The experts at Psychology Today define self-sabotage as a self-defeating action that gets in the way of your intent. Most often it takes the form of procrastination. If you’re saying to yourself you’ll do such and such right after you complete something else that is way less important but inherently more interesting, you are procrastinating and setting yourself up for self-sabotage.
Human nature is a dichotomy, a contradiction in terms. We want something yet we resist getting it. It’s like shooting yourself in the foot. In fact, we can be our own worst enemy.
How does it manifest itself? If any of the following scenarios sound familiar, you have experienced the pattern of self-sabotage:
- You have set yourself a goal and are eagerly working towards it. Then of a sudden, you grind to a halt for no apparent reason. You procrastinate, you find excuses not to continue, focusing on things that, in your opinion, are more important. It’s not because of lack of skill, ability or desire. You know you really want and can achieve that goal but your motivation is gone. You just can’t continue on your path.
- You have a great project in mind. You’re dreaming or talking about it constantly yet you never start it, even though you have time, the ability, the desire, etc.
- You are tasked with a project and you know you can do it. You use your confidence as an excuse to slack off. The project is never done or you miss the deadline.
- You’re a perfectionist to the point you feel you have to wait till the time or situation is right or your soul mate waltzes into your life.
- Your deep-rooted cultural beliefs or an impaired value system keeps you from progressing. You may be fearful of making money because you believe money is the root of all evil.
- Self-doubt: You worry that you are not competent, good enough or smart enough to achieve your goal or you let yourself get strangled by the opinions of others. You feel undeserving of success or happiness that may come your way.
- Negative self-talk (I can’t do that, it’s too difficult, too heavy, if I try I will probably fail, etc.) sets you on a path to destroy your self-confidence. These negative messages erode your self-confidence and self-esteem and you keep proving to yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t do the things you want.
- Fear of failure, fear of taking a risk, fear of success, fear of the unknown, fear of getting hurt, getting rejected. These fears are all barriers to success and accomplishment.
- You are a recovering alcoholic/former smoker/overeater. Some stress in your life rekindles your desire to drink/smoke/eat. You reach for that drink/cigarette/pizza slice even though you fully know it will set you on a downward slope.
- You get panic attacks when things are cruising just fine and you’re well on your way to achieve success. Or you get depressed thinking about all the things that could gowrong. Bingo! Time to retrace and retract.
- You endanger or destroy perfectly good or promising relationships due to anger issues, irrational suspicions or jealousy.
- Sometimes you enjoy being the victim or scapegoat and attract all the blame to yourself to justify the feeling. You incite drama, pick a fight or push someone else’s buttons to get a reaction that justifies you as the victim or the bad guy.
- You need the high of the adrenaline rush and this addiction controls your actions even if they harm or put you in danger’s way.
Why do I do this to myself? If you ever asked yourself that question you’re making the first tentative step to recovery. By analysing the underlying causes of doing what you do or fail to do, that stand in the way of the things you want, you are starting to realise that self-sabotage is coming from your mindset, your belief system. If you consistently fail to reach your goals or know you are consistently procrastinating, if your motivation is flagging, put yourself under the loop and commit yourself to breaking the cycle of self-sabotage.
How to get out of that pattern. Recognise and challenge your self-sabotaging behaviour. Analyse why you do the things you do. Are your actions based on rational thoughts or clear facts? Are previous experiences keeping you from achieving the things you want? What do you get out of repeatedly putting yourself in this emotional pain? Analyse your belief system and counter it with logical arguments. For instance, if you secretly think that money is the source of all evil, tell yourself that money is simply a tool and that the person making money has control of how that money is to be used: for good or evil depending on your own character.
Revamp your thinking, especially your negative mindset. Mistakes or failures should be seen as valuable experiences and stepping stones to success and not something that is bound to be perpetual. Believe in yourself and your ability to do it. Rely on your knowledge, ability and skills to push you forward, instead of your self-doubts and lack of confidence.
If your goal is too daunting, break it down in manageable steps. Self-sabotage can come about because you are too focused on the ultimate goal, which feels overwhelming. Instead, you need to focus on just the next step that will move you towards your goal. Practice the art of eating the elephant one bite at a time. You could also create a mantra for yourself that will inspire you to stick with your goal. Just do it!
Recognise that it is essential to break that pattern of self-sabotage if you want to succeed in your goals. Recognise that any situation in your life is one you created for yourself or one you choose to be in or stay in. You can also choose to change it! Success means growth and change. You need to be comfortable with that idea.
Get used to the wild rides; it’s part of life.