sometimes it’s so frustrating.

  4. Love this. I struggle with internalizing the posititives, too. (I spend too much time internalizing the negatives, sadly.) And you’re right, it is hard work! I feel so guilty when I put my needs before the needs of others, especially when it hurts others’ feelings. I need to work on internalizing that I’m important enough to focus on myself at times instead of others. Thanks so much for this post! I honestly really needed to read this at this moment. Thank you.
    Beth @ Running with the Sunrise recently posted…Building Strength for Arm BalancesMy Profile

    1. Anytime. It can feel selfish sometimes, but you really have to worry about your health and well being before anyone else!

  5. So proud of you! Another one of your posts that hits home with me as well. I have always had trouble with confidence and self-esteem (never saw that while you were growing up, huh? :-)) Although I found myself a single parent at a time when I was strong both physically and mentally, over the years I have found myself sliding back into that “I’m not worth anything” pit. I know that I see myself in a very different light than others see me, so when I read that you “have to hear it from others”, I smiled…yup, I know that feeling. The leadership training courses that I’ve staffed are perfect examples…me? what? teaching leadership skills? Never in a million years did I expect to be doing that! Yet, I have been asked back every year, so I must be doing something right. After one course, I made a list of the compliments that I had received from other members of the team and from participants. I read over them daily, and although they seemed to be speaking about someone else, I knew that people had said them to me… It is great to feel the energy when you are part of a high performing team, but I find that when I return home, the old demons of self-doubt are waiting just inside the door to welcome me and begin another round of their crippling attacks.

    There is a line from a popular book on dealing with change that really hits home: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Bingo! Bells went off when I read that. So true! I know that fear has kept me chained to old routines for way too many years…

    Another point that you made hit home with me – being fairly compensated for the work I do. Pricing my cakes is an incredibly difficult thing for me – if I could just make them for free for everyone, that would take care of the problem, but I know that is not realistic. I find myself feeling almost apologetic when pricing a cake that I know has taken me hours and even days to complete. I need to remind myself that the ingredients didn’t get that way by magic – it was MY magic that made them look that way.

    Baby steps, like you said… I have learned so much from you – you’re a pretty great kid (I can still call you that, right?) Love ya xo

    1. Fear is definitely the biggest obstacle to hurdle when making change or doing things differently. That’s a good idea about writing down the compliments!

      Also, yes. You most definitely need to charge more for your cakes. I think you’d be surprised with how many people wouldn’t even bat an eyelash to paying more for quality and deliciousness.

  6. Oi. Can I ever relate to this. And the most frustrating part of it is that my logical mind KNOWS that I shouldn’t think or do certain things, but I can’t seem to stop myself… all the while being perfectly aware that what I’m doing is completely self-defeating. Mm hmm. But I like what you said about having to go through actual motions to change thought patterns, instead of just trying to change your way of thinking. There’s definitely something to the whole “fake it till you make it” idea, and repetition is definitely a great way to get something to sink in… even if you feel completely ridiculous at the beginning. It works.
    Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted…. thinking out loud #138 .My Profile

    1. Totally. Sometimes I just want to throw my hands up and give up though haha. It’s writing posts like these that remind me and push me to keep going.

  7. Some key things that helped my recovery were writing down a daily gratitude list, saying a thank you prayer every single morning, reading positive words in the morning, and reading positive words throughout the day. I had to change the internal dialogue inside my head a lot, and that is an every day challenge and necessary. Totally worth it 🙂
    Danielle recently posted…Holiday Weekend RamblesMy Profile

    1. I agree but sometimes it feels like an extra step that I don’t want to be taking! Those days are not good days though so I am always trying to keep my head up!

  8. Hi Erin! Long time reader, first time poster. Gosh this really resonates with me… i actively struggle with fulfilling self care items on my own. It took a while for me to recognize that by ignoring what I need or want as part of a self care ritual, I actively make myself unhappy and take the joy out of fun activities. It’s still hard for me to recognize that not every hour needs to or should be spent with others or being productive!

    1. Hi Zoe! Thanks for reading (and writing!)

      I agree with all of that. I used to feel selfish or guilty if I was taking time for myself, but now I realize that if I don’t I won’t be able to give to others when the time comes!

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