finding the good in bad habits

finding the good in bad habits
photo by rachel sarnie

photo by rachel sarnie

Most of my close friends and family have come to know my worst habit: picking at my face.  I’ll stare at the mirror for ten, twenty, maybe even thirty minutes, and pick at anything and everything and nothing I see as flawed.

My mom always yells at me when she sees me touching my face. My friends yell, “Mariah, stop picking!” Any chance I get, I’ll tell people to yell at me to stop, because I know how unproductive it is.  I know it’s not good for my skin. I know it leaves circles of red and indentations on my face. I generally pride myself in being fairly disciplined, but why can I not kick this?

I’ve been frustrated by my lack of follow-through. No matter how many times the voice in my head orders me to just walk away from the mirror, or how many times other people urge me to stop, I continue to fall back into my old habit.

But then I started thinking about it in a different light.

Everyone has something, right? It might not be picking your face. It may be biting your nails. Or clenching your teeth. Or checking and rechecking social media sites mindlessly. There are a variety of outlets.

And if everyone has something, then that means these “bad” habits are…human. Oh, wow.

And if these so-called “bad” habits are human, there must be a reason we have them.

So I thought about the times when I pick my face. And I discovered that I do it during a whole range of occasions. When I am overwhelmed, procrastinating, tired, unsatisfied—the list goes on. As I try to categorize these experiences into one, the only thing I can come up with is this: I pick my face when I’m not at a point of full self-acceptance. Acceptance for where I’m at, at that moment. Acceptance for who I am or what I look like at that time. Acceptance for the place that I am in. Acceptance for the full range of human emotions.

When we think about situations when our habits are most prevailing, and I mean really think about them, we can discover something that holds more value than desperately trying to defeat these longstanding habits.

Maybe it’s time we release the urge to gain control. Maybe we give ourselves a break and let our negative feelings flow through us. If we release expectations of being fully stable all the time, we may start to accept that there are bad feelings we experience. And we are not responsible for changing them.

These habits may clue us into something that you might not otherwise see. What are we unhappy with? What are we insecure about? What circumstances make us feel most vulnerable? I think we can each identity the general state of mind we are in when these behaviors occur, which will ultimately help us to identify the root of our intentions.

Our behaviors are simply our state of mind, manifested in a way that may not directly relate to the turmoil we’re experiencing. By that I mean that if you bite your nails for instance, your nails are probably not the direct problem. But picking them is a way to feel better about another aspect of your life that is invoking some negative emotion.

Just as there is a strong connection between our mental state and our eating habits, there is a strong connection between our mental state and our physical habits. Our feelings dictate our behaviors. The only way we’ll get to the core of these feelings is to inspect our behaviors. And the only way to change our behaviors is to work through our mental state.

Scolding myself for picking my face has not worked in my favor—simply made me frustrated at my lack of progress. But now that I’m starting to understand why I have resorted to this tendency, I have been kinder to myself, and more empowered than ever to release this inclination that doesn’t serve me.

I think the underlying theme with most of our “bad” habits is that they don’t help our personal growth—and many are even self-destructive. Our insecurities may be displayed in unconventional and unexpected ways, but as we look closely at our habits, we’re one step closer to uncovering yet another aspect of ourselves.  

A lifestyle blog about veganism, mood swings, & other chatter.