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Most people go through life never questioning the self-imposed rules they’ve placed on themselves. “I’m not the kind of person who does that.” “But this is how I’ve always done it.” “I could never do that.” We put limitations on ourselves and do it without even realizing it. We create rules for who we are and what we do and live our lives by them.
But what would happen if you started to break those rules? One by one, begin to push the boundaries of what you thought was possible. It’s scary, sure. But it’s also exhilarating and empowering. And it might just be the best thing you ever do for yourself.
Rules, rules, rules
My husband has always told me I have a lot of rules. And I’ve always laughed it off a bit…but he’s right. I am a self-proclaimed rule follower. I like order and predictability, and I generally don’t like to do things that are too far outside of my comfort zone. But a few years ago, I decided to start breaking some of my own rules. Just small ones at first. Things like staying up past my bedtime on a weeknight or NOT cleaning the house every single week.
But as I started to break more and more rules, I realized that I was becoming a more confident and self-assured person. I was no longer living my life based on the way I’ve told myself things should be done.
Now, I’m not saying that you should go out and break all the rules. That would be anarchy, and it’s not really my style. But I am saying that maybe, just maybe, breaking a few self-imposed rules could be the best thing you ever do for yourself.
What are self-imposed rules?
Self-imposed rules are the guidelines we set for ourselves, usually without consciously realizing it, that dictate how we live our lives. Often, these rules are based on our past experiences or the expectations of others.
Self-made rules are the personal boundaries we set for ourselves in order to make our lives easier. We all have self-made rules, though we might not be aware of them. Some self-made rules are harmless and even helpful, like always taking your daily vitamin with breakfast. Others might be more limiting, like never trying new things or always playing it safe.
And we all have self-imposed rules that we try to live by. Whether it’s a personal superstition or an OCD tendency, these rules are our attempt to gain control our world.
However, if we’re not careful, these same rules can begin to eliminate our free will. That’s why it’s important to take notice of them and challenge them from time to time.
But aren’t rules a good thing?
Yes, of course, rules are important. They provide structure and order in our lives. But self-imposed rules go beyond that. They’re the extra guidelines we create for ourselves that often don’t serve any real purpose.
For example, let’s say you have a rule that you always have to do the dishes before you go to bed. That’s fine, and it might even be helpful. But what if that rule starts to control your life? What if you find yourself avoiding invitations to go out because you don’t want to leave the house with a sink full of dirty dishes? That’s when self-imposed rules become a problem.
On the other hand, self-imposed rules can also be positive. If you have a rule that you always take time for yourself each day, that’s probably a good thing. This rule is likely to make you feel happier and more balanced.
The key is to be aware of the self-imposed rules you have in place, and to question whether or not they’re really serving you. Rules are meant to make our lives easier, not control them. So if you find that your rules are starting to do more harm than good, it might be time to break them.
Why do we have self-made rules?
There are a few reasons why we might create self-made rules. Often, they’re a way to gain control over our lives or to make ourselves feel safer.
A lot of times, these rules come from our upbringing. We carry the things we were taught as children into our adult lives, even if they no longer serve us. For example, if you were raised in a household where everything had to be done a certain way, you might find yourself following those same rules as an adult. Even if they’re not helpful, they’re familiar and comfortable.
Or, self-made rules might be a way to protect ourselves from getting hurt. If you’ve been burned in the past, you might create a rule that you never get too close to anyone emotionally.
In some cases, self-made rules are simply a matter of habit. We might do something a certain way because that’s the way we’ve always done it, even if there’s no real reason for it.
Whatever the reason, self-made rules can often be helpful. But as with anything, there can be too much of a good thing. If self-made rules are starting to control your life, it might be time to break them.
How do self-imposed rules limit us?
Self-imposed rules often prevent us from living our best lives. They can hold us back and keep us from trying new things or taking risks.
For example, self-imposed rules around food can make us miss out on new and interesting experiences. If you have a rule that you always have to finish your plate, you might find yourself overeating even when you’re not hungry.
