Pressure is a common occurrence in matters of health. We all feel the pressure to be “healthy,” and can be hard on ourselves when we fall short. It’s also tempting to pressure those we love into healthy habits.
In Finding Your Way to Change, Dr. Allan Zuckoff writes that pressure almost always results in resistance because it conveys this message:
There is something wrong with you. You’re no good the way you are.” And is with any other threat, we respond by trying to defend ourselves, by insisting we are not wrong, that our choices are not bad or mistaken and that our behavior is perfectly acceptable and nothing to feel ashamed of.
Pressure typically results in short-term change — doing something resentfully but going back to old habits out of rebellion. Think about it, how many times does pressure bring about the lasting change we all want?
Instead, Zuckoff discusses the importance of respecting autonomy and being supportive. He puts it this way:
All of us are also highly motivated to feel in control of our own actions and decisions. Although the need for autonomy is often confused with a desire to be left alone, most people want relationships that are close and autonomy-supportive — in which a parent, partner, or friend doesn’t try to be “the boss” but encourages us and helps us make our own choices.
Pressure: something is wrong with you/me
Encouragement: I believe in you/me
This week, let’s be mindful of the ways pressuring ourselves and those we love keeps us stuck in habits that don’t match our values. How can respecting autonomy and encouragement work to turn things around?