Yes, You Can Have Too Much Self Control

Self control is generally a good thing, right? Countless classic characters—from Adam and Eve to Odysseus—have demonstrated the important value of self control throughout the ages.

Stanford’s infamous Marshmallow Study asserts that those with greater self control are more successful and better rewarded later on in life. In general, we are taught that self control is a virtue that we should all strive towards, that it is our greatest collective human strength.

Of course, some level of self control is essential in order for us to have a functioning society, but, as with anything else, you can have too much of a good thing.

When Self Control Gets Out of Control

According to a new study published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science, having too much self control may be just as problematic as not having enough.

While those lacking in self control are more likely to develop weight issues and perform worse at school and work, those with too much self control tend to bottle up their natural emotions and innate instincts in favor of appealing to a higher societal norm. And it can be incredibly harmful.

People with too much self control are more likely to have stress-induced health issues and severe bodily tension, be less in touch with their intuition, and appear more rigid and inflexible to others—not the portrait of a happy, healthy, and free person.

Those with hyper self control issues generally tend to be perfectionists. It can manifest in different ways, whether it’s excessive self control over food and exercise in an eating disorder or failure after failure in sexual relationships due to an inability to open up and act spontaneously.

It’s simply not healthy when someone tries to exert complete control over their instincts and urges all the time for some nonexistent supreme societal good. It hurts them—physically, mentally, and spiritually—in the long run.

Female doctor nutritionist and patient teenager

Balancing Too Little vs. Too Much Self Control

Having some flexibility in self control is crucial for getting us outside our comfort zones, expressing our creative instincts, and taking risks. From spur of the moment romantic getaways to deciding to indulge in that gorgeous slice of cake you spotted in a cafe window, we all need and deserve some flexibility in our willpower to make the most of life’s best and least expected moments.

In order to live in the now, we need to give ourselves a little bit of leniency. Having too much or too little self control is not healthy for anyone. So go ahead, indulge in a slice of cake once in a while and go do something unexpected. Find that balance. It’s good for you, and you deserve it.

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90 comments

Peggy B
Peggy B7 days ago

tyfs

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Hannah K
Hannah K11 days ago

tyfs

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Louise R
Louise R14 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Diane Wayne
Diane Wayne15 days ago

chhers

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Diane Wayne
Diane Wayne15 days ago

oops, cheers

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John W
John W18 days ago

Thanks

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maria r
maria r21 days ago

Thanks.

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Ruth S
Ruth S21 days ago

Thanks.

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Leo C
Leo C22 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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Amanda M
Amanda M22 days ago

Can't be helped-I'm a volunteer in a predominantly "male" area (volunteer firefighter/EMT), and as a woman in that area, I have to be tougher than the guys. To show emotion like crying or admit to being defeated by bullies, life kicking your ass, etc. is to show weakness, and to the guys, that's seen as a major liability. Being bullied and/or shunned by society at large at various points in my life has only reinforced that viewpoint because I do NOT want the bullies and haters to ever know they got the best of me. Hence Rule #1: Never let them see you bleed. (For a woman, crying counts-they're both a show of weakness.) Hence also Rule #6: Never let the bastards win! (By 'bastards,' I mean, bullies, haters, bigots, and anybody who wants to kick you down and make sure that you stay there.) They are both sound rules to live by, but I'll be the first to admit that there are times that they take their toll.

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