The Slippery Slope of Making Promises to Yourself that You Don’t Keep
We all make promises to ourselves. Some of us are good at keeping the promises we make to ourselves; others of us are not so great at keeping promises to ourselves. If you’re reading this post, I suspect you may fall into the second camp … at least some times anyway. I feel your pain; it’s a trap I fall into, too. That’s why I decided to do something about it.
Some of the promises we make to ourselves are really only half-promises. We make these promises in the form of “shoulds.” I should go to the gym. I should read more. I should start being more patient at work and get less aggravated at those who bother me. I should keep life in perspective instead of allowing stress and anxiety overwhelm me.
“Shoulding” on ourselves is one of the most common ways we experience the shame and betrayal of not living up to our ideal picture of ourselves. It seems harmless enough, but over time, it can take a toll on our self-acceptance and our ability to believe in ourselves.
Then there are times when we make full-fledged promises to ourselves; committed to change our behaviors or habits … resolute to change an aspect of ourselves where we see a serious flaw. I promise to eat better. I promise to give up my shopping, gambling, drinking, excessive eating; I know I’m on the edge and I promise to stop before it becomes a real problem. I promise to change my life and I know this time I’m so committed to making this change, I will succeed, and then we don’t.
We expect radical and complete change, and when we don’t turn our lives around 100 percent overnight, we fell dejected, demoralized, and defeated. We may even fall into the trap of ruthless self-criticism for not being the person we want to be.
The irony is that so many of us are flawless when we make promises to others. So, why then, do we fall into the trap of not giving ourselves the same level of respect that we naturally offer everyone else?
Why Is Keeping Promises to Yourself So Important?
Keeping promises to others often carries a social stigma. Someone who promises things regularly but rarely follows through gains a certain reputation for being undependable and, frankly, a liar. We won’t let that happen; we care what others think about us. In fact, we often care far too much about what others think about us.
That’s not the only reason we keep our promise to others, though. Many of us keep promises to others because we just care about others more than we care about ourselves.
Women, especially, fall into the trap of caring about everyone else so much that there’s no energy left over for our own self-care. So we promise the moon to others and deliver, then when it comes time to step up and keep promises to ourselves, we’re exhausted and simply can’t make it happen. Like martyrs that serve the world while neglecting our own needs. Only neglecting your own needs isn’t martyrdom; it’s emotional suicide. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will hit a wall. That’s why keeping promises to yourself is so important.
Broken Promises Will Destroy Your Confidence & Your Belief in Yourself
Broken promises are the thieves of confidence. Fulfilling a promise to yourself feels good. A steady streak of wins, whether others can see your triumphs or not, boosts confidence. The opposite does the same. Losses erode confidence. A constant lack of following through on promises will steal your confidence.
Broken promises are the thieves of energy. People who don’t fulfill promises to themselves eventually wear down. It’s just so deflating. Your mind begins to believe there’s no point in trying, so you stop trying altogether. You allow defeat to get into your heart and your mind, and getting up the energy to do anything new or different becomes just too hard. You become physically and emotionally exhausted.
Breaking promises to yourself can become a habit. It’s altogether too easy to fall into a habit of breaking promises, left and right. First, you break promises to yourself. And then you begin breaking promises to others. It’s a joyless cycle.
What Keeps You From Keeping Promises to Yourself?
There are three main reasons we make promises to ourselves and then don’t keep them.
The first is because we make far to many lists about what we should do. The more changes that you promise yourself you’ll make, the less likely that you’ll make any of those changes. If you make fewer promises to yourself, you can then focus on those promises more intently. Making too many promises results in many broken promises. So, you need to be selective in what you promise to do.
The second reason so many of us struggling with keeping promises to ourselves is that we focus on behaviors we want to change, but not on the path to making the behavior change. You can promise yourself you will lose weight, but if you don’t make time every day for regular exercise and have healthy food ready and available to eat, you’ll fail.
The third main reason that we break promises to ourselves is that we don’t feel we’re worth it. We simply don’t value ourselves the way we value others. Somewhere along the line, we decided that we weren’t worth it. Our confidence and sense of self-esteem is so low, we simply don’t feel we deserve the peace, love, joy, abundance, healthy life that we dream about. (If you struggling with believing in yourself, I encourage you to join our 5-day free program, How to Believe in Yourself More Fully).
How to Start Keeping Promises to Yourself
The first step to keeping promises to yourself is doing a self-assessment on what you really, truly want for your life. What needs to change? What will bring you the most peace and joy? Make a list and then set aside some time to review that list. What items rise to the top? Choose just one to work on; once you’ve made significant progress on your first promise, you can return to your list and start working on the next one.
If you want to have success, you need to keep your promise to yourself foremost in your mind every day. Habits aren’t changed over days, weeks, and months, they’re changed moment by moment. The small habits you commit to at this moment and the next lead to true progress over days, weeks, months and years.
Knowing what your promise is isn’t enough; you must be crystal-clear on WHY you want to keep this promise to yourself. If your why is strong enough, you can survive any challenge you face along the way.
Next, you need to know HOW you plan to keep your promise. What likely hurdles will you face along the way? What is your plan for handling those hurdles? The more prepared you are for the obstacles, the better you’ll be able to face them. And, let’s face it, if you’ve been making and breaking promises to yourself for years now, you already know the challenges that have tripped you up in the past. Your past failures weren’t really failures; they were lessons you’ll now use to move forward.
Finally, you need a plan for the self-talk you’ll lose throughout your journey. What can you tell yourself to encourage yourself along the way? How will you correct negative self-talk and self-criticism that only tears you down? The voice inside your mind is 100 percent under your control, so if it wanders off track, bring it back in line with nurturing, encouraging supportive self-talk.
Expect to trip a little along the way; we all do. Every great change requires great commitment and sacrifice, and there may be some moments where you’re not up for the challenge. Forgive yourself, dust yourself off, and get back up again. Return your why. Why are you doing this? Know it and commit to it mind and soul.
Promises Shared Are Often Promises Kept
While you may be making a promise to yourself that only you can keep, getting help from others to support you and encourage you along the way can be a game-changer. Enlist others as your support crew. Minimum, at least get one non-judgmental, caring accountability partner who’ll help you remember your why and be there for you during the ups and downs of your journey.
Believe You’re Worth Keeping Promises to Yourself — Because You Are
Are you tired of making promises to yourself only to break them over and over and over again?
It’s time to stop “shoulding” on yourself; it’s time to be smart about the promises you make to yourself so that you can be more successful in keeping promises to yourself.
You deserve to experience the joy and fulfillment that comes from keeping promises to yourself. I wish you joy along the journey and encourage you to share your experiences in the comments section below. I’m pulling for you!