I was recently listening to the audiobook of Breaking the Habit of Being Ourselves by Dr. Joe Dispenza and he got on the topic of vices.
Of course, being a practicing minimalist, this is always a topic that peeks my interest. Vices are something I talk about specifically in my Shopping Rehab course and is something I get asked about a lot.
Taking the time to uncover our vices – because as weird as it sounds, we sometimes don’t even realize we have them.
For a good portion of our lives, most of us are just showing up on autopilot, just kind of doing whatever feels fun or enjoyable in the moment and not taking the time to notice when our possessions or habits begin to possess us.
In this book, he talks about how a lot of times people won’t shake free from their vices or their habits until some traumatic event causes them to shake free. This is similar to a previous podcast I shared where I talked about the results I got after polling a group of minimalists on what it was that caused them to begin practicing minimalism. This is episode 9 if you want to go back and take a listen to it.
Otherwise, I’m just going to quickly sum it up:
A good portion of the people polled didn’t just decide to start simplifying. They didn’t just wake up and go, Ya know, I don’t need so much.
Most of them decided on minimalism after a tragedy, be it a natural disaster, the loss of a loved one, or fleeing from a toxic relationship with only what they could carry.
This holds true for me as well. Although it was more a string of consistent tragedies/awakenings that helped lift the veil from my eyes and made me realize that in the grand scheme of life, my stuff, my possessions weren’t at all important. And to really send the message home I also had to come face to face with the fact that I had repeatedly kept trying to improve my life or my happiness through STUFF – and finally had to face the fact that it never worked.
All I had were vices. Things in my life that brought me temporary distraction from whatever unhappiness was plaguing me at the moment. At the core of all of our vices, this is generally what we will find. An attempt to cover up a deep-seeded unhappiness that we simply don’t want to face.
In today’s episode, I want to share with you how you can start to uncover your vices, and how to work toward uncovering what problems are really lying beneath them and WHY you stuck with the certain vices you did for so long.
What is a vice?
So what is a vice really? First of all, I’m not going to be diving deep into the scientific, psychological side of things. That’s just really not my style. There are most definitely neurons that fire in our brain when we continually go back to our vices, but my brain is just not designed to retain that information and put it back together in a cohesive sentence.
Ultimately, it’s this: we learn that some external factor temporarily improves our state of mind. Our bodies get a rush of endorphins or joy from this vice and then they learn to keep coming back to it because more than anything our brains seek consistency.
What is actually totally bananas is that, even though I just said we get a rush of joy, not all of us will turn to vices that bring joy. We might turn to ones that bring chaos, or anger because this ultimately helps feed that consistency that we seek.
For example, oftentimes people who grew up in chaotic environments where the rug was alway being pulled out from under them, or they learned to live in survival mode. These might be the people who are always running late, saving projects for the last minute, or who constantly need something to complain or stress about. They have adapted to it.
Chances are you have heard about or know someone who continually goes into the same old toxic relationship. New person, same toxicity. Even though nothing good is coming from this, this might still be considered a vice.
So for the sake of getting to the bottom of your vices, take the time to ask yourself, what is it that you continually turn to because it offers a familiar result?
For me, my biggest one was shopping.
I would spend money so fast, it was almost like I was living in an alternate dimension. Like my mind would leave my body and just go into autopilot. Then I would come home, look at the hundreds of dollars of stuff I bought and sink into a pit of depression realizing I just had spent a lot of money that I actually really really needed.
This shopping addiction conveniently peeked after I had stopped seeing my dad and grandparents as much and perfectly coincided with me starting my first job, therefore getting my first paychecks. Which ultimately created a habit and routine that I would have to spend a lot of time and effort breaking.
Why shopping? Because that was how I learned to form connection and love with people in my life. My grandma would take me shopping. We would comb the aisles holding hands and she would buy me whatever I wanted.
My mom usually took me shopping when she was in a good mood – at a high point. Since she struggled with depression on and off most of my life, I LOVED being around her in these high moods.
My brain learned very quickly that shopping brough variety, connection, and a sense of significance when I would wear a new shirt and get compliments on it the next day at school.
We all have 4 basic human needs that we try to meet be it unhealthy or healthy ways:
And when we meet 3 of these 4 needs (even in unhealthy ways) we will find ourselves with a vice.
Shopping met my need for consistency in that I knew this strategy worked to elevate my mood, inconsistency because I could buy something new every time, importance from me being able to talk about or share my new items and love and connection by shopping with family or friends – or if I went by myself but was able to get complimented on a purchased item…I would feel loved.
Now, I could take my vice even deeper and say that SHOES specifically were a vice.
I did some digging into why shoes specifically were so important to me and it really went back to being a kid and wanting to be like the grown ups wearing high heels.
When my mom bought me high heels I sounded more important going down the halls at school, other kids would peek over their shoulders to see who was walking behind them. I got compliments on my new shoes and of course this made me feel important.
