You’ve been taught to keep your commitments and to not break a promise. You probably go out of your way to make sure you don’t let someone down, but not if that someone is you. If you make promises, set goals or intentions for yourself, they are often the first to go when things get busy. Why is this? Let’s talk about why breaking promises to yourself is damaging, and how to actually keep them.
The Consequences of Breaking Promises to Yourself
More often than not, a promise you made to yourself has the purpose of bettering you in some way. Maybe it’s starting to run in the mornings, making time to read, having coffee on your porch in quiet once a week, or getting a massage because you never do anything for you. There’s a reason why you made the promise, whether it’s for health, sanity, or pure joy!
Think back to a time when you were stood up by someone. You felt sad, hurt, unimportant, and disappointed in the person who canceled on you. Whether or not you sit in these emotions when you break a promise to yourself is up to you, but you can’t deny their existence. You, often unconsciously, start to view yourself as unreliable, flaky, and believe the narrative that you aren’t important and worthy of this time for you. Eventually, you start to view every goal or commitment you make for your improvement as optional.
Studies on cognitive dissonance show that when people’s actions and beliefs don’t line up, they usually change their beliefs to match their actions. You may be slowly but surely telling yourself you don’t matter and don’t deserve the time you’ve tried to set aside.
The Benefits of Keeping Promises to Yourself
For starters, keeping the commitments you made means you get to do those wonderful things you planned! You will benefit from whatever life-giving thing you promised yourself you’d do! Not all promise-keeping is fun in the moment, but you wouldn’t have made the promise unless it would eventually bring you some type of benefit.
It also boosts your confidence and reminds you that you are valuable and worthy of this self-care. Studies show that keeping a promise to yourself helps you feel strong and confident, and boosts your productivity and happiness! This is a powerful way to live.
And let’s not forget that filling up your own tank allows you to have more to give to others. I’ve met some of the most sacrificial, generous women while running The Fit Tutor. If that’s how you want to live your life- great! You’re an inspiration! But don’t neglect filling up your tank. You can’t really give much to others while you’re running on fumes.
Try Treating Yourself Like You Would a Friend
We understand our integrity is compromised if we blow off a meeting and plan accordingly. A friend will consider you flaky and unreliable (and not a good friend) if you ditch her a few times. Repeatedly canceling plans last minute will eventually get you off the invite list. Why are these things not taken into consideration when we blow off the commitments we’ve made to ourselves? How would things change if you viewed promises to yourself on the same level as commitments made to another?
Start by viewing commitments to yourself as high importance. Apply the same rules that you would to showing up to a work meeting or plans with a good friend. For plans with others, you keep commitments, plan for and around them, and they have high priority in your schedule. This is true usually whether we want to do them or not.
Stop acting like you aren’t as important as another, or taking care of yourself is a luxury that can wait. Treat you like the wonderful human you are and value the commitments you made to yourself. This will boost your self-confidence and lead you towards the life you want to live. You literally cannot get away from yourself or your body! It’s time to pour into who you are and what you need. Your family and friends will benefit as well!
Tips on How to Actually Make This Happen
Plan to fulfill your promise like you’d plan for any other set of plans, commitment, meetings, etc. Schedule it in, plan for and around it, block that time off, and show up for yourself. Consider this time sacred, and do it no matter what. If your promise is to get in better shape, you can be sure at some point you won’t feel like working out. But just like you put one foot in front of the other to get to your dentist appointment, you do the same for your workouts because you know the payoff will be worth it. You are worth it.
Practically speaking, think of your promise like a SMART goal. Make sure it’s something that’s specific and actionable. Instead of committing to “make time for myself” or “get in shape,” say something like “I will set aside 2 hours a week to go to the coffee shop to write” or that you will “get up 30 minutes early to exercise twice a week.” Whatever it is, make sure your promise is something that if you told another person, they’d know exactly what you were doing!
Speaking of telling someone else, do it. Find a safe person and let them know of your newfound promise-keeping lifestyle. If you’re interested, ask them to keep you accountable or to ask you how it’s going every so often.
Making sure you have the resources or skillset to actually fulfill this promise is important, too. If it’s not actually possible, you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s OK to start small! If you’re a habitual promise-breaker to yourself, start out with something doable, but slightly challenging. For example, start with walking two times per week instead of committing to run a marathon right away!
You’re The Best
You are, and it’s up to you to treat yourself accordingly. Consider this a non-negotiable investment in yourself that will not only benefit you, but everyone you interact with! Taking time for yourself is wise, healthy, and life-giving – not selfish. If you’re not sure where to start, think of a promise you’ve broken in the past, or something you’d like to do, and find out what’s reasonable to shoot for. And bring a friend along for the journey!
I’d love to hear what promise you want to keep to yourself! Post in the comments!