How I Broke Out of the Loop of Breaking Promises to Myself

How I Broke Out of the Loop of Breaking Promises to Myself
Photo by Laurenz Kleinheider / Unsplash

It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary.

One of the experiences I think that everyone goes through in life is losing touch with an old friend. My old friend, Sean, was one of my closest friends growing up. We went through thick and thin together.

However, over the last several years, we started to lose touch. I started to reflect on why this was happening as I was noticing it.

A part of me wondered if we grew apart. Maybe we were in different times of our lives right now?

Eventually, it hit me, he would never come out to visit me despite us living about 75–90 minutes apart.

He would tell me that he’s going to come hang out, but never would. Once he even added a vague timetable on when he was going to come out by saying he was going to visit in the following weeks.

“I’m single, no family or strict obligations, I should definitely come to the city to visit.” He would say to me.

I would ask him to come out any time, inviting him whenever, stating that I didn’t have any obligations the next few weeks either.

Weeks would go by and nothing would come back from him.

This continued out several times until I realized that he was never going to come out and visit me. At that moment, I decided that he wasn’t worth inviting to my wedding anymore. He had kept breaking promises to me.

Most of these promises are the types of promises that you wouldn’t think twice if someone didn’t follow through with them.

Brick by brick, these broken promises eventually started to pile up, and one day I found myself not trusting him anymore.

Breaking promises of any sort can add up. Especially when we break those promises to ourselves.

The Way Breaking Promises To Yourself Hurts You

Breaking promises to yourself can become insidious because we think since no one knows about the promise that it doesn’t matter. There is one person that knows, and that person is you.

When you tell yourself that you want to start waking up earlier in the morning to go to the gym but never do, you’re telling yourself that it’s okay to blow off your workout.

Like my friend who I stopped keeping in touch with, you start to lose personal credibility with yourself.

I’ve been through situations where I broke so many promises to myself that I didn’t even know where to begin. My life felt aimless in what to do because anything that I would start, I knew deep down that it wouldn’t last a month. I tried to make an antidote to it by giving myself challenges like “I’m going to run every day for 30 days” or “I will write 1000 words a day without fail for the next 90 days.”

These personal challenges would last about a week, then I would miss 1 day and the entire thing would fall apart.

I got myself into a state where I wasn’t sure how to break out of it. I was throwing anything against the wall, hoping that something would stick, but the wall of broken promises I had was like Teflon. Nothing seemed to work until I started to chip away at it.

How I Broke Out Of It

The way that I broke through the wall of broken promises was that I had to take a hard look at my life. For a long time, I thought that I could keep all my promises and that I was bad at time management. I opened the Calendar app and looked at my schedule when something struck me.

What about all the little things in my day? I don’t have in here that I have to do laundry, walk the dog, eat meals, have some time to relax and a little buffer in the day.

I jotted down all the little things that I do during the day and added them in as small 15 minute blocks.

With everything else in my schedule, I started to notice something. I was trying to fit 10 pounds of stuff into a 5 pound sack. There was no way I was going to get done every single day all the things that I wanted to get done. I mean, it was possible if I only slept 4 hours a day, but that isn’t sustainable. This enlightened me to trim out the excess that was in my day.

Let Go Of What Isn’t Relevant

My head felt like it was as organized a tool box with no organizers in it. Everything in it was clanking around, and I didn’t know what was where and how to utilize it. I took a minute to take an audit of my life and realized that you need to cut out what isn’t essential.

Letting go of the things in your life that aren’t necessary isn’t as easy as it sounds. Understanding all your priorities can be a challenging task when there are thousands of things every day that are trying to grab your attention.

For a while, I felt like that I should start a YouTube channel. For some reason, I couldn’t get it out of my head that I am missing out by not doing a YouTube channel right now. What this ended up doing was that it took away my mental bandwidth from my writing. When I realized that it is literally impossible for me to start a YouTube channel right now without making some other sacrifice in my life, I finally let it go.

Don’t Make Promises Lightly

Maybe you have ideas in your head of where you want your life to go, and you tell yourself that you’re going to start doing this immediately. Before you do that, take a step back and ask yourself if that is right for you.

Occasionally, we have an inflated view of what our capabilities are and think that we can do everything. We see it in TV shows all the time with characters that manage to wake up at 5:00am, go to spin class, work for 12 hours and still have the energy to hang out at the bar with friends all while keeping their followers on their social media engaged.

These kinds of expectations for ourselves are not realistic, and we shouldn’t promise that we will do these kinds of things to ourselves.

If you’re having trouble keeping promises to yourself, start small. Make a promise to yourself that you know you can keep. Maybe it’s meal prepping for yourself once a week and then layering in something new until that promise becomes like a habit.

Forgive Yourself

Forgiving yourself of your past shortcomings is difficult, but important. I feel like we can treat forgiving ourselves like how a toxic partner would not forgive us for something minor we did. We use forgiveness as a bargaining chip to get us to do what we want.

This ends up backfiring as we build resentment within ourselves and decide to double down on what we are doing.

We have to forgive ourselves to move forward. There’s nothing we can do to change the past, but we can change our future. This isn't to imply that forgiveness isn’t going to come easy. You have to mean it first and back it up with action.

Build Your Credibility

When you build personal credibility, it’s a powerful thing. You will start to feel like you have superpowers in the field of discipline. Instead of being stuck in the resistance to start, you’ll be stuck in your momentum. Promises that you make to yourself will stick, and you’ll get usually make sure that every promise you make to yourself, you can keep it before committing.

Credibility isn’t earned overnight. You may have to spend months building your credibility back up. There will be a phase where you’ll start to fear that you’ll slip back into your old ways. This is a good thing. That means you’re making progress in the right direction, and you’re starting to enter territory that you haven’t been in.

What If You Don’t Build Back Your Credibility

I found that when I didn’t have any credibility with myself that my life started to feel devoid of meaning. This was because since my internal monologue was so flaky that nothing I told myself mattered.

If nothing you tell yourself matters, then what does matter to you? If you struggle to determine what is important and what matters, you’ll start to spiral into this mode that feels empty.

Breaking promises to yourself is a slippery slope to nihilism. It was a path that I felt like I was going down. Deep down, though, I knew that I had to turn it around and build back my personal credibility and find meaning in the things that mattered to me.

Our actions are guided by our thoughts, but our actions guide our subconscious. If these do not align, that is when we start to break down. No matter what you think of yourself now, see what you can do. Stop promising yourself you’ll do something that you know you can’t do.

It’s okay to dream, it’s another thing to keep letting yourself down over and over.