Without realizing it, this lead me to obsess over high heels as an adult woman. Heels make me important, heels make people stand up and take notice of me.
Now tell me…why would I feel like I needed heels to get this kind of recognition and attention?
Because ultimately, I didn’t believe I was capable of getting it on my own.
Because there are 2 other human needs we all crave but MANY OF US never actually meet:
* The need for contribution
* The need for expansion
We want to grow, we want to contribute to the world at large. We want to internally become new people, but doing those things take risk, it requires leaving our comfort zone and our vices.
Just about every person I have ever had a deep enough conversation with longs to contribute to the world at large. They want to help other people. They want to do something that matters.
But, just like I did, instead of taking the time to figure out what that is, we find little vices, like high heeled shoes, to give us a false sense of significance.
Recognizing your vices
If this calls to you, if you know you are someone who longs to truly do more with your time on earth, then it’s time to call out your vices.
When you are faced with a challenge or something that might expand you as a person, what do you fall back on?
Do you meet a healthy, respectful person who wants to date you and instead of going out with them you open up a box of old love letters so you can sit in your puddle of depression and sadness … PS our own depression and sadness gives us a sense of connection and significance. We feel attached to our pain and when we cry for ourselves or feel sorry for ourselves we meet that need for love and connection.
It’s ok, I would be lying if I said I hadn’t done something along these lines at some point in my life. But the thing is, it’s important to go, “Oh shit, I’m using this vice as a way to stop myself from actually growing.”
Do you turn to:
* Getting your hair dyed
All of these are vices OUTSIDE of ourselves that distract us from doing the real internal work that we need to grow and expand as human beings.
Even when I realized I was using stuff and shopping as a means to distract myself from doing the real work…I turned so much toward decluttering as a way to continue to distract myself from it. I would have a bad day, and declutter….then I got to a point where there wasn’t really anything left to get rid of and THEN….THEN I had to face it all.
And I have grown to love facing it all because each time I allow myself to sit with a negative emotion that I would have previously covered up, I am able to work through it and come out the other side feeling lighter and more free.
How to dive deeper
Here’s all it really takes to begin to know yourself and what your vices have been covering up:
* Get a notebook
* Recognize your energy shifts
* Acknowledge your desire for a vice and ask yourself what you’re distracting from
* Ask yourself why this is happening and where it came from
Use that notebook to dive in. You’d be surprised what your hand starts writing out. Sometimes talking out loud can be helpful as some of us are auditory learners.
You will most definitely feel resistance in diving into your inner self, but I promise you, this is the only way to really shake free from the external vices that we cling to – is to find out what we seek internally.
How to let go
How do you you even begin to let go of these vices?
Now, I won’t pretend that some of us will have a tougher time with addictions than the rest of us. We are all wired differently.
However, the last thing that will help you is saying, “I have an addictive personality, so there’s just no hope for me.”
This is simply a form of an excuse.
Something more along the lines of, “I know this will not be easy, and will take some adapting, but i am committed to changing and stepping into being the person I know I want to be.”
Start with what you believe you are capable of
If you want to be healthier or stronger, or a fitness model but are currently 100 pounds heavier than you want to be and the idea of losing 100 pounds feels overwhelming or impossible, then don’t focus on that.
Are you capable of walking 20 minutes a day? Commit to that then. Are you capable of eating one less piece of pizza than you normally do? Then commit to that.
For me, I wasn’t sure I would be able to stop shopping, so I stopped bringing cards with me to the stores. If other people went in, I would sit outside. I couldn’t say, “I will never shop again.” But I could say, “I can leave my cards at home and I can wait on a bench outside.”
Also…those things were still difficult. There would be times that I was tempted to give them my credit card number because I had it memorized, and sitting on the bench outside felt like a crime against my personality. But I stuck with it and now I could walk into a store with $8,000 and walk out without spending a dime.
Focus more on what you want that what you were
We could spend the rest of our lives staying stuck where we are or focusing on who we are or who we used to be or the things we’ve done wrong.
The one thing that will help you the most with shifting away from your vices and into your bigger state of existence is keeping your sites focused on that image of you.
Read books that inspire, watch movies about people who have done what you did, consume podcasts, follow people on social media who have proven what you want is possible and then cheer them on, celebrate this, allow yourself to FEEL the emotions of having all of these things.
In doing this you remind yourself during the times of struggle what your bigger calling is.
Lately, I have been focused on a trip that i want to take. When I think about going out to eat, or updating our house, I remind myself about that trip, I envision it in my mind. I think about how fun it would be to take and then I realize that all of those other things aren’t top priority, in fact they don’t even matter to me right now.
Sure, I’ll still go out to eat sometimes, I still want to update our house, but right now my sites are set on bigger pictures things that matter more to me.
In short, kicking a bad vice is done by focusing on a big calling, a deeper meaning and at first you will have to intentionally put a lot of energy into that focus, but eventually, I promise, your internal calling can become second nature, and what were once your vices will be a thing of the past.