Self-sabotage can immobilize you as effectively as any cage. It’s a life, success and happiness thief, and one that can prevent you from living the life you deserve to live.
Every human being on this planet has at one time or another suffered from it. Every single one.
If you’re self-sabotaging, you’re not alone. It’s important for you to know that if you do suffer from chronic (and what may appear as uncontrollable) self-sabotage, there are proven methods you can use to help you control it so that it doesn’t control you.
What self-sabotage is
“Self-sabotage” refers to behaviors or thought patterns that hold you back and prevent you from doing what you want to do.
Some examples of self sabotage include:
- Blaming others when things go wrong. Not being accountable to yourself 1st, and others next.
- Choosing to walk away when things don’t go right.
- Procrastination [I.e. – feeling overwhelmed].
- Picking fights with friends or partners.
- Dating people you know aren’t right for you, I.e. – returning to the same toxic type.
- Trouble stating your needs and desires with your family, friends, at work, in romantic relationships and in everyday interactions.
- Putting yourself down. For example, those self-sabotaging voices in your head that tell you that you can’t do anything right; that you won’t get what you’re after – so why even try(?); the voices that tell you that nobody loves you or that you’re not worthy of love and happiness.
Does any of this sound familiar? What you tell yourself about yourself when you’re alone says a lot about you, and it also speaks to the state of your mental wellness. It’s our personal obligation and responsibility to constantly police our thoughts and to dispute the ones that can hurt us. Awareness is therefore crucial to our success in beating the beast self-sabotage is.
The way we think impacts how we feel, and what we do. COVID-19 is magnifying our disconnection, therefore magnifying our self-sabotaging thoughts
The way we think impacts how we feel
The way we think impacts how we feel and how we behave. Unless we police our thoughts and take control of them, we risk having our thoughts take control of us. People don’t understand where anxiety comes from, and because they don’t understand where it comes from, they don’t understand their state of anxiety, or how to control it. How do we mitigate the anxiety we feel in this moment?
A number of years ago, Dr. Robert Brooks and his colleagues conducted a landmark study called the “hardiness study.” They were examining what makes people stress resistant as opposed to stress susceptible. What are the key differentiators, they pondered? One of the things they found in this powerful study was that a sense of ‘connection’ to one another is one of the 4 primary tools in our coping skills toolbox. The more disconnected we feel, the lonelier and more helpless we feel, and that results in the more stress susceptible we become. Hence, self-sabotage can easily creep in when our guards are down.
The more connected we are, the more we believe we have an emotional safety net all around us-friends, family, work colleagues, and so on. The more we are resistant to the ravages of stress in our lives, the better off we are. So, what does all this really have to do with self-sabotage?
Unless we focus on what we can control and not on what we can’t, we open ourselves up to being taken hostage by self-sabotage.
Focusing on what we can control
Many of us tend to focus on things that we cannot control. We worry so much about outcome, we miss focusing on the things that we can control. For example, many people worry about Covid-19 and whether they’ll catch it. That really is beyond our control, isn’t it? But what is within our control is what we do to help ourselves prevent catching it. For example, washing our hands, wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance… All these are within our control. If we focus on the things that we can control, we reduce our anxiety and our stress substantially. Pro athlete Lebron James once said that he does not focus on the outcome of the game. He doesn’t worry about “winning;” he focuses on playing the best game “in the moment.” And that’s what we all should be doing: living more “in the moment.”
Our personal time zones
The way I see it, there are 3 personal time zones we each experience. There’s the past, the present, and the future. What happened 5 minutes ago, we can’t change. What happened 15 years ago, we can’t change either. So why revisit the past and wallow in sadness, shame or regret? It serves no purpose. The past is the past and there’s no changing it. As for the future, it’s fun to plan. But if Covid-19 has taught us anything, it has taught us that we can make all the plans we want, but there’s no guarantee that our plans will unfold the way we planned them to.
So that leaves us with the present moment. In the present, we have choice and control. This moment is the most important moment of your life, because in this moment, you get to control your thoughts, your actions, your behaviors, and so much more. Life is full of moments, and it’s up to us to make the very best of each of them. In our moments we get to interact lovingly with other people, dance if we want to, be an active listener for someone, or share our stories and experiences. Our choices are unlimited.
But if I suffer from self-sabotage, how can I enjoy these moments?
Begin by telling yourself that you have the power to take control of your life. Don’t only say the words, believe what you say.
Begin each day intentionally. When you wake up in the morning, one of the very first things you should do is to choose and repeat powerful affirmations. That helps create a positive tone for your day. By doing so, you’ll begin to develop an unshakable mindset that will help lead you into a wonderful transformation.
For example, choosing to start your day out by telling yourself, “This is going to be a fantastic day! I’m not going to let anything get me down!,” is a great way of setting positive intention. When you say the words, believe them. Repeat them with passion!
