Self sabotage is something that we all experience at one point or another. Self sabotage is simply any action that gets in the way of our intent.
On a diet? Well Friday night calories don’t count...right?
Got a deadline approaching? Well if you just find out who the killer was on your Netflix series then you’ll be able to concentrate better...right?
Need to save money? But them shoes are calling your name and will definitely help you get that next client...right?
Gay Hendrick’s the author of the book, The Big Leap, believes we all have an inner ‘thermostat setting’ that determines how much success we allow ourselves to enjoy in various areas of life. When we exceed that thermostat level of enjoyment, instead of feeling good - we feel uncomfortable. This means that we may fall back into self sabotaging behaviours because they make us feel more secure.
The end result is you get off track, mess up relationships, don’t get things done or don’t perform as well as you would like. All of these can result in you feeling deflated, feeling bad about yourself and expecting yourself to fail next time. This leads to more self sabotage to avoid facing failure head on and the cycle continues.
How do you know if you are self sabotaging?
If you find yourself failing over and over again, or feeling stuck, you should consider asking yourself these questions:
- Am I avoiding what needs to be done?
- Am I not prioritising self care?
- Am I always procrastinating?
- Am I focusing on self-defeating thoughts?
- Am I flipping from one thing to another?
We literally get in our own way...but why?
1. We lack self worth
‘It is not the lack of ability or opportunity that holds you back, it is only the lack of confidence in yourself’ - Richard Monckton Milnes
When we do not believe in ourselves we cannot achieve our goals. If we always believe that we are not smart enough, qualified enough, or good enough we will act accordingly and project this to the outside world. Moreover, we will act in a way that is in line with our low self worth and do things to stop us reaching our fullest potential.
Humans like consistency and our actions tend to be in line with our inner beliefs and values. If we start to succeed, yet still feel inadequate, incapable or worthless inside, then we unconsciously pull the plug to maintain the line of consistency.
2. We fear success
‘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’ - Marianne Williamson
It is not unusual for good old imposter syndrome to rear its ugly head from time to time, and this is exactly what happens when we self sabotage. If we are always afraid that someone is going to catch us out for being under qualified or a fraud, then when we get close to success, we act in ways which will limit our amount of success or praise from others or stop ourselves from achieving the goal all together.
3. We want to place fault elsewhere
‘Blaming others takes time and energy away from improving yourself’ - Anonymous
When we believe that we are going to fail, we start acting in a way that will ensure it is so. When we think things like “I am not going to get the contract or the client anyway” we displace our responsibility. When we do fail, which we do because we have already told ourselves that we will, we can place the blame on to someone else!
We can justify our self sabotaging behaviours, like procrastination or failing to prepare, as we have already accepted that we will not succeed. It is the handy scapegoat situation - when things aren’t successful we can blame others or actions rather than ourselves.
4. We fear failure
‘Many times the thought of fear itself, is greater than what it is we fear’ - Idowu Koyenikan
This is the most overwhelming reason why we self sabotage. It is common that we will be so scared of giving everything we have to a goal, and failing, that we do not give anything at all. It is easier to give yourself reasons of why you failed, than to give it your everything and not succeed.
So how do we do something about it?
The first thing we need to recognise is when we are getting in our own way. Sometimes we are painfully aware of this (like when we are procrastinating and know it!) and small events or tasks build up until they are a lot harder to deal with later. A good idea is to make a list of the reasons that prevent you from having what you want. Spend some time evaluating your list and getting real with your goals.
Ask yourself ‘What am I afraid of?’
If you are afraid of failure, then list all the times you’ve succeeded. Take a look, in black and white, of all the things you have achieved in the past and the wonderful feelings these accomplishments stirred up inside of you. Try to remember the things you had to overcome to get there and this will help to boost your confidence.
But try to remember that failure is ok too, and we are not perfect! Success is not a straight line, there will be bumps in the road, but these are the things that will make the victory so much sweeter when you get there! Use this to understand that this is how we open ourselves to new opportunities.
If you don’t feel worthy, then it may signal time to focus on some self care. Write a list of the things that you do right and try to focus less on what you perceive as things you do wrong. Actively spend some time focusing on what you eat, when you eat, making sure you sleep enough and take time to relax. You cannot move past your fears if you don’t feel good about yourself. You will never find the courage to work on facing your fears if you are constantly talking down to yourself.