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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Combatting the “I Deserve This” Mentality

The year is 2020, and not much has changed in that we are still constantly bombarded with messages about health, lifestyle, self-care, how to create deep and meaningful friendships and relationships, and how, “with these three simple tips”, we can make parenting look easy. It can feel overwhelming to consider all of the supposedly “simple” aspects of our existence that we are expected to pay attention to in order to create a meaningful life. 

It can feel exhausting to be alive these days, no matter what stage of life you are in. For those who struggle with addictive patterns especially, extinguishing the pull towards drinking or eating or shopping as a means to celebrate our abstinence from that very same behavior is a large focus of treatment. It is not long before this mentality becomes a problematic cycle.

So how do we cultivate motivation, set goals, and reward ourselves in ways that are beneficial to our health, rather than furthering problematic patterns?

Isn’t it a good thing to be proud of yourself?

To some, claiming “I deserve this” Megan Rapinoe style is a battle cry and message of female empowerment to take pride in your hard-won accomplishments. For many, she serves as a model for acknowledging that you can be proud of yourself without feeling ashamed or egotistical. It is entirely inspiring to see a woman confident enough to unapologetically take up space in this world. 

This mentality, however, does not tend to be the end result of someone claiming “I deserve this” in the face of another slice of chocolate cake, or when staring down the untouched drink in their hand. This is simply rationalization and justification at it’s best, and it is important to realize that this constant internal battle will not ultimately lead you down a path of meaning or fulfillment.  

The road towards such entitlement that led someone to that point was likely one littered with deprivation and self-judgment. In this case, the self-judgment may have been thought to be either negative or positive with equally disastrous results, as believing that one’s value grows with each positive step further imbeds the ideology that self-worth is earned rather than innate. 

In addition, a lifestyle focused on deprivation is at the core fixated on harmful rather than helpful beliefs. It is a classic glass half-full or half-empty metaphor in the making. For example, if I am angry because of all the food that is off-limits to me as a result of my health goals, I am going to have a much more miserable time than if I dedicate myself to finding healthy foods that fit the goals and that I actually like eating. 

But shouldn’t we celebrate our accomplishments?

To resist the temptation to indulge in one’s vice after a hard day’s work, and to decide not to stop at the liquor store on your way home from work takes a great deal of willpower. Developing some amount of dedication and determination towards meeting the goals we set for ourselves is no small feat, and of course, it is an enticing idea to celebrate our achievement by making other allowances throughout the day. 

Again, the key to correcting this problematic phrasing is in switching the direction of our attention. Take the following scenarios:
Thought: I deserve this drink because I have been working hard all week long and deserve a break. 
Reframe: I deserve a break and am excited to provide my body with something that will actually refresh me.
Thought: I deserve to drink tonight because I feel lousy, and this wine is going to make me feel better.
Reframe: I deserve to indulge in a mug of tea tonight before bed, to give my body its best chance at a good night’s sleep, and my mind an opportunity to avoid future guilt.

Thought: I deserve this drink because I’ve already ruined what matters in my life and I might as well keep going. 
Reframe: I deserve a fresh start because, despite my past regrets, I have faith that my future will be of my own creation. 

It is not hard to see how easily these thoughts may arise and take over without our attention to capturing and correcting them. Thoughts like these often pave the way for relapse and make the commitment to sobriety a daily test. Of course, paying attention to thoughts like these is a focus of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, as is learning to challenge and reframe them. 

Transitional Living at The Haven

Whether you’re concerned about addictive patterns in your life or have recently completed treatment, it may be important for you to seek the structure that a transitional living community can provide. Contact us today at [email protected] or call us at 1-805-202-3440 to learn more about our program and how we can be a support to you!