The promises we make to ourselves are among the most important promises to keep. But somehow, they’re the easiest to break.
The declutter challenge always makes me ponder personal growth in a deep way. My favorite aspect of organizing has always been the mental side. What trauma or baggage are we showing up with as we declutter that is affecting our ability to make the healthiest choice (or even to be able to realize what is the healthiest choice)? What are the mental pitfalls we’re stuck in that are keeping us from growing and bettering ourselves?
One pitfall that is extremely common is not keeping the promises we make to ourselves. It can be so hard to let down friends, family, coworkers, and sometimes even strangers! But for ourselves? We accept excuses from ourselves that we’d never try with someone else.
Imagine saying to your child – “I’m sorry I didn’t pick you up from school today, but the couch was very comfortable and I was watching a really good show.” That probably wouldn’t fly! Even if you’re comfortable, you know your child is depending on you and you’re not going to let them down.
But what about the worthwhile goals that are important to you? What about the things you’re trying to do that could transform your life? The excuses are a lot easier to accept from ourselves.
Keeping promises is part of having integrity! Having integrity is aligning our actions with our words and values. Can a person be half-honest? I don’t think so.
An important part of being able to keep our promises to anyone, including ourselves, is not making more promises than we can keep. We probably all know people that say yes to everything and are stretched so thin that they’re not dependable. Having boundaries is just another way to think about how we protect our priorities. Saying no when I need to gives me the space to be responsible where it matters.
Over 10 years ago, I was suffering pretty bad postpartum depression after my son, my 4th child, was born. I went to therapy for a while, and that particular therapist was truly gifted and really helped me. I still think about some of the things she taught me. At the time, I was overwhelmed and feeling like I was failing at everything. She asked me what mattered most and I said I wanted to be a good mom. In the conversation that followed, we talked about the hardest time of my day – the after school shift of 3pm until 6pm when my husband usually came home. Those hours were some of the most important time I had with my kids each day, and she gave me permission to make that a priority. She told me: “Every day, work the day around making sure you’re at your best from 3-6pm. If that means taking a nap when the baby naps instead of doing something productive, take the nap. If running yourself ragged with a crazy schedule while the kids are at school zaps you of all your energy before the kids come home, don’t do so much. Do what you need to do to be at your best at that time.” Her permission was so freeing. That’s the first time in my life I started saying no. I started to manage my schedule instead of conforming myself to whatever schedule was asked of me. My top priority at the time was being a mom (still is) and the most important part of that job at the time (for me) was doing a great job from 3-6 pm. Narrowing down a big swirl of competing and overwhelming demands into the one that mattered most helped me become the mom I wanted to become. Though I have moments of regret (I was never perfect) and still have worries, I have grown in confidence as a mother. The best thing I ever did as a mom was to make this promise to myself and keep it.
Another promise I made to myself was in May of 2020. Our family had just endured multiple tragedies in a row and the country was in the middle of a lockdown. It was a low time. I was on my way to being diabetic very soon (if I wasn’t already). I was in the car driving to my parents house an hour away, helping them move closer to me. I stopped in the gas station while I fueled up and bought a bunch of candy. As I threw piece after piece into my mouth while I drove, I just felt worse and worse about *everything.* Then, there was a moment, and if I close my eyes, I can remember how this moment felt exactly. I felt God’s loving guidance tell me to stop eating the candy. And then I had a thought that I should never eat candy again.
And I haven’t.
A lot of us show up to life as pretty dependable people. If we say we’re going to be somewhere, do something, bring something, or be somewhere … we do it. Being super dependable can be problematic without boundaries and being able to say no.
Don’t make a bunch of stupid promises to yourself. Don’t promise yourself more than you can deliver. When I promised myself I would stop eating candy, I didn’t swear off all sweets and treats – I narrowed the promise to store-bought candy, which made the promise within reach. Don’t promise yourself you’ll run a marathon this year if you struggle walking. What matters to you most? Whether it’s improving yourself, improving relationships, working on your health, or even decluttering/ transforming your home – Make thoughtful promises to yourself, then keep them.
From my home to yours,