By Diana Sanchez, Staff Writer
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash
Do you have a sneaking suspicion you might be self-sabotaging yourself? The not-so-great news is that if you think you might be, you probably are. The good news? You’re self-aware enough to realize you’re doing it - which is the first step in being able to stop.
One of the greatest moments of my personal growth came on the day that I realized how much, and how badly, I can be my own greatest enemy in pursuing my goals and my happiness. It was startling. You see, for many years before, I’d been under the impression that I was my biggest fan, and my biggest advocate. In many ways, that was true. But I have many learned behaviors that didn’t serve me and that I needed to un-learn. But before I could un-learn them, first I had to identify them.
Why do we self-sabotage?
This is such a good question. The not-so-simple answer is that we tend to internalize all of the criticisms we grow up hearing. The more often you heard something, the more deeply you believe it, even if it is buried in your unconscious. This internalized criticism becomes our very own critical voice that we then carry with us everywhere - well into our adult years. If your parents or caregivers were particularly negative or critical towards you, whether they realized it or not at the time, that helped created the self-sabotaging voice that you might be aware of today. My parents, for instance, had very high expectations. Anything less than perfect wasn’t good enough and it took me years to realize that, to this day, I still tell myself that what I do isn’t good enough. I have continued to replicate unachievable standards and “punish” myself when I fail - which, as you might imagine with standards like that, is often.
Of course, my parents never realized what they were doing. I know their intentions were good. As a parent now myself, I know that parents do the best they can with what they’ve got and I think that information about mental health has become much more accessible in recent years than it was a few decades ago. Which is amazing, because now blogs like this one are at your fingertips.
As an adult, this critical voice that keeps me from being successful is now one that I have to identify and address, every single day to ensure that it doesn’t keep me down. Do I wish I didn’t have that problem? Sometimes. Mostly, I’m relieved to finally know what has been holding me back for so long, because now I can work on it.
So how can you know for certain you are self-sabotaging yourself? What are the signs of self-sabotage?
Do you repeatedly fail when in pursuit of your goals? Even when you're close to meeting them?
Have you ever gotten so close to your weight loss goal and then decided to binge and rebounded in weight gain? Have you ever gotten the interview to the job of your dreams and then totally bombed it by showing up late, not being prepared, etc? Have you ever procrastinated doing something that is important to you and that would make you happy?
These are all signs that you might be self-sabotaging yourself. If you’re doing these things frequently, then you most certainly are standing in the way of your own success. The thing about self-sabotage is that you are not aware on the surface that you are sabotaging yourself because it’s kind of a complicated concept to accept. As I mentioned earlier, I was shocked to realize I was doing it, too. I mean, I am first in line for anything involving self-care. One hour massages, a day at the spa, bi-weekly nail salon trips, you name it, I am here for it. But self-sabotage does not necessarily mean you don’t love yourself, as I mistakenly thought at first. In fact, it’s that lack of awareness that makes self-sabotage possible.
How many negative thoughts do you think to yourself every day?
Try counting your daily negative thoughts. I was surprised at how many negative thoughts I used to have on a daily basis because I always considered myself a positive person. Pay attention to see if you frequently tell yourself, “I can’t do that,” “I’m not smart enough,” “I can never make the time,” and so on.
These are basically negative affirmations that your self-sabotaging voice is continually filling your mind with. Remember, you are what you think. Those negative thoughts can seriously impact the quality of your life if you don’t manage them.
Do you overindulge?
Do you binge eat? Drink too much? Spend more money than you’ve got? If you are overindulging in any part of your life, this is just one other way you are sabotaging your success. You might excuse these behaviors by telling yourself it’s how you relieve stress, for instance, but you are actively sabotaging your happiness in doing so. These behaviors may be immediately gratifying, but long-term, they do not serve you and may even set you back.
I’ve realized that I am self-sabotaging myself. How do I stop?
If you are self-sabotaging yourself, keep in mind that these are learned behaviors. You didn’t learn them overnight, and you won’t unlearn them that quickly either. But you deserve to be happy, successful and fulfilled. Be patient. Begin with paying attention to your thoughts and try to catch all of your negative thoughts. If you find yourself thinking, “I can’t do that,” turn it into a positive thought. Say to yourself, ‘What if I can?” Shifting your mindset from a negative one to one full of potential can make such a big difference.
Consider journaling to work on changing your thought patterns. Check out our blog, How to Journal to Improve Your Mental Health for more ideas. Were you shocked to realize you were self-sabotaging yourself? Did you try something that helped? I’d love to hear from you.
If you’re struggling to find answers check out our blog on How to Meditate. Opening up your mind and learning to be aware of your thoughts can go a long way in helping you achieve the changes you are looking for.