We say we want something, and then we do everything in our power to make sure it doesn't happen. Does this sound familiar? It is a reoccurring problem for many people, in many different circumstances in life. Have you ever had someone tell you to just get out of your own way? You are your own worst enemy? Or stop shooting yourself in the foot? Then chances are, you have been a victim of your own self-sabotage at some point in your own life.
But how does this make sense? Why would we purposely derail ourselves from our wanted goals and dreams? It seems to go against everything that we want, so why do we do it? Why do we knowingly destroy progress that could be helpful and beneficial for our own future happiness and well-being?
First off, let's recognize that there are many different ways to self-sabotage. It may be comfort eating while trying to lose weight; procrastinating with things we know need to get done; going on a shopping spree when trying to reel in the budget; going back again and again to unhealthy relationships we know we need to end... and the list goes on.
So why do we do it? There could be many reasons why:
-Feeling unworthy: If we don't feel like we "deserve" the good things we are trying to gain for ourselves, then it's easy to tell yourself that you shouldn't have it. In thinking that way, our mind will affect our actions, and we will ultimately do something to destroy and progress we have made.
-The need to be in control: Sometimes it may feel better to some to be in control our own failure, rather than take a risk to see what happens if we truly try. If we can cause the failure on our own, at least we were the ones in control of making that happen.
-Familiarity: For some, it may provide a strange sense of comfort to be in that familiar rut of self-sabotage. If we are not used to things changing for the better, then it actually can feel somewhat "comforting" to stay exactly where we are.
-Perfectionism: If it isn't perfect, then what's the point?
-Protection: Self-sabotage can be used as a safety mechanism to protect yourself from disappointment.
-Punishment: Some may use self-sabotage as a means of punishing one's self when they feel out of control. Ever have one cookie and then say "See? I'm such an idiot. I can't do anything right. So now I might as well just eat the whole box of cookies because I ruined the entire day".
Self-sabotage is coping mechanism that, unfortunately, does more harm than good. It's the "feel good now, worry about consequences later" method. Basically, short term gain = long term pain. It's not helpful in the long run.
But there is hope! Self-sabotage does not have to be your destiny. You actually CAN change that, and I will give you some tips on how.
First, identify the behavior for what it is. Recognize it and take responsibility for it. Pin point what triggers this behavior for you. Is it certain people? Objects? Specific times? Specific feelings that come up in your mind about yourself? Notice what triggers the behavior, and notice what behavior you are acting out. Be AWARE. That is number one. I am writing this entire post to make people more aware of their own behavior, because so much of it is automatic. We tend to have knee-jerk reactions to our emotions in life rather than stopping to think first and pay attention to what is actually happening.
Second, recreate the pattern with a healthy replacement strategy. Once you realize what is happening and how you are responding, it's time to pick a new response. Recreate a pattern that will promote a healthier result for yourself. When you notice yourself getting burning mad for eating just one cookie, stop. Before eating the entire box to punish yourself, instead try thinking of how much you enjoyed the cookie as a treat for the day. Then move along with an activity that will continue to make you feel good about yourself. Go for a walk! Call a friend! Be OKAY with the fact that you had a cookie and move on! No punishment necessary. And you can still go to bed happy with yourself! Stop the ugly pattern, and create a new one.
For people who procrastinate - sometimes we are overwhelmed by a large task that needs to be done, so we would rather do nothing. Try breaking up that giant task into smaller ones with dead lines for yourself to get each one done. That way it is not so overwhelming to think you need to do it all at once. And if exercise is one of those things you procrastinate with because it seems like too big of a task, again, break it up into small segments. Small workouts count too! And that little start could be the beginning of a whole new you.
And if you are someone who struggles with self-worth, feeling like you are not worthy of having life actually go well for you with positive changes, it is time to change this thought pattern. Where are you finding your worth? What makes you worthy of anything? Facebook likes? No. Followers on Instagram? No. Lies that people have told you over and over again that you believe? No. There is a blood stained cross where Jesus Christ gave His LIFE for you. If that doesn't show your worth, then I don't know what else does. And that's all the worth you need. Stop listening to lies and falling into traps of feeling unworthy from sources that don't matter. The cross says different. Believe it.
Once you have created new patterns for yourself, practice these until new habits are formed. Have patience with the process. When you start seeing small changes, be inspired!
Another way to help yourself out of the rut is to start being more grateful. Realize and appreciate the good things in your life. Start doing more for others instead of being immersed in the "me-me-me" way of thinking. This can help you to stop focusing on your own problems.
What else can you do? Be active! The state of your body has a direct effect the state of your mind. How you perceive things and react to things may change if you are more active than you are now. It gives a mental boost that just might spin you right out of your self-sabotage tail spin.
Now go after what you want, take charge of your plans and dreams, and don't ruin it for yourself!!! Become your own hero rather than your own worst enemy. Realize it is possible, you are worth it, and don't FEAR. Just DO. :-)
Terri Wentzell is a registered nurse with more than 20 years of experience. She is also a certified personal trainer, wellness coach, fitness nutrition coach, and sport yoga instructor.