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  • Writer's pictureShay

Why do you reward yourself for having a shitty day?

Having a bad day and feeling shitty is not some special thing that you did, and by no means should it be rewarded.

There’s no doubt that emotions are behind most of our major actions in life. The way we feel influences every decision we make in a day, from hitting the snooze button versus waking up and tackling the day, to grabbing a pint of ice cream after a frustrating day at work. Put simply, emotions make us do things.

Now, of course there are several types of feelings, motivations and actions. While it makes sense that we are highly motivated to seek comfort and security through our actions, you might be doing yourself a huge disservice by opting for momentary comforts when you are feeling down. Perhaps you aren’t even aware that you’re doing it. Ten minutes of extra rest never hurt anyone. You’ll get to work on time either way. And that pint of ice cream, though you recognize it’s not the best choice, is not going to completely derail all the hard work you’ve put in at the gym. It will be ok. You NEED this.

Well… you might not like what I’m about to say. It’s not aimed at making you feel comfortable. In fact, I’d suggest that you spend some more time reveling in the discomforts of life. Why? A moment ago I talked about how emotions motivate us to do things. So what if negative emotions like stress, anxiety, and defeat, actually had a purpose in your life? What if, instead of giving yourself a pat on the back and saying “Hey self, it’s ok to fail, here’s a reward for failing and feeling shitty”, you were motivated by your failure to work even harder? What if you wanted to succeed so badly that failure was simply not an option? What if you realized that your time on earth is so limited that you couldn’t afford to waste another minute feeling sorry for yourself and rewarding ineffectuality?

I just threw a lot of questions at you, but the big one is this: How do negative emotions motivate you? Basically, there are two answers: You stand up, fight your heart out, and decide to win at any cost, not wasting a second. Or, you resign.

Now, you might ask, “What’s so bad about seeking comfort?” Plenty. There is plenty wrong with seeking comfort. But I’ll keep it simple with two major reasons:

  1. When you seek comfort, you invariably do so at the expense of life-improving actions. Comfort seeking behaviors are at direct odds with life-improving actions. Sure, you could hit the snooze button a couple times and gain 20 minutes of interrupted sleep. You could even choose to tell yourself that you deserve it, you need it, and that it’s self care. But what self care actually looks like is waking up on time, getting ready in a relaxed manner, and maybe taking some time to reflect on the upcoming day. You could spend a few minutes getting yourself motivated, rather than being in a frantic rush, because you wanted 20 more minutes of poor sleep. Craving comfort food when you have a bad day is also a great example of allowing yourself something directly in contradiction to self care. Indulging in a treat “because you deserve it” is not self care. It is exactly the opposite of the life-improving action of eating nourishing foods.

  2. Even worse than this, you might think you’ve relieved the root of your ills, but you have only practiced avoidance. Instead of facing and dealing with your negative emotions, you have buried them. In donuts. YOU HAVE BURIED YOURSELF IN DONUTS. AGAIN. You did not take the opportunity to let this challenge change you for the better. You did not become stronger, increase your mental resilience, or learn anything by seeking comfort in the face of adversity. You felt better in the moment, but you did not improve yourself in the long run.

Now, if you are one of those die-hard, “I will accomplish my dreams at any cost” kind of people, you know that defeat is just a part of some days. You take massive actions on a daily basis, and because you put so many efforts out there, some of them will fail. You will not, however, let that make you a failure.

But if you’re the “opt for a pizza and netflix binge” type, when you tried something, failed, and immediately gave up, maybe you need to take a good look at how you respond to negative emotions. Actually, not maybe. You definitely need to examine your motivations in life. Will you commit to change, and motivate yourself to unrelenting, passionate actions to get what you want? Or are you going to wallow in a pile of food garbage, as though despair were some kind of virtue to be rewarded?

You can figure this out the hard way, but I will save you some time and just tell you now: Despair is NOT a virtue. Having a bad day and feeling shitty is not some special thing that you did, and by no means should it be rewarded. Every person on this earth has horrible days, weeks, or even months. What separates the great from the mediocre is the action these feelings motivate.

Life is one great lesson, and it obliges us with many battles. It can be incredibly difficult to sit with negative feelings and just allow ourselves to feel them. But often this is exactly the course of action we must be motivated to take. When you are inclined to avoid uncomfortable feelings by engaging in comfort seeking behaviors, instead make the decision to examine what you are feeling and how you can grow from it. Remember, the purpose of an emotion is to motivate you to do something.

So are you going to wallow in self-pity, OR are you going to stand up and fight your heart out?

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