I confess that I am part of the #treatyoself generation.
No doubt thanks to the impact of both social media and consumerism on our culture, it’s pretty common for my friends and I to go out for that coffee and chocolate cake, or buy that beautiful dress, or binge watch Netflix for hours on end, all in the name of treating ourselves, and rewarding ourselves for our hard work.
After all, millennials are also the people who apparently will never own a house because every weekend we buy avocado on toast for brunch (#treatyoself after a hard week at work, am I right?).
The problem with #treatyoself is that it becomes a pretty easy excuse to do something that we know we shouldn’t, and then we do it over and over again. While you could argue that #treatyoself at its core is meant to be about self-care and being kind to yourself, what if being disciplined and denying yourself was actually better for you?
I’ve been thinking a lot about discipline over the past few months as one of the things that I’m really aiming to do. Over the next few years I’ll like to intentionally build good rhythms, habits and foundations that will see me well into the future.
These are things like being a good steward of my body by eating healthy and exercising, and investing into my relationship with God by reading the Bible and spending time in prayer every day.
As someone who struggles with anxiety, I’m also aiming to reduce my sugar and caffeine intake, and spend time doing meditation and exercise to help with my symptoms.
These little daily disciplines are all good things to aspire to, but they don’t fit the #treatyoself mentality that my generation has grown to love. To actually put these practices in place, I’m required to deny myself something.
Like deciding not to order that cup of coffee at lunch. Going to the gym instead of watching tv. Eating some nuts instead of a cinnamon scroll when I’m hungry at work. Or buying the cheaper bar of soap that smells exactly the same as the designer brand at a quarter of the price.
These are not one-off sacrifices though; these are daily and intentional decisions of denial and discipline.
Don’t forget self-control
Self-control does not exactly come naturally to me, possibly because #treatyoself has been well and truly engrained in me and my generation, and so I’ve been struggling a little bit with this new disciplined life thing. I mean, even though self-control is one of the fruit of the Spirit, it’s not exactly the most glamourous one, is it?
If we’re really honest, self-control is the one at the end of the list that we always forget, unlike love, joy and peace, and it’s not usually the first thing we pray for. And yet, self-control is crucial. A life without self-control can spiral out of control pretty quickly.
It might seem nice and fun in the short-term to do whatever you feel like, all in the name of treating yourself. But if left unchecked, a lack of self-control and discipline can cause big issues in the long-term, whether that’s an unhealthy mind and body, crippling debt, or a harmful addiction.
The way to life
Matthew 7, verse 14 says, “ and this has really captured my mind for 2019. I can’t just cruise along with a #treatyoself mentality, thinking only of myself and what I want now, and expect to lead a God-honouring life in the long-term.
God calls us to steward the things he gives us, whether that be our health, our money, our work, or our relationships with family and friends. All of these things in one way or another require us to deny ourselves, to make sacrifices, to show self-control, and to be disciplined.
This isn’t something that just happens; it requires our total attention. It might sound a bit boring, but it’s also the way to life, and a life that is promised to be one in all its fullness. I’m trusting that by focussing on leading a life of discipline now in the short-term, the life ahead of me will be all the better for it.
Rebecca Howan is from Wellington, New Zealand, where she works as an Executive Assistant in the humanitarian sector. She worships and serves at The Salvation Army, and is passionate about music, travelling the world and building community.
You can read Rebecca’s previous columns at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/rebecca-howan.html