Self-imposed rules can also prevent us from taking risks and pursuing our dreams. If you have a rule that you never want to fail, you might find yourself avoiding new opportunities.
Or, self-imposed rules around relationships can keep us from forming meaningful connections with others. If you have a rule that you never let yourself get too attached to anyone, you might miss out on the opportunity to have a deep and lasting relationship.
Why should we break our own rules?
There’s no reason why we should feel bound by self-imposed rules, but they can be so ingrained, that we don’t even notice them. Here are a few reasons why you might want to consider breaking your self-made rules:
1. To live more fully:
Self-imposed rules often prevent us from living our best lives. If a rule is holding you back, it might be time to break it.
2. To take risks:
Self-imposed rules can prevent us from taking risks and pursuing our dreams. If you’re missing out on opportunities because of a self-imposed rule, it might be time to break it.
3. To form meaningful connections:
Self-imposed rules around relationships can keep us from forming meaningful connections with others. If you’re not able to have the types of relationships you want because of a self-imposed rule, it might be time to break it.
4. To be more spontaneous:
Self-imposed rules can often make us miss out on new and interesting experiences. If you’re not able to enjoy life because of a self-imposed rule, it might be time to break it.
5. To feel more free:
Self-imposed rules can often make us feel like we’re in a prison of our own making. If you want to break free from self-imposed rules, it might be time to break them.
Of course, not all self-made rules are meant to be broken. Some of them exist for a good reason and serve a purpose in our lives. But if there’s a self-imposed rule that’s been holding you back, don’t be afraid to try breaking it.
How to break the rules: Tips for challenging your self-imposed rules
1. Notice your rules
The first step is to become aware of the self-made rules you’ve been following. Pay attention to the things you say to yourself and the way you behave. If you find yourself thinking, “I can’t do that because I’m not the kind of person who does that”, then that may be a self-made rule you need to challenge. If you find yourself thinking, “I have to do _____ this way, because this is the only acceptable way”, then that’s another self-made rule you need to challenge.
2. Question your rules
Once you’ve become aware of your self-made rules, it’s time to start questioning them. Why do you have this rule in place? Is there a good reason for it? Where did it come from? Is it serving a purpose, or is it just holding you back?
3. Create rule-breaking challenges.
Once you’ve identified a self-made rule that you want to break, it’s time to create a challenge for yourself. For example, if you have a self-made rule around food, your challenge might be to eat something new once a week for a month.
If you avoid cracks in the sidewalk, walk on them intentionally. These small challenges will help you begin to question your rules and see that they might not be as set in stone as you thought.
4. Be patient with yourself
Breaking self-made rules can be uncomfortable and scary. It’s important to go at your own pace and to be patient with yourself. If you find yourself feeling anxious or overwhelmed, take a step back and reassess your challenge. Make sure it’s something you’re truly ready to do. And remember, there’s no rush.
Allow yourself time to adjust to the new rule-breaking behavior. If you find that breaking your own rules is scary but also a little freeing, then you’re on the right track!
5. Be open to change
Once you start breaking your self-imposed rules, be open to the possibility of change. Breaking the rules can lead to new and unexpected experiences. It can also lead to personal growth and development. If you’re open to change, you’ll be more likely to embrace the new and exciting things that come your way.
Allow yourself to experiment and find new ways of doing things that work better for you. Be open to the idea that your self-made rules might not be the only way to do things.
Breaking self-made rules can be a liberating and empowering experience. If you find that a self-made rule is no longer serving you, don’t be afraid to break it. It might just be the best thing you ever do for yourself.
When it comes to self-imposed rules, it’s important to be honest with ourselves about why we’ve put them in place. If they no longer serve a purpose or are getting in the way of our happiness and goals, it might be time to let them go. As long as you’re doing it for the right reasons and you’re honest with yourself and others, breaking your own rules can help you live a fuller life. What are some of the rules you’ve been wanting to break? How will you go about doing it?