“Healthy” can refer to a variety of things—eating better, exercising, or simply working to limit the amount of stress you allow into your life. All of these (and others) are very personal choices and definitions of healthy can very from person to person. Healthy to one may mean no alcohol, frequent exercise, and consistent clean eating. Someone else may feel their healthiest with a full eight hours of sleep, time in the morning for a quick meditation to set the mood for the day, and surrounding themselves with positive and encouraging people.
Whatever your definition of healthy is, it’s just that—yours. New years bring new resolutions and it’s important to make those decisions for yourselves. I can speak from years of experience as a people-pleaser and someone who adapted her behavior to what she thought others wanted that unless you learn (and own) who you are, many of those decisions are going to be short-lived.
The following are three of the most important reasons I’ve learned about why you should never choose health for someone else.
1. It sets you up to fail
Changes made for someone else are likely short term. The strongest example I have for this is in terms of addiction and recovery. It doesn’t matter how much you care about the family and friends you may be hurting, in the long run if you don’t want to stop using for yourself, it’s only a matter of time before relapse happens.
When I got my initial DWI and the court sentenced me to alcohol rehabilitation while suspending my license, because I wasn’t ready to stop on my own I switched to abusing prescription medications and continuing to drive. Comments from family and broken friendships had little effect on me. It wasn’t until I lost my career and just about everything I had that I actually made the long term decision to enter recovery.
If addiction is something you’re not well versed in, use exercise as an example. Say you choose to exercise because you want to lose weight for your spouse or significant other. It’s not something you particularly enjoy, but you drag yourself to classes, you start choosing better meals, and the pounds start to come off.
At this point, some people may realize how much better they’re feeling, which transitions the change to one they start doing for themselves, but for those who don’t experience that realization it becomes harder and harder to continue a lifestyle that they don’t like or want. Slowly, exercise may taper off and eating habits may start to slip and soon enough they’re right back where they started.
2. You can only control yourself
Choosing a healthy lifestyle for someone else often comes with unrealistic expectations.
- “If I lose x number of pounds, my significant other will find me more attractive”
- “If I stop drinking or using, my relationships with my family and friends will be fixed”
- “I’ll impress my coworkers if I bring healthier lunches to work”
Each of these statements come with an expected result. The problem is that in life, the only thing you can control is yourself—your thoughts, your reactions, and your behaviors. As great as it would be to get other people to behave the way we want them to, it’s simply unfeasible and you are setting yourself up for disappointment every time.
- Your weight may not have anything to do with what your significant other finds attractive about you.
- Often, because of the track record of deceit and harm surrounding addicts, it takes much longer to rebuild trust from family and friends than expected. For some, those relationships can never be rebuilt. If you don’t make the decision for yourself, it becomes much harder to commit to it when you don’t get the immediate results you want.
- Your coworkers may not care at all about your food choices. Sometimes, they may even make fun of you or try to get you to eat less healthy foods. This is usually a result of an insecurity on their part about how they are living their own lives. Nevertheless, it becomes harder for you to continue the habit unless you want to eat that way yourself.
3. “Because you should” dismisses your own feelings
Many people jump on the resolution bandwagon “because they should.” It’s a positive thing to want to improve my health, so why don’t I resolve to do just that? Aside from the obvious herd mentality this train of thought subscribes to, it does something more damaging than that. Making choices exclusively because you should or because you think it’s a good thing to do removes yourself from your actual feelings. It doesn’t allow you to take the time to look internally and figure out how you feel about the choice.
Any time I’ve made a decision “because I should,” I’ve never followed through past a certain period of time. I tried yoga for a month straight because I thought it would be good and I needed it in my life. (For the record, yoga is awesome, just not for me). I tried meditating every morning and that fell by the wayside faster than I can eat a chocolate chip cookie. Speaking of, there was a time when I refused to let myself have any sweets (dear God, why??) and I was miserable and thought about them all the time.
Take the time to really consider your thoughts and feelings on something before deciding to do it, then own that decision. There may be a time in the future when I really want to do yoga, but right now is not that time. I’m fine with that decision and work to always stay open minded and in communication with how I feel about things.
- Have you ever made decisions for someone else? What happened?
- Do you have any other experiences to add?
- Have you ever not allowed yourself to eat desserts? DON’T DO IT. EAT THEM! (in moderation)
Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud!