How to banish self sabotage is a real sticky wicket for sure.
I say that because we don't even really know that we are doing it. Many times we are too busy blaming other people for what happens to us when all we need to do is look in the mirror to find the culprit.
When I realized that I am the only person responsible for anything, good or bad that happens in my life there were two trains of thought running in my brain…….
Those thoughts kinda went like this:
“Seriously? There's no WAY I did this to myself – there has to be an exception to THAT thought pattern.”
“Seriously? If I'm responsible for all my actions then I better rethink my life strategy and my attachment to the outcomes.”
Guess which statement is more empowering?
With that being said if you're like me once you are aware of this realization it's time to go to work on yourself and look for all those clues so that you can banish self sabotage and live your most authentic life.
“I craft most of my own tragedies without ever having even the remotest understanding that it is I myself who have done the crafting.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough
But we mess things up for ourselves in other ways, too – and for other reasons, which include:
- Our attachment to ‘failure'. Maybe we're so used to situations not working out or to being around ‘dysfunctional people' that it feels easier to mess up a good thing by behaving in some way that either worsens or destroys something promising.
- The ‘control freak' in us starts to come out. If we feel something is bound to fail because it's ‘too good to be true', we might create failure somehow so as to maintain a sense that we are still in control (because we caused it to fail).
- Feeling undeserving. Low self-esteem may drive people to feel they ‘don't deserve' success or happiness.
- Bad habits such as excessive drinking, smoking, or uncontrolled anger.
- Addicted to the drama. It might be an otherwise perfect sunny afternoon and seemingly out of the blue, you might create a disagreement with someone, or get cranky, or drag up some unrelated issue from the past. Suddenly, the afternoon turns into a battleground. The desire for ‘drama' can take different forms, not all of them constructive.
But surely if people know they are doing this, they wouldn't do it!
Are we doing this unconsciously?
People seldom mean to sabotage themselves. It's not generally a conscious decision to spoil things – and that's a problem. We can be left with the feeling: “Why did I do that?!” Many of our emotional drivers remain unconscious, which is why chronic self-saboteurs will often try to justify (or what seem like excuses) to explain why they had to:
- Yell at their professor and get kicked off the course.
- Break off contact with a friend who was about to offer them a great job.
- End a promising relationship.
Early learning – or should I say mis-learning – can create the habit of self-sabotage and ‘things going right' may seem like a scary and unfamiliar territory. If you feel you are prone to this sort of behavior, then these tips may well help you (as long as you let them).
1) Take notice of yourself
Forget justifying why you did (or didn't do) this or that; just watch yourself. The adage “don't listen to what people say, but watch what they do” to see what they're really like can be applied to yourself equally well. Imagine you're someone else whose behavior you're watching. Ask yourself: “What did I do there?” and “What was driving it?” Was it fear, spite, the need to be in control (even if that control is related to making things fail), the need for excitement through conflict, or the desire for attention through sympathy?
I have a friend that realized that he had been unconsciously reluctant to earn more than his father had done when he was alive: “As if I couldn't betray him by being better off than he had been.” This realization helped him overcome this limiting belief once he had observed it operating within himself. He decided to actually ignore it until the old compulsion not to succeed became a faint whisper, then died away all together.
What do you sabotage and how? Become familiar with this pattern. Seeing your own behavior more clearly has nothing to do with going overboard with self-blame, but rather being more objective.
2) Remember that success isn't all or nothing
Strongly imagine (and get into the habit of strongly imagining) what true success will be like for you, because it may be different from what you'd been unconsciously assuming. Successful relationships, for example, don't work well all of the time; earning good money doesn't solve all problems. Success isn't all or nothing; it's all relative. So remember that becoming successful (in whatever way) won't feel so strange when it happens, because it is a natural part of being human – but the idea of success may feel strange.
3) Don't strive for absolute perfection
People often self-sabotage because of perfectionism – if it isn't perfect, then what's the point? You may have heard about recent research (1) which showed that people on strict diets, trying to lose weight, will more likely overeat if they feel they have veered off their diet even slightly: “What the hell, I've blown it now. I might as well completely binge!” People not on diets don't do this so much. So if you have a little setback or mini-failure, consciously stop yourself from throwing it all away and seeing the ‘whole thing as just ruined' and then really ruining it.
4) It's not all about you
Most of us don't like to consider ourselves as selfish, but it is also true to say (not from a judgmental perspective; more of an observational one) that self-sabotage ruins stuff for others and is therefore a selfish behavior. People so often deny they are behaving selfishly because they don't intend to be selfish. But behavior is behavior.
So the lover who feels compelled to end a great relationship hurts another, the co-worker who sabotages a project screws it up for everyone else, the father who sabotages financial opportunities spoils the chance of a better standard of living for his family, and so on. Once we get into the habit of seeing the needs of the bigger picture rather than just our own emotional impulses, it actually becomes harder to sabotage situations.
5) Be open to possibilities
All of life is an exploration. Of course, if something really isn't working or it genuinely isn't for you, that's fine; but if it's really a reluctance to explore life and to experience the good and healthy, then it is an area that needs some self-work.
By really stepping back and observing whenever a situation arises in your life that kicks up some emotions that stimulate a reaction and choosing another outcome, you are on the road to learning to banish self sabotage and living your most authentic life.
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