I was reading a great blog post about societal barriers to breastfeeding, and it got me thinking about habits, perseverence, willpower and identity.
In many ways, I am not a very self-disciplined person. I’m not that gal who decided to wake up at 5:30 am, change the way I eat, workout daily etc. and have it go easy-peasy. In fact, I still struggle with many MANY things I would like to change about myself. However, despite this, I *have* made major changes in my life – and they didn’t come about because I bullied myself. I wake up without an alarm clock at 6am every day. I no longer oversleep. I have eaten all-raw for months at a time. And, what prompted me to think of this, I breastfed for six and a half years over the course of two children. It wasn’t “easy” at first – in fact, with my second it was even harder than the first time, and I had thrush and pain and OUCH for weeks. Depite that, I stuck with it. The thought of switching to formula never crossed my mind. Why? Many many women drop breastfeeding when they run into difficulty. I don’t think I have any stronger willpower than they do – in fact, I often have less! So what made the difference? I think, more than anything else, it was identity and belief. I *knew* I could do this, absolutely, and never had any doubt about it. After all, women had successfully nursed countless generations previous or we humans wouldn’t even be here, and I knew the problems I was having weren’t “big” in the grand scheme of things. It helps that I have always been a very physical person. Dance is one aspect of that for me, and definitely helps that “my body does what I tell it to” feeling, but also I am VERY touch-oriented. I am very grounded in my body, and I knew “mothering” would come naturally to my body given time. Now, I also had a good amount of support from my family, my then-husband, my mother had breastfed (not exclusively), and I had done a lot of research, which helped me know what issues I might run into and how to deal with them. But mostly, anything other than the boob (and later pumping at work) was just not even visible to me. Formula may as well not have existed, for all I thought of it. (Of course, the fact that I don’t read magazines or watch TV probably helped in that I didn’t see any forumla advertising!)
So how else as that worked for me? I’ve written before about my need to make habits easy – in fact, to make them THE easier choice – due to my inherent laziness, but I’m not always great about doing it. However, those are changes I have thought about and try to implement. Breastfeeding wasn’t like that – it was part of my identity. I think when I did the raw food thing, it ended up working the same way. It just became this *thing that I do* – but not quite enough of my identity was invested in that, because later it became easier to let it slide for outings, and then I lost my grip on it altogether. Waking without an alarm clock definitely worked that way. I think it came about during my brief flirtation with 20-minute-naps-polyphasic-sleeping, and all of a sudden I just…woke up on time. Every day. And now? It’s been that way for over a year. It’s become part of “who I am”. I remember when it first started happening, I realized that if I *did* set the alarm, I would sleep through it. I actually functioned better *without* the alarm clock. And I thought “OK, this is kind of weird”…but I also just kept saying to myself “it’s this thing I do”. I felt even in the beginning that if I thought of it as a quirk of “being me”, I would be able to “keep” that skill.
I’m not really sure where I am going with this post – it seemed as good a start back into blogging as any – but I suppose it is “How do I identify myself?” And, if there are changes I want to make, how can I change how I *view* myself differently, how can I believe that I am the kind of person who keeps a clean house (for example)? Because I’m pretty sure at this point that that’s where I have to start for any lasting change.