Self Control and Self Development

Self-control and self-development are integral to each other. One cannot exist without the other as each one plays a complementary role to the other. Self-control helps in self-development while self-development aids the improvement of self-control.

This is akin to the chicken and egg situation, which came first? The chicken who laid the egg or the egg that cracked to expose a chicken. The debate is endless and so is the case with self-control and self-development. Which comes first? The argument can continue, as there is no right or wrong answer. However, the best explanation would be that both self-control and self-development go hand–in-hand, aiding each other at every step.

Some people may propound the theory that self-development comes before self-control as a certain amount of mind and body development is required to be able to assert self-control. This is true in some cases as maturity is an important ingredient of self-control and this maturity happens with age. Usually, the more the person develops, the greater is the maturity he/she attains. However, it must be noted that ‘developed’ here refers not to physical development but to emotional and psychological development. Just because a person has grown tall (‘developed’), it does not mean that he/she has become mature.

Just as children go through several stages of physical development until they become adults, their minds and emotions develop as well. From infants to toddlers, their growths are indicative through height and vocabulary, but with an absence of any form of self-control or discipline. Their motor skills are more advanced than their mind skills and expression capabilities. However, as toddlers enter the adolescent phase, they start learning the differences between appropriate things and inappropriate ones, and slowly begin to be told that self-control needs to be utilized in their behaviour and actions. However, self-restraint is still not completely understood, as they are unable to control their emotions. Self-control, in its true sense, emerges once adulthood is reached and the person becomes an individual who is responsible for his/her own actions and, therefore, must act with restraint.

Apart from this child to adult development phase, adults too go through periods of self-development. This can be categorised as self-learning that happens throughout one’s life. Every occasion and incident in life will have a lesson to be learnt. Each new day brings forth a basket of events (some happy, others unpleasant) that an individual needs to live through. Tackling these incidences to the best of one’s ability marks progress in self-development.

An associated area is that of self-discipline, which means to exercise strength of mind and will. This cannot happen overnight and must be slowly taught to oneself. Discipline is an art that has to be developed at a steady pace until it is ingrained within an individual. A highly disciplined person is one who can use self-control effectively to restrain his/her behaviour, thoughts, and actions whenever needed.

It should be remembered that self-development does not mean self-control, and that the two cannot be used interchangeably. The latter is a minor part of self-development. Self-control means exercising restraint on actions and words, while self-development means improving one’s capabilities and enhancing self-potential through self-analysis and progress. Simply put, self-control refers to controlling oneself whereas self-development pertains to ‘growing’ (not literally but figuratively) oneself.

In some interpretations, self–control may be understood as a negative, since it pertains to control (even though this control or restraint may have a good outcome); while on the other hand, self-development is always perceived as positive. However, just as magnetic fields work on the principle of ‘opposites attract’, so do self-control and self-development; both of which lead to a strong state of mind.

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