Promises are powerful. And when we make a promise to ourselves, it has a beautiful way of empowering us to transform our lives.
When I start working with clients, I ask them to make a personal promise to themselves. A pledge. A vow. I ask them to make a commitment to themselves to wholeheartedly embrace their health and healing so they can keep reminding themselves of this promise when life gets tough.
When I first decided to heal from anorexia and give up dieting forever, I made a simple promise to my body:
“Dear body, I promise to look after you for the rest of my life. Love, me.”
That meant no starving, no under eating, no bingeing, no excessive exercising, no obsessing over calories, no beating myself up about my diet or my body or my weight. It also meant nourishing myself with regular meals, staying active in a way that made me feel incredible, resting when I needed to, meditating, stretching, getting enough sleep and doing the things that showed my body I cared about it. And I have kept this promise to myself ever since.
Truthfully, I had been at war with my body for so long that at the beginning it was tough and there were times when I slipped back into destructive habits. But I always returned to my promise. And now looking after my body is the norm. And that’s what the research says too.
As humans, we’re simply not wired to do things that we don’t feel like doing. So, even if we know logically that bingeing isn’t going to get us any closer to the health and happiness we crave, there’s a good chance that if we’re feeling sad or stressed or angry and bingeing has become our go-to coping strategy, then we’ll binge anyway. Because logic doesn’t drive behavior, emotion does.
But promises are full of emotion. And meaning. And passion. And, according to a theory known as Personal Norm Activation, by making a promise to ourselves to act a certain way, we have cemented it as a personal norm – something that we see as a moral standard in ourselves. If we then think about doing something that means breaking our promise, it triggers this personal norm which motivates us to stick to our promise.
And there’s another psychological concept – Cognitive Dissonance, which shows the power of making promises. When we have made a promise to ourselves, that promise becomes a value. So, when our actions are misaligned with our values, we will feel uncomfortable and confused. So once we make this promise, our brain will work to maintain ‘cognitive consistency’ – where our actions match the values set out in our promises. For example, if you have made a promise to yourself to never binge again, never bingeing becomes a moral standard and one of your values.
And by keeping your promise to yourself, YOU are telling YOU that you are someone of value. That you can count on you. That you can trust yourself.
Creating a Promise List
Over the years, I’ve added to my original promise and created my promise list. You might find that you can relate to a lot of promises on the list so feel free to use this one and either add to it or create your own personal promise list. Write your promises down. Sign your name at the bottom. And put the list up somewhere you can see it. Repeat your promises daily. And if you ever forget about your promises and slip back to old habits, forgive yourself, come back to your promise list, and begin again.
My Promise List
- I promise to accept myself now and be patient with myself as I heal and grow.
- I promise to walk away from anything that causes me suffering.
- I promise to forgive myself for neglecting my body, my health, and my dreams for so long.
- I promise to let go of destructive habits that are holding me back.
- I promise to let go of the thoughts that don’t make me strong.
- I promise to never intentionally harm myself again. I promise to never diet again.
- I promise to never binge again.
- I promise to never starve myself again.
- I promise to never over-exercise again.
- I promise to never beat myself up over the way I look.
- I promise to never base my self-worth on how much I weigh. I promise to start facing my fears.
- I promise to wholeheartedly embrace healing.
- I promise to take responsibility for my life. I promise to embrace change.
- I promise to build my inner world rather than blame my outer world.
- I promise to live a life that feels true to me even if it isn’t what everyone else is doing.
- I promise to always look for the beauty.
- I promise to be kind and gentle with myself.
- I promise to fall in love with the little things.
- I promise to look after my body, mind and soul.
- I promise to make time for self-care.
- I promise to ask for help when I need it.
- I promise to help others when they need it.
- I promise to nourish myself with nutritious foods.
- I promise to keep active in a way that makes me feel incredible.
- I promise to work on my mental and emotional health in the same way I work on my physical health.
- I promise to believe in myself.
- I promise to let love in no matter how scary it may be.
- I promise to be fierce in following my heart.
- When I have healed, I promise to share the lessons I’ve learnt from my healing to help others heal too.