The Problem of Consistency

caged personThe internet is full of sage words about how important it is to be consistent, so that you can be successful. And it is true that to gain a new habit or skill, attacking it with dedication and consistency is probably necessary. BUT there are so many ways that being consistent can lead to trouble.

I mean, think about it, do you want to be consistently grumpy? or distracted? or finicky?

Do you enjoy being around people who take life seriously all the time?

I have recently realized (again) that there are people who feel a bit down one day, then feel that they must be consistent and also be down the next day. They fear being seen as moody or fickle. They are concerned that others will not take their complaints seriously if they are sometimes okay.

Sometimes they even build an identity and a group of friends that is consistent with misery. Misery DOES love company, but only if that company can help to maintain the right attitude and atmosphere for unhappiness.

I am not making fun of people in this situation. I know people who are trapped in a cage made from the expectation that sadness will always be their most powerful emotion.

But we know that this is just not true. Anyone who has been through the battles for mental health knows that there are moments when the problem just fails to show up. Something gets through to the funny bone and you laugh. Serenity creeps over you while you are out walking. You get lost in some positive action, maybe helping someone, and forget to be sad for a while.

We call these exceptions. And allowing them to happen is a big step forward toward mental health. They are like tiny vacations from the struggle, to be embraced and enjoyed, and invited as often as possible. They can be the thin edge of the wedge that slips in and gradually opens the door to freedom from depression.

Consistency gets dangerous when we feel like we have to pretend the exception didn’t happen, or we have to remind ourselves of something that makes us unworthy of even a brief vacation from pain.

It is very possible to be a respected person whose troubles are taken seriously, even if you are sometimes in the mood for singing along with the radio.

It may mean that you have to ask for help in words, and not just let your dark mood speak, but you can still get help.

Be inconsistent, and let people love you for it.

It’s part of being a real human. And it shows great character, because it takes humility and a sense of humour to look at your inconsistencies and shrug and smile.

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