How do you deal with temptation? Do you need to remove all temptation from the area around you in order to avoid overindulging, or can you indulge in moderation? Do you deprive yourself, thinking that will solve your problems?
When I went to WDS 2013, I attended a presentation by Gretchen Rubin, author of NYT bestseller The Happiness Project that focused on different types of people and the ways that they need to experience the world around them in order to feel fulfillment, success, and happiness.
Learning about myself through her research, I’ve learned a few things. First, I’m a questioner with upholder tendencies, but I used to have more rebel tendencies. I need to know WHY I need to do something before I will do it willingly, and I like to have done the research to back up my decisions before I make choices. I also like to know the outcomes of situations – even when that’s not possible. (If you want to learn more about the different types of people, go buy Gretchen’s book The Happiness Project).
Gretchen also addressed the idea of temptation – specifically in terms of food, but this can be used to address any kind of temptation. Most people have characteristics predominantly in one camp or another: moderators and abstainers. Moderators can have a chocolate bar in front of them, only want to have 1/4 of it, and only eat 1/4 of it and feel happy and satisfied. Abstainers can only want to have 1/4 of that chocolate bar and suddenly have eaten the whole thing. Abstainers actually have tendencies that prevent them from enjoying things in moderation, and need to remove that temptation in order to abstain from giving into it. For abstainers, it might work better to have smaller, single-serving chocolate treats around, or to not keep chocolate in the house.
There is another type of person – the kind of person who feels that they need to deprive themselves in order to avoid giving into temptation. These people usually have tendencies of either moderators or abstainers, but believe that deprivation will make them happier than either other option. These are the people who look longingly at a piece of cake while hating themselves instead of either enjoying a small slice or removing themselves (or the cake) from the situation.
Moderating your indulgences and abstaining from indulging are different from deprivation. Deprivation is toxic. It makes you sad, and angry, and feel left out and excluded. It comes from a place of hate, rather than a place of self-knowledge. Deprivation is mean, and cruel, and tells you you can’t have something because you don’t deserve it, rather than choosing not to have it because you know your limits or choosing to enjoy a little bit and let that be that.
Rather than depriving yourself by making choices that come from a misguided sense of self-hatred, try learning about what kind of person you are and making choices that will offer you more delight. Deprivation is never the answer.