Next, choose your attitude for the day. Step into the closet of your mind. In your minds’ closet, you have 2 wardrobes. On the one side of your minds’ wardrobe is a dark and ugly closet. The garments are coated with sadness, regret, helplessness, and so many other painful and horrid choices to pick from. But on the other side of your minds’ closet is a beautiful, bright wardrobe – filled with love, happiness, hopefulness, resilience and strength! That’s the closet you should be picking from every day, and it should be your conscious choice to go into that closet and pick your positive and beautiful attitude. Daily. Start your day off intentionally and don’t leave it up to choice. Make the decision that it’s going to be a good day and that nothing is going to get in your way. Repeat your affirmations with passion and believe them!
By practicing your daily mantras, your subconscious mind will embed these new beliefs into your thoughts, and your self-esteem will exponentially grow. Your new beliefs will dominate your old ones, and those new, empowering beliefs will positively impact how you feel about yourself and your circumstances, and on how you behave.
Next, pay attention to your body, and check in on your thoughts throughout the day
Self-sabotage can attack at any moment. You might not even see it coming, unless… unless you’re on the lookout for it. That’s right. Be on the lookout for signs of an attack. Pay attention to how your body feels. Often there will be signs of self-sabotage that show up in different places in your body, even before the self-sabotaging thought pops into your mind. For some, it may be a tightness in the chest. For others, it may be an itch or a tremble. The point is, when you begin to feel uneasy, take a slow, deep breath, let it out, and check in on your thoughts.
Our mind cannot process 2 dominant thoughts at a time. It just can’t be done. If I were to ask you to think of a pink elephant right now, chances are you’re thinking of a pink elephant. While you’re thinking of that pink elephant, there’s no other thought that can take its place at that exact moment. Why does this matter? It matters because if you’re paying attention to your body and you’re feeling uneasy, and you immediately check in on your thoughts to find that you’re thinking something negative, it’s time for you to replace that thought. Right away.
Awareness is power. Dispute that negative thought. If that negative self chatter is dominating your thoughts, challenge it! Man or woman up, and say something like, “Really? Are you for real?!” “I don’t have time for you!” Take control of your thoughts. Don’t give in – you’ve got the power! Believe you do, and you do. Believe you don’t, and you don’t.
I’ve heard some people give their negative self-chatter a name. For example, I’ve called mine “Bob.” If I check in on my thoughts to find that I’m thinking something negative, I’ll simply say, “Get lost Bob! I don’t have time for you!” Then I’ll do something pleasant, like turn on some nice music or go for a walk, or I’ll think of something pleasant to pull myself away from my negative self-chatter. Do you know what? So can you.
Life is empty and meaningless
What?? Did I read that correctly? Does this really mean that life is empty and meaningless? No, certainly not. As I understand this existential concept, life begins empty and meaningless until such time as something happens to us, and it is then that we attach a meaning to what we’ve experienced. That meaning might be right, or it might be wrong. We are meaning making machines. So don’t be too quick to attach a meaning to what happens to you. Pause and reflect on what happened and choose the best meaning to attach to it. You don’t have to attach a meaning right away, either.
Imagine yourself as a detective whose job it is, is to examine what happens in your life and reach a determination only after a thoughtful and thorough investigation. Don’t be too quick to attach that meaning – it’s your mental wellness at stake, after all. This also applies to what has happened to you in the past. Not all is as it seems.
Bring gratitude into your attitude
Gratitude is a feeling and an attitude that we internalize and externalize in ways that help us appreciate those things we already have in our lives, or those things we’re about to receive. To live gratefully is therefore something we should always strive to do to help beat self-sabotage.
Gratitude is an affirmation of the good things we have, and it creates a sense within us that we are blessed despite whatever may not be going as well as we had planned. This appreciation helps to balance our perspective and our lot, and may even tip the scale from dissatisfaction with what our lives are missing to satisfaction with the actual abundance in our lives. Gratitude helps to encourage us and helps change the negative dialogue we have with ourselves into more positive ones; and the more we look for things for which to be grateful, the better our internal monologues and overall mental wellness will be.
Then there’s faith
Faith isn’t always easy to have, but it is essential to embrace. Most of us don’t wake up and suddenly find it. Rather it is a practice, a habit and a discipline for us to develop and to perfect. Faith requires us to place our trust in the knowledge that something much bigger than simply ourselves can play a role in our destinies, and that along with our own efforts, something wonderful is going to happen.
Faith is believing that maybe today is the day that changes everything! Maybe this moment in this day is the one you’ve been plotting and wishing for.
Need to learn more about how to beat self-sabotage?
Join me for a 7-day Journey to discover more ways to beat self-sabotage before it beats you.
In this seven-day Journey, you will discover how to take control of your self-sabotaging thoughts and free yourself of them. You will recognize how to identify that pivotal moment when self-sabotage appears in its effort to dominate your thoughts and shape your subsequent actions. You will be equipped with the skills to abolish them and get more of what you want out of life. You will develop a positive mindset that will improve your overall happiness and success in every aspect of your life.
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