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Aim for These Rational Default Settings


Our childhoods shape our default settings for interacting in the world whether we know it or not. How we’re treated or mistreated and the role models who surround us lay down a template for what we believe about ourselves and others. Make no mistake, we don’t get to choose what we think until we become aware how we’ve been programmed. 

Until you reset irrational, unhealthy default settings to ones which are rational and healthy, you’ll have a difficult time achieving well-being. Consider what might be wrong with your default settings regarding lovability, rights, and deservedness.

Lovability. An unhealthy default is thinking you’re lovable only when people love you, making your lovability dependent on their assessment of you. Therefore, you must always work hard to please and get their approval and never anger or upset them because then they’ll stop loving you and you’ll no longer be lovable. A healthy default is that you’re lovable whether or not others think so. You get to decide what qualities make a person lovable and then move ahead to develop them. You are lovable for your total self which includes strengths and weaknesses and positive and negative traits. 

Rights. An unhealthy default is that you feel an overwhelming need to prove to others that you have rights. Fighting against people telling you what to do—even when it’s in your best interest—is an overarching goal and you go out of your way to defend your rights. People with a healthy default know they have rights and don’t need to prove it to anyone, including themselves. For that reason, they rarely think about rights and make decisions by what’s best for them: asserting themselves when it’s in their interest and being happy and willing to take advice from folks who are wiser than they are.

Deservedness. An unhealthy default is when you believe you have to do X or Y to be deserving of happiness: eat clean, weigh less, act nice all the time, be productive, meet your goals, make gobs of money, or achieve success. You believe that deservedness is contingent on these things rather than it being independent of them. A healthy default is that you don’t need to do anything to be deserving except to be you. You deserve a cookie whether you’ve cleaned the house or done your taxes or not. Deservedness is besides the point. It has nothing to do with doing. Simply put, you were born deserving. 

Okay, so how many of you were socialized by your family into having unhealthy default settings? If you were, that’s not surprising. These settings underlie much dysregulated eating and body hate. Now that you know what’s healthy and what isn’t, it’s time to stay aware and reset your defaults so that they reflect the wiser person you are turning into.