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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95 comments

Winn A
Winn Aabout a month ago

Thanks

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Caitlin L
Caitlin L1 months ago

thanks

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Ann B
Ann B1 months ago

heading for OCD..if not already there...weight and smoking are the 2 worst causes

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Euge L
Euge Lu1 months ago

thanks

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Kelsey S
Kelsey S1 months ago

Thanks

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Peggy B
Peggy B2 months ago

tyfs

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Hannah K
Hannah K2 months ago

tyfs

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Louise R
Louise R2 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Diane Wayne
Diane Wayne2 months ago

chhers

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Diane Wayne
Diane Wayne2 months ago

oops, cheers

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