Self-sabotage is probably the ultimate bad habit.
There are most likely more delicate ways to explain it, but the bottom line is this. When you sabotage yourself, you are not only your own worst enemy, but you are basically screwing yourself over.
So you desperately want to get that report finished because it will help you get your promotion, but you just.can’t.stop watching Netflix.
You are on another diet, but when you clear the dishes you can’t stop yourself from polishing off the pizza crusts that the kids left.
It’s one of the most important meetings of your career, and not only have you overslept but you spilled coffee all over your jacket and your shoes still need to be cleaned.
Why do we continue to behave in ways that impact our ability to live a fulfilling life?
Perhaps the short answer is that it is mostly an unconscious response to fear and anxiety. It could be a defence mechanism that we employ to keep us safe (even if we get it wrong).
Even if you want to stop your self-sabotaging behaviors, knowing that you are doing it, is not always enough to help you stop.
It requires us to go a little bit deeper, to be honest with ourselves and to understand our patterns and triggers.
Examples of self-sabotaging behaviors
While it shows up as different things, the result is always the same: self-sabotaging keeps us from achieving our goals and from living the life we want.
I’m no stranger to self-sabotaging. I can answer yes to more than a few things on this list. Maybe you recognize a some too.
I believe it’s possible to start to take back control when we see the limitations that our self-destructive behavior puts on us.
- Blaming others for your situation in life
- Making excuses why you can’t change or do something different
- Complaining about what your life looks like, but not doing anything about it
- Feeling powerless to control compulsive behaviours
- Being unreliable and letting people down
- Doing things even if you know it is bad for you
- Procrastinating and then losing opportunities
- Being habitually late and having to rush everywhere
- Never following up on things and then losing out
- Constantly having negative feelings about yourself and others
- Not achieving the goals you set for yourself
- Not even setting goals because, why bother?
- Constantly comparing yourself to others and either feeling inferior or superior
- Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs
- Having internal conflicts or constantly picking fights
When you are deep in the claws of self-sabotage, it can feel as if you are drowning in your own life. You might feel as if you are *just trying to survive* and keep your head above your debt, mess, clutter, conflicts
Some reasons for self-sabotaging
It’s delightful that we are so complicated as humans. Imagine how bland life would be when we were all little robots, all functioning in the same mind-numbing way?
We are so beautifully layered that you can’t package the reasons we continue to defeat ourselves into a simple explanation.
So here are some multi-layered and intertwined reasons why we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot.
1. We fear failure
It is easier (and safer) to not even try, than to try your best and fail. Or maybe to only try for a little bit, and then to give up before you can reach our goal. For when you fail after you have tried your best, it will only confirm your worst fear, that you are not good enough.
2. Imposter syndrome
We are afraid that people will find our that we are not who we say we are – that we are not really as talented, or knowledgeable or able as we seem. So, we give up, or cause ourselves to fail before they can catch us out.
3. Not feeling worthy of success
This is possibly what underscores most of our bad habits, bad choices and self-sabotaging actions. If you don’t see that who you are right now is GOOD ENOUGH, and will ALWAYS be good enough, you will continue to believe that you don’t deserve success.
How to stop the cycle of self sabotaging behavior
When you want to build new
What? I’m telling you that I’ll show you how to stop sabotaging yourself, and in the next breath I’m telling you it’s going to be challenging.
If you have tried to change your habits before, you will know that it not easy. You need focus and commitment and discipline to build those new neural pathways ON PURPOSE, whilst your automatic behavior tries to interfere.
But, there is some good news too!
Think about when you learnt to ride a bicycle. Was it easy? How long did it take you before you could balance?
Building good habits is like riding a bicycle. Once you get the hang of it, it gets easier and easier.
4 steps to stop self-sabotaging behavior
The path to any personal chang
When you develop awareness around self-defeating behaviors, you empower yourself to change it.
Start by looking for triggers, cause and effect behaviors and a pattern of negative thinking. Using a journal to track your thoughts and actions is a useful way of keeping record, and picking up triggers.
1. Overcome self-doubt
Our inner critic can be particularly mean and condescending. In a misguided attempt to protect us from hurt, it instead makes us doubt ourselves. Sometimes our inner critic can be viscous, making us believe that we are not lovable, and consequently not deservable.
If you want to reduce the impact and power that a mean inner critic has on you, you must challenge it, and consciously choose to send loving and supportive messages to yourself.
Try this: see if you can isolate the voice of inner critic. When you start paying attention you might notice you have more than one *voice*. The voice of your inner critic, the voice of your (moral) conscience and the voice of your conscious thought stream.
Your inner critic might say things like you shouldn’t try because you’ll just mess it up or that is just so typical you idiot or nobody likes you. For fun, try turning down the volume of that voice and see how it makes you feel!
2. Set healthy boundaries
Our boundaries are psychological guidelines we create to show others (and ourselves) how they can treat us, and speak to us.
Part of the residue I still carry after looking for approval from others for most of my life, is that I don’t always have strong boundaries.
I still sometimes experience people acting inappropriately or making me feel uncomfortable, and that is my alarm bell that says I need to relook at my boundaries.
When you often find yourself overwhelmed or having too much on your plate, it might also be a sign that
Start paying attention to how you are feeling or reacting to situations, and develop awareness around your internal triggers to help you set healthy boundaries.
3. Stop regretting (or living in) the past
Many of us live with our bodies in the present moment and our heads in the past. We look at our past either with rose colored glasses (everything was better then) or we get stuck there with regret (if only I did/didn’t…)
Here’s the thing, when we live in the past like that we are passive in our lives, in our actions and in our intent.
We are stuck in our comfort zones, and will continue to sabotage ourselves so that we don’t need to change. This is a particularly hard habit to break, because we slide into autopilot thinking so easily and don’t even realize we are doing it.
What is done is done, and the one power you have, is to decide how you will create your day (and your life) right now.
4. Stop procrastinating
A sneaky procrastination trap is when you really want to start a new habit, or stop a bad habit and you say “I’ll start tomorrow”.
It’s weird how we think that we need a clean slate to start off right and to make something work. We either go for the first day of the year, or the first day of the month, or the first day of the week.
This all-or-nothing thinking adds fuel to the fire in the form of self-sabotaging.
So you slip up and have a piece of chocolate while on diet. So what? See if you can consciously choose to not eat another piece, and don’t fall into the trap of breathing down the rest of the chocolate with the promise that you will start again *tomorrow*.
Try this for fun, instead of waiting for tomorrow, start on the next hour.
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Believe in yourself
More than anything, when you become intentional in your choices and actions, it is possible to completely change your life.
We make the mistake of thinking change is complicated.
It is not actually. Just start small, be intentional and willing, and most importantly, have compassion for yourself on your journey.