The Psychology Behind Self-control
Life Style

The Psychology Behind Self-control


The question of Who am I remains a vital part of the journey of every human being. It is the question that is inevitable even in most of the interviews- “ Describe yourself or tell us about yourself”. It remains a part of an individual’s growth. However, the adolescence stage is more pertinent to knowing who one is. All of us have certain views about ourselves: our likes, dislikes, abilities, strengths, weaknesses and the list goes on. Knowing what we are, our preferences and our aim will guide us and regulate our emotions and our lives.

There are different aspects of self: Self-concept, Self-esteem, Self-efficacy and Self-control. All of these are inevitable ones regarding self. This article will guide you through understanding self-control and its different psychological aspects.

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Meaning of Self-control

Self-control is the ability to control oneself. It can be defined as the ability to control or manage one’s impulses emotions or behaviour towards reaching their goals. It also includes the capacity of an individual to surpass one’s tempting desires over their regulation for the sake of one’s long
term goals.

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Types of Self-control

Self-control manifests in various forms. This includes Emotional Control, Impulse control and Behavioural or movement control.

  1. Emotional Control: This involves the regulation and management of emotions in an effective manner. This includes staying calm and composed even in terms of challenging situations. This kind of self-control is one of the toughest ones that an individual can acquire.
  2. Impulse Control: This involves resistance towards immediate desires or urges. Individuals when they have impulse control tend to make more thoughtful decisions and tend to delay gratification.
  3. Behavioural or Movement Control: Most often whenever we talk about Self-control, we mostly cover the control over our thoughts or impulses. But it does include the control over what we do. It includes refraining from certain aspects of impulses. The popular saying that reminds me of movement control is “You may not have control over the wind, but you can have control over the sail” simplifies it.

A few other types of self-control include Cognitive control, Social control, health and wellness control, goal-directed control and task-related control.

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Significance of Self-control

When an individual possesses proper self-control, it holds significant importance in various aspects of life. This involves the ability to have command over one’s thoughts, necessitating conscious decision-making. Furthermore, it contributes to the improvement of impulse control, enabling individuals to regulate and manage their emotions even in challenging situations. Self-control plays a pivotal role in enhancing decision-making skills, aiding in the clear definition of goals and objectives. Ultimately, it empowers individuals with the ability to forgo immediate desires for the sake of long-term benefits.

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Accocella and Calhoun (1990) have given five different aspects of Self-control:

  1. Behavioural Control: The ability to influence and modify unpleasant situations.
  2. Cognitive Control: The ability to analyze, understand and evaluate cognitive frameworks to modify undesirable thoughts.
  3. Decision Control: The ability to make decisions from the varying alternatives that would be accepted and believed.
  4. Informational Control: It includes the chance for an individual to learn about the varied stressful situations. The questions of when they will happen, why they happen and how aspects would help the individual forecast the futuristic aspects and reduce the level of stress.
  5. Retrospective Control: It is about making or understanding why certain things or events happened the way.

Characteristics of people with low self-control

People with lower self-control show specific traits. They might easily lose control, get irritated quickly, and feel more intense emotions. Completing tasks can be a challenge for them, and handling tough situations may not be their strong suit. These characteristics point to the difficulties that individuals with lower self-control face in handling their emotions and dealing with different aspects of their lives.

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Individuals with neutral self-control possess the ability to handle things calmly. They navigate average challenging situations with composure and balance. While People with high self-control have some key traits. They can predict problems, build good relationships, and even lead others. This ability to control themselves and guide others highlights their strong leadership qualities.

Marshmallow Test and Self-control

The most popular research in the field of self-control is the Marshmallow Test. This test began in the 1960s by Stanford University Professor Walter Mischel. This test was carried out in the USA, Brazil, Korea, Japan and many other countries. It was carried out among 600 participants of individuals aged 04 to 06 years. The test involves the following: “If a child would eat one marshmallow right now or two marshmallows after waiting for 15 minutes, which one would the child pick?”. Of the 600 participants, only 200 participants were able to wait for 15 minutes and get the reward of 2 Marshmallows. This tendency to wait and gain rewards is the main essential of self-control.

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Also, the test predicted that the individuals who were able to wait and gain reward tend to have the following characteristics shortly: would be well-behaved in school, would get high scores, healthier, and secure financially. The main reason behind the success or attributes these individuals would gain is because of their Self-control tendency. The capacity to wait or long for the long-term goal or success while not leaning forward for smaller or short-term goals would lead to the desirable outcome.

The understanding of self-control and its psychological aspects is very important in many aspects of our everyday life. It is one key element in weight management, control of addiction, and decision-making. Also, would help the individual face and overcome adversities and challenges. Self-control is a multifaceted and integral aspect of human behaviour. Understanding the complexities and different aspects of self-control would lead towards paramount growth and development. In a world that lacks attention and increased distraction, the ability of individuals to regulate emotions, thoughts, and behaviour would master them with resilience.

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