Find out how you can stop self-sabotaging behaviors and achieve your goals.
Do you ever want something so much you can envision it happening, yet procrastination hits, and you stop yourself before you even start?
When I watch the Olympics, it seems like there’s usually at least one race where the runners round the track, and it seems as if the lead runner runs out of energy and winds up finishing last. In the post-race interviews, there aren’t any physical explanations like illness or lack of enough nutrition, so what is it?
When your belief in yourself doesn’t match your desire for what you want in life, self-sabotage can happen.
Sometimes, to protect ourselves, we adopt beliefs to prevent harm that results in more damage, not less. There are many adages like:
- Life is suffering.
- Our family is burdened with ______ problems.
- There’s always another problem just around the corner.
While all of these statements are true, they aren’t always accurate.
- There is suffering in life, as well as joy, fun, and happiness too.
- Some families are predisposed to particular health issues, problematic dynamics, or deficits in mindsets, but not everyone and not all of the time.
- Unexpected problems crop up – if you have a car, you’ll get a flat tire at some point, usually at an inconvenient place and time, but that doesn’t happen often.
When you doubt that you can move past the beliefs that hold you back, even when you have the skills and abilities to do so, self-sabotages will find a way to throw a wrench in your plans.
Probably the most straightforward example is the infamous New Year’s promise –
- Invest in new workout clothes.
- Buy a gym membership.
- Make a meal plan.
Typically, most people last anywhere from two weeks to a month on their new plan before they start to relax their commitments. You’ve probably asked yourself why this keeps happening when you value your health and well-being. When you feel locked into a pattern repeating like this, even though you want a different outcome, you’re likely experiencing self-sabotage.
Why does self-sabotage happen?
Self-sabotage happens when your beliefs, thoughts, and actions keep you from accomplishing what you want. Sometimes, this is an unconscious process, and you do it without realizing it. When you sabotage yourself, the self-doubt leads to thought patterns that create obstacles to achieving your goals.
Sometimes, you’re aware of self-sabotage, like when you know that your Pilates class starts at 5:00, and you keep trying to squeeze in one more email reply at 4:40 when it takes 20 minutes to get to the studio, and you know you’ll be late. Other times, self-sabotage is a bit more subtle, even unconscious. For example, distancing yourself from your partner after they say, “I love you.” In this example, you may unconsciously protect yourself if the relationship doesn’t work. Still, at the same time, you may also be sabotaging a potentially successful relationship – which is what you’ve always wanted.
Although self-sabotage usually results in what you don’t want, the purpose is to protect you, keep you safe and prevent any danger or harm. Our minds seek what is familiar, which helps us to feel safe. We are also limited by what we believe our capacity allows and will unconsciously align ourselves with those beliefs. When we embrace new and unfamiliar beliefs and goals, it can trigger self-sabotaging reactions. And that’s important to remember self-sabotage serves a function. Our future selves are responsible for being aware and responding with abundant compassion, foresight, and optimism.
How to Stop Self-Sabotage
1. Increase self-awareness
Identify what you feel and think when you experience self-sabotaging behaviors. Are there specific patterns you get stuck in? If so, look for what happens before you feel or think in ways that stop you from succeeding. You may find that you unconsciously sabotage your work by making simple mistakes that are easily correctable if you slow down and double-check.
2. Practice mindfulness
Focused, non-judgmental awareness helps prevent conscious choices and raise awareness of feelings that lead to self-sabotage. When you approach your life with a foundation of mindfulness, you learn more about yourself and what you need to live without regrets.
3. Increase your self-compassion
Increasing your self-compassion is related to being happier, wiser, and more emotionally resilient. When you practice self-compassion, you can move quickly from where you are now to where you want to be.
4. Practice acceptance
Practicing acceptance is easier when you keep two things in mind. The first is that self-compassion helps to soften self-criticism. Second, to achieve your desired success, you must start from where you are. One way to do this is with self-talk like, “What’s happened is done and cannot be changed. I can choose a different path today.”
It is challenging to think of many situations where only one point of view is valid. Fortunately, in most of our day-to-day lives, you could assume a different point of view and change your perspective. Reframing is one way to retrain the brain to become more flexible so you can choose which point of view moves your life forward to attain your goals.
6. Fail forward
Self-sabotage often starts with a fear of failure or rejection and leads to avoidance of trying something difficult. If you don’t try – you can’t fail! In this case, you are preventing failure, which results in unconsciously sabotaging yourself. For example, if you don’t apply for a new job when your colleague gets promoted, you don’t fail because you were never considered.
Self-sabotage gets in the way of achieving your goals when your belief in yourself – your confidence that you can grow in your capacity to accept the life you desire is shaky. These strategies can help you give yourself the support you need to become more self-accepting and compassionate and believe in yourself.