Have you ever asked yourself “why does this keep happening to me?” or find yourself repeating the same mistakes over and over again? Maybe you try and make changes to your life, but feel like you are chasing your tail as you end up where you started time and time again.
From tucking into a tub of ice-cream when you don’t really have the calories to spare, to repeated and chronic behaviour that derails your home life or career, we have all engaged in self sabotage. Yes. Even you, my friend, could be a self-sabateur, and it’s time to break that cycle!
There are many reasons why we self-sabotage. It’s actually a very normal behaviour that we all do from time to time, sometimes deliberately and sometimes without even realising. It can be caused by something as simple as having low self esteem or fear of rejection. For example, we might think that we don’t deserve a treat or if we go to a party that nobody will talk to us.
We may have had a difficult or dysfunctional childhood and have grown up thinking that we aren’t good enough or that everyone thinks we’re stupid. If you’re constantly belittled and put down as a kid, the adult you is going to be riddled with insecurities.
Self-sabotage actually becomes a coping mechanism, a tool, a way to ensure you live the life you think you deserve. It’s one thing to escape uncomfortable feelings or situations, but it’s not healthy to allow self-sabotage to have a damaging impact on our lives.
You may not even be aware of your self-sabotaging behaviour. From professional procrastination, (yes, we wear that crown) to emotional eating, (doesn’t chocolate fix everything?) to soothing the stresses of a tough week with a large G&T, (yup, we do that too), self sabotage can wear many a disguise.
Digital self-sabotage is something that many of us do, even though we know how damaging it is. From snooping at Facebook and Instagram accounts belonging to ex-friends or partners, to looking at parties or events that we were not invited to, or maybe even flicking through private conversations on our partner’s phones, there is huge potential here to cause damage to our self esteem and mental health.
How often do we pay too much attention to our inner critic? That harsh voice in our heads has been guilty more than once of preventing us from meeting our goals.
Procrastination is actually one of the most common forms of self-sabotage. How many times have you put off going out to do some exercise to veg out at home. Maybe you have delayed an appointment with your dentist. It’s quite a common tactic to delay something that we’d rather not do, even though we know we shouldn’t put it off.
The sad thing is that sometimes we are unaware of our own self-sabotage because we can be doing it consciously and unconsciously. The conscious decisions are easy to spot because they are usually the result of a short conversation in our head where we choose gin rather gym. Unconscious self-sabotage is not so easy to deal with. This is where you will undermine your own success in life, such as always being late for events or meetings or having a strong feeling of failure so deliberately avoiding more responsibility for something.
Aiming for an impossible level of perfectionism is another sign of self-sabotage. Setting impossibly high standards in a relationship, at home or at work can be completely self-defeating as you end up becoming risk-averse or even not completing a task you’ve started.
If any of this has you nodding in agreement as you recognise some of these behaviours in yourself, then you will want to know how stop them. To break the sabotage cycle, you first have to identify the problems you face, so this involves a little work. Self-sabotage works on a cycle of triggers and reactions – break that chain and you will be well on your way to a more successful and happier life.
Don’t get tough with yourself – it will feel good for a while, but is actually another form of self-sabotage, as at some point you will experience setbacks. Instead, stop looking at the big picture and look at your sabotage in smaller chunks, such as lateness, overeating, lack of confidence or not exercising. Show yourself some kindness, some compassion. Get to know yourself, what you do, when you do it and how it makes you feel.
Once you know triggers and behaviours, you can make a plan to replace them with new, healthier behaviours, maybe even considering at this point to take advice from a therapist or looking at CBT.
There will be times when life throws you a curve ball and those new behaviours will be tricky for you. How will you cope? After all, you don’t want to go back to what you used to do.
It’s easy to eat healthily, for example, when we buy the food that comes into our homes, but what will you do when a friend offers you treats? Will you open a bottle of wine and drink it all to yourself in one evening after a hard week at work, or could you do something else like call a friend or relax in a bubble bath. Think of any obstacles you might face and try and have a Plan B.
Self-sabotage kicks in when you make too many changes or big changes too quickly. You can’t go from being a couch potato to a person who run 7 miles 3 times a week in a day or two. You can’t go from 2000 calories a day to 600 per day overnight. All you will do is set yourself up to fail. That’s not to say that your new habits and behaviours won’t feel uncomfortable or frustrating. Prepare by building up your physical and emotional responses so you can be more tolerant of the changes you are trying to make.
To succeed, you need to look at your ultimate goal. What will it feel like to be able to talk confidently to strangers at a party? What will it feel like to have more energy? To wear that outfit that has been too tight for years? Think about what you will be able to do that you can’t do now if you can break that self-sabotage cycle.
So review your triggers, decide what you will do instead, make a plan (and a Plan B), take your time and be kind to yourself when you hit a bump in the road. Remember what you are trying to achieve and how it will make you feel.
Break that cycle. You can do it. You know you can.
We believe in you.