I had a Facebook friend ask me to write more about self-sabotage as she was noticing herself struggling with it lately and thought many would benefit from some words of encouragement and clarity on the subject.
I felt like this is such an important topic I would write an article instead of a short post. The phrase “self-sabotage” itself can cause serious angst and have people trying to defend themselves out loud or in their own heads justifying why something has not been accomplished. “Self-Sabotage” was not the last chapter numerically in my book, but it was the last chapter I wrote which sums up my own relationship with it.
Why, oh WHY would we self-sabotage if we so desperately want something? Well that is a multi-faceted answer and below are the first three reasons that come to mind and some tools to try and move on past it.
The first step before you even go to fix or limit self-sabotage is noticing when and how self-sabotage presents itself in your life.
- Have you been saying you want to lose some weight or start an exercise routine, but keep buying treats to keep in the house or never seem to have time to sign up for that class?
- Are you working on completing some kind of project, but keep finding other things that take up your time?
- Do you unnecessarily check your phone and/or social media much more than necessary?
- Do you pick the same unhealthy relationships to have around you?
- Have you seen the same goal come up at different times in your life and always said there was no time?
There are countless ways to self-sabotage and when you begin to notice how you do it in your own life, it’s time for applause because then you can move onto the next stages of figuring out why you do it and correcting it.
Here are some reasons why you have seen yourself self-sabotage and actions you can take to move through it:
1 ) The Good Old Ego – The ego protects us from the unknown and is very content with life as it is even if life doesn’t look so good from where you’re standing. Any time we try to make a significant change in our lives, our ego won’t see it as good, bad or indifferent – just that it is change and change is scary. It will try and pull us back to what is comfortable and known even if the situation is actually very uncomfortable. I have clients face this all the time as I have in my own life more times than I can count. You start seeing movement in an area and there are signs things are changing and whoops… here is that self-sabotage again pulling you backward.
Action: Notice it. Give thanks you have noticed it. Even have a conversation with your ego if possible. Get quiet, put your hand on your heart and tell yourself it is okay. Tell yourself that this is a change you have thought about and know is best for you. You know it might feel scary, but you have taken steps already and are determined to see it through. Thank your ego for wanting to protect you but assure it that “You’ve got this” and you will be better off for it.
2 ) Lack of Self-Love/Self-Worth – While we may proclaim we feel we deserve the best in every area of our lives; financial freedom; a fairy tale relationship; close friends and family around us; a job that brings us satisfaction and gets us to use our gifts; connection to all our passions and time to do all of them – very few of us – a) actually believe that it is possible to have all of these things and b) love ourselves enough to feel we are worthy. Pretty depressing right? And the kicker is we can even say we do feel worthy but there is some inner dialogue from our childhood (perhaps said to us by a family member, teacher or the community we grew up in) that has us repeating the words we are not truly worthy. We need to get in touch with these limiting beliefs and let ourselves know we think this is BS and in fact we DO want it all!
Action: Stand in front of a mirror and look at yourself for 30 seconds. Look yourself in the eyes and look yourself up and down taking everything in. Tell yourself you are worthy. Tell yourself you love yourself enough to have everything you have ever dreamed of. Tell yourself you love yourself right now as you are and these changes you are about to manifest will feel really good and you are inviting them into your life. Close your eyes and imagine receiving the news you have hoped for or standing in the fact that a goal you have set has been realized. Feel how good that feels – I mean FEEL it – in your heart, in your body, in your emotions. Open your eyes and again declare you are worthy and are so excited to have moved past any resistance and self-sabotage to in fact make it to the other side. Tell yourself you love yourself and even blow yourself a kiss if you are feeling that bold!!
3 ) Habit/Pattern – Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Yet we still do it. I have seen people close to their goal weight and suddenly they can’t resist that one snack that they know will bring them comfort. Instead of having one they will have many more than the serving size and then will berate themselves, tell themselves how they screwed up and the goal is lost. Whatever you are trying to do, there is the moment where you can catch yourself in self-sabotage. What you do when you catch yourself is key. Beating yourself up or saying “I’ve been down this road so many times I know how this ends” will not help.
Action: Write a list of 5 other things you can do when you find yourself in or about to self-sabotage. Maybe you check the cell phone every 1/2 hour instead of being present with your family. Write 5 things down you can do to put the phone away like start a conversation or play a board game with your spouse or child, go out for a walk, etc. There are always other options when self-sabotage comes up but you might be so used to the pattern you have trouble seeing it. A list will ensure you have 5 other possibilities and if you need to post that list a few different places where you will see it – go for it. This has helped many of my clients recognize that instead of grabbing the bag of cookies or some other form of self-sabotage — they in fact have options. They can go for a walk, call a friend, take a bath, give the pet some love or so many other things that will bring them joy instead of the self-sabotage that will lead to self-criticism.
There are a lot of other things to notice about self-sabotage. Are there triggers that set you off? Have the list handy if there are! Do you feel you might need an accountability buddy to go attain a goal? The most important thing about self-sabotage is to know you are not alone and that it can be dealt with.
Empower yourself instead of disempowering yourself. Let yourself know in the grand scheme of things this is not the end of the world and all will be okay. Using the tools above, you can truly get a handle on self-sabotage in your life and reach some of those hard to attain goals and changes. Make sure to celebrate every step of the way – even for the self-sabotage when it comes up, because it is making you more aware. You’ve got this and please share about your accomplishments in noticing and overcoming self-sabotage, I’m excited to hear it.