By Melina Filippidou
This week’s reflections are dedicated to bad habits, imperfection’s disruptive kids. The little things that make each one of us special and vulnerable. The distinctive behaviors that make people both fall in love with us and then want to break up with us.
I hate the term bad habits because I find it very inaccurate and misleading. First of all, most of the things we consider as bad habits are not even habits. The word implies that at a certain point in our lives we voluntarily started an activity which we practice on a regular basis and which we are able to quit at any time with small or big effort. Like toilet reading. The weird habit of reading about “how to get rid of those last 3 pounds” while you’re actually dumping about 6 pounds. But when it comes to things like smoking or gambling, the word habit seems arbitrary at best. It’s like calling an onion a fruit or like calling a gluten-free pizza a pizza or like calling your lover daddy. It’s just wrong. Smoking is an addiction, gambling is an addiction, and pretty much anything that’s mentally and psychically painful to quit is an addiction.
Unless it’s an OCD or some other kind of mental disorder, like nail biting. Yes, nail biting is not a bad habit either, trust me I know. I’ve been biting my nails since I grew teeth and there’s nothing I hate more than listening to people telling me “Why don’t you just stop it?” Oh my god, thank you so much! This is such a great solution to my problem, how did I never think of that?
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to free ourselves from the slavery that is any OCD, addiction or bad habit. I’m just saying that using the right terms is really important because not only they define the problem but they imply the proper solution as well. Swearing is a bad habit (unless one’s dealing with Tourette syndrome) that takes strong will and determination to break it. Alcoholism is an addiction that might require medical advice in order to quit. The irresistible urge to pull out your hair, aka Trichotillomania, is an OCD that probably demands a psychological therapy to get rid of. When we use the wrong term to define our problem, we engage with the wrong solution.
I guess we insist on underestimating our problems by simplistically labeling them as bad habits because we like the illusion of having more control over those issues than we actually do. Same reason we insist on going to vote every 4-5 years, fooling ourselves that this is the way to make a difference. And that’s ok. We’re only human after all. At least most of us are. But if we really want to break free from whatever makes us miserable, from Mary Jane to Theresa May, the first and most important step is to define our problem with the right words and to face it with the right attitude.