I’ve been thinking about the idea of self-sabotage lately, as it is something I find myself accidentally engaged in all the time. As I thought about it more, and why I do it, I realized there are many people who are affected by the suffocating clutches of self-sabotage. There are ways I think we can break through this cycle, mostly involving mindset shifts, which although doable, can be very difficult.
Before we talk about how to overcome self-sabotage, let’s talk about the TWO main reasons why we are doing it.
1- Fear. We fear that once we engage in the positive behavior (working out, eating healthy, waking up early, giving ourselves truly meaningful and restful downtime) we won’t actually feel better. Or, if we do feel better, we are afraid the positive feelings won’t last, so basically...why bother?
Have you ever felt this way?
-You want to take some quiet time to read a book you know you’ll love but you convince yourself you won’t have time (so you don’t make time.)
-You want to start that morning workout habit but you tell yourself you won’t be able to maintain it and eventually you’ll feel frustrated with yourself, so why start?
-You want to start that awesome (and maybe kinda crazy) business idea you thought of to make lots of money but you talk yourself out of it and remind yourself how dumb it is before you can even start researching.
All of these reasons for not doing these positive things or behaviors is FEAR.
Fear that there’s never enough time.
Fear that you’ll never actually change for the better.
Fear that you will be judged or outcast from your peer group.
Fear is a very real emotion that is usually based in completely fictitious way of thinking. Have you ever heard the famous Mark Twain quote, “I’ve experienced a great many troubles in my life, most of which never happened.”? Most of the negative consequences or bad circumstances we dream up don’t actually happen. The scary thing is, most of these fearful thoughts are subconscious. We don’t even realize we are thinking them but somehow they sneak in and wreak havoc on our would-be happiness.
The most important thing you can do for yourself to get out of this self sabotaging way of thinking and behaving is to realize it is FEAR holding you back. Not you. Your fears are not who you really are and not what you really believe. It’s cheesy, but have you ever heard what FEAR stands for? False Expectations Appearing Real. The way to identify you are living with fearful thoughts is to ask yourself the question, “Am I truly happy and doing the things I want to do and achieving what I want to achieve right now?” If the answer is no, it is likely fear is holding you back.
And the second reason we self sabotage...
2- We feel we don’t actually *deserve* happiness, love, peace, wealth, connection, or time to ourselves.
Be honest with yourself. When thinking about taking some down time to do something that you purely want and love to do; do you just do it? Do you do it and feel guilty about it? Or do you not do it because you’ve told yourself you didn’t do enough to “earn” it.
I know I am guilty of doing this all the time. I really want to go for a walk or bike ride and enjoy the sunshine, but I talk myself out of it because I haven’t worked hard enough that day...
Since when does a person have to “work hard enough” to have earned some healthy physical activity and time in one of our most abundant and good-for-you resources, natural vitamin D? That method of thinking is totally backwards. Instead of hemming and hawing about how I don’t “deserve” this “play time” outside because I should be working, I could just let myself get the amazing brain and mood-boosting benefits of getting outside! I can guarantee you if I did I’d probably be a ton more productive than I would be had I deprived myself of such simple pleasures.
I also believe we deprive ourselves of doing things like eating healthy, working out, waking up early to be productive, and doing things that make us happy because because we don’t feel we deserve the joy or feelings of empowerment that would results from these sustained positive behaviors.
This idea is perfectly summed up in my favorite quote of all time by Marianne Williamson in her work, A Course In Miracles,
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Williamson sums it up perfectly. We self sabotage because our power frightens us. We are afraid we will no longer be accepted by our peer group and family if we show up as more powerful. And finally, we are too married to our irrational fears to see past them.
The good news is, there is a very simple solution as to how to start breaking free from our self sabotaging behaviors. (Notice I said “simple”...not “easy”.)
We must TAKE CONTROL of our mind and thoughts and replace these thoughts of fear and unworthiness with empowering thoughts of success, empowerment, gratitude, and joy. You can do this through:
1- Gratitude journaling. Gratitude journaling gets your mind focused on everything good in your life. If you do this regularly enough you will train your brain to continue to look for more good.
2- Affirmations. Listen to and say positive affirmations out loud and in your head. You can use the affirmations someone else has come up with by googling some or searching YouTube, or you can come up with your own. Just make sure they are powerful and speak to you when you read them.
3- Meditation and/or Hypnosis. The subconscious mind is a very tricky thing. In my opinion one of the most effective ways get it working FOR you instead of against you is to speak to it directly through meditation and hypnosis. You can easily find meditation and hypnosis tracks on YouTube.
4- Constantly exposing yourself to inspiring and motivating messages. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Personal Development (in the forms of physical books or audios) is one of the most life-changing things you will ever do for yourself. Stop avoiding it, and just start doing it, k? ;)
I know you want to stop this cycle of self sabotage. It is painful, at times debilitating, and can even cause depression or deep sadness. Recognize you are doing it. That is the first step. Then accept and understand WHY you are doing it, but don’t get stuck here. You will find almost any answer you come up with boils down to fear & unworthiness. Finally, take small, daily steps to shift your mindset. I’m sorry to tell you this, but you cannot beat yourself up into changing. Change in this area only comes from changing your mindset. You need to change who you believe you are and what you believe you deserve.
If you need more help in this area I highly encourage you to check out my ebook and journal, “Breaking Free: a no-nonsense guide to crushing negativity and living life on your terms”. In there I give simple, real-life ways to break free from what’s holding you back and start stepping into the life you deserve.
You are more powerful than your fear. Let that light shine and step into your greatness, babe.