Thumb-Sucking and the Art of Willpower

When I was little I used to suck my thumb. My mom told me that one day when I was 5, I decided I no longer wanted to suck my thumb and from that day on held my ground and quit a habit that had been part of me for years. I have a memory of this time; of being so steadfast in my belief that I would stop that I had to sit on my hands so I wouldn’t stick my thumb in my mouth. When I look back at that memory I am amazed that such a small child could break a habit by sheer force of will, all on her own.

These days, I look at that child and wish I had her willpower still.  I became so adept at sitting on my hands, so to speak, that I locked myself into the bad habits I have developed as an adult. I often confess that I eat too much sugar and this is a terrible habit I have wanted to break for almost a decade. When people say “That’s easy, just stop eating it!” I sigh, roll my eyes, and whine that it’s just sooooo hard!
It’s easy to use that as an excuse though, to justify a weakness because it seems to take more will than we have. Truth is, we have the will. It may be buried under a few decades of laziness and emotional turmoil, but it’s there.

Me and the infamous thumb, circa 1981-ish

The 5-year old me knew how to overcome these weaknesses with no excuses. The 35-year old me could learn a lot from her.


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