The Underrated Virtue of Self Regulation

Adwait Abhyankar
6 min readMar 21, 2021
Self Regulation

Let's play a game. Close your eyes for a moment and think over this. Recollect all the activities that you did in the past 24 hours — the purpose of doing that could be anything-It could range from doing your professional work to watching a cricket match at the end of the day, it could be as significant as studying or as trivial as gossiping about the current state of affairs of the country on the dinner table. After making a list, glance at the activities you have noted and check if the activity you perform has a regulatory authority that defines the standard protocols set to be followed or which oversees & monitors that activity's overall functioning.

As humans, knowingly or unknowingly, consciously or accidentally, we have made regulatory authorities an indispensable part of our activities that we perform or the things that we do( purpose of doing could be anything and is irrelevant ).In the various spheres of our lives, humans tend to perform various roles- whether for earning a living or for entertainment. Name any activity that humans do, and you can easily name out the regulatory authority that governs that particular activity. For instance, cricket is followed by crores of Indians like a religion. Its regulatory authority is ICC(International Cricket Council). The degree that you hold has regulatory authority. An authority regulates the kind of job that you do. The movie that you watch is certified by the Central Board of Film Certification.(CBFC). Name an activity, and you will find a regulatory authority.

Every activity that we carry on passes the test of the rules or procedures set in by the respective regulatory authorities that oversee and streamline the overall functioning of that particular activity. But above all this, there lies the Supreme Regulator, cutting across all activities & all regulatory authorities, the biggest Self-Regulator perhaps unbeatable- The Human Brain. At an individual level, there is no bigger regulatory authority than the Human Brain & our mind which has the power to regulate the functioning of how we think and give command to our body to do the required activities.

This is where I bring the reader’s attention to the rare and underrated virtue of self-regulation. Self Regulation is the human mind’s ability to understand and regulate their own behaviour, thoughts and reactions to happenings around them. Perhaps it is one of the vital cogs that give shape in the making of any human personality. Our human mind is blessed with the power to self regulate our thoughts and behaviour. No regulatory authority, which could be a statutory authority created by legislation, can bypass the human conscience if used and followed in genuine letters and spirits. Such is the power of human conscience that can do wonders if utilised to its truest potential. How? Via Self Regulation.

(Note: Self Regulation is meant to be carried personally and not on an institutional level. This is NOT a comparison between regulatory authorities & Self Regulation on a personal individual scale. Comparison is not possible because of the very purpose for which they are made. Mere reference is used of regulatory authorities to highlight the power of self-regulation and its potential).

Self Regulation is facilitated by awareness about the Human Self that primarily reflects and answers the question of “ Who We are?”.A critical assessment of our own self is predominantly necessary to identify our behaviour and emotional reactions in a given situation, our personality traits, core beliefs and attitudes, what we like and don’t like about ourselves, what we might want to change in ourselves etc. However, it is a double-edged sword. Too much self-awareness or thinking about self can be counterproductive- with a high likelihood of negative thoughts hijacking our mind, in turn ending up with unwanted stress and possible disorders such as migraine or other depressive disorders.

Human Beings are social species. They socialize and cannot live in isolation from the rest of human society. This is where the need arises to have structured human behaviour regulating authority that regulates human behaviour and controls human reactions to different events in our social environment. Unlike playing cricket or doing your daily job, there cannot be any external third-party mechanism with the remote control or the power to control and regulate human behaviour or emotional reactions. It has to happen from within ‘The Self’, i.e. come from inside. It has to be self-regulated by the Human Mind. This is where the role of self-regulation is critical.

Being a good member of the social environment, in which we humans are a significant force to reckon, is conflicting. To cite an example of a cricket team, an individual debutant has to always make a hard choice between what is good for him (his personal milestone) and what is good for the team. 9 out of the 10 times, he will have to think what is good for the team or at least he will pretend to say in the press conferences that he doesn't care for his individual milestones but deep down inside, to set records straight, an ‘ individual milestone’ of scoring a century is bound to give him satisfaction and he would not waste an opportunity to score one. In that process where he becomes a little selfish, there are chances that the team might have to suffer for the time span in which he is nearing a 100 where he manages to lower the team scoring rate. This is where an inherent conflict arises where he has to make a hard choice between what is pleasant for him & the team.

In the above case, that person could easily be tempted to go for a personal milestone if he does not keep his emotions and thoughts under control. Self Regulation plays a crucial factor in making such calls. These are the calls directed from within the person, and that change can be felt by his team-mates easily. Self Regulation helps to keep emotions and thoughts under control, and the human mind can overcome the challenge of the web of thoughts.

Controlling oneself to think from the greater good perspective requires self-awareness of how one is thinking, behaving or feeling in that particular situation. The next step is the awareness levels and acceptance that violation of the set social norms is evil. Once people are aware & accept the fact that their mindset of thinking not in the team’s interest violates the group norms, the ability to reconcile the differences and altering their thoughts and emotions is vital. Self-regulation makes it possible to keep the mind flexible and improvise, adapt, evolve and respond as the situation demands.

Thus, Our Mind & Brain is the most powerful personal self-regulator in existence which keeps our behaviour, thoughts and emotional reactions under control. Without self-regulation, people can turn out to be emotional debris, going hammer and tongs upon the tiniest provocations or have an emotional outburst without even thinking of the potential damage that it can cause or its consequences by just reacting anyhow whatever feels good at that given point of time to their minds.

This is where the possible behaviour and personality traits of introverts and extroverts make things interesting. In a more likely scenario, Introverts are presumed to exercise self-control at least by the face value of it as their most likely reaction would be to go silent. On the other hand, extroverts would abruptly blurt out whatever comes to their mind in that given situation. Thus self-regulation becomes necessary in either of the scenarios to exercise supreme control over emotions. Emotional regulation becomes essential, which can be achieved by self-regulation.

Thus, this underrated virtue of self-regulation- a total of emotional regulation, regulation of behaviours and regulation of thoughts is highly critical for the overall making of any human personality. It is time that we understand the need and the power of self-regulation.

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Adwait Abhyankar

CA| Cricket Enthusiast| I write on Cricket, Travel, Pyschology, Wildlife, Economics & IR