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Do you ever feel like you are not living the life you are supposed to be living? Do you wake up on some days and decide you’ll make changes, and that this time, things will be different?
And yet, it’s not different. You start to feel discouraged and you give up. Did you know that part of the problem is your self-sabotaging pattern?
However, don’t despair because you can break self-sabotage with awareness and actionable steps you finally commit to taking.
What is self-sabotage?
Self-sabotage relates to any conscious and unconscious behaviour and thought pattern that prevents you from achieving your goals and your full potential. In essence, it prevents you from pursuing the things you want to do in life.
In some cases, it not only damages aspects of your personal life but also your interpersonal (e.g., romantic, friendship, etc.) relationships.
Here are my 5 helpful steps on how to stop self-sabotage.
#1 Identify Your Self-Sabotaging Behaviour(s)
In order to help prevent yourself from self-sabotaging in the future, you need to identify your self-sabotaging behaviour(s). It’s harder than it seems because sometimes we might think to ourselves, “Well I’ve always been this way so this must just be the way I am.”
It really take an effort on your part to analyze all of your daily behavioural responses to the different stressors of your life (e.g., work, relationships, health, personal goals, etc.).
I’ll give you a brief example. In university, I would always write my essays the day they were due. Although I obtained good enough grades (I have a master’s degree), it doesn’t negate the fact this was a self-sabotaging behaviour I kept up for a very long time.
Only after realizing I was a super procrastinator, I started pushing myself to get work done earlier. By writing and submitting work the way I used to, I was penalizing myself from achieving the highest grade that I could if I had more time to formulate my ideas and review my papers.
Therefore, self-awareness is the first key to combatting self-sabotage. We need to understand our pattern of thinking and behaving in order to make the necessary changes.
Ask yourself: what kind of self-sabotaging behaviour(s) do you engage in?
I have combined a brief list of common self-sabotaging behaviour(s) for you to reflect on:
Procrastination is a big one. The reason why it can really be harmful is that you can procrastinate on things that could cause you a lot of problems in the long run. Such as not taking care of your health, always reaching job deadlines at the very last minute, etc.
Sometimes procrastinating on the simplest things can result in great consequences.
It’s a devastating way of thinking in which you may always tell yourself, “I’ll start tomorrow.” “I’ll do it tomorrow.”
It’s hard sometimes not to fall back into this mindset. But you need to remember that sometimes tomorrow never comes. You can do it today. Sometimes, tomorrow becomes years away and it’s too late. Start today.
Self-sacrifice is another common method of self-sabotage. This generally involves always saying “yes” to others and putting your needs and wants always second. It could also manifest as always taking the blame for others, never standing up for yourself, etc.
- Blaming others
Always pointing your mistakes and life circumstances on others is self-sabotage. Sometimes even, you might not take responsibility and ownership for your own mistakes. You might never think you’re at fault in your past relationships even when others say you’ve hurt them.
Self-pity is truly one of the worst self-sabotaging drugs. You can pity yourself so much in life that you start to accept situations that will contribute further to your pity party. This can be very dangerous. You get too comfortable with pitying yourself and being the victim that you no longer realize that, at this point, you’re a victim from self-sabotaging thinking.
- Negative self-talk
This one is sometimes seem so subtle. Sometimes we don’t even realize the negative monologues we are playing in our minds because it’s become so common place. Constantly putting yourself down in your head enables you from positive change and from believing in yourself.
Maybe you don’t pursue the life you want and the things you want because you’re afraid you’re not ready yet or that the situation isn’t ideal yet. In this matter, perfectionists are also procrastinators because they want every condition to be ideal before even attempting to shoot their shot, or to do the thing they want or should be doing.
Maybe you need to control everything and have everything go your way… If not, maybe you just quit or totally refuse to do things that can benefit you and your life because it presents to you a lack of control. In this sense, control and perfectionism can go hand in hand.
As I said, there are so many other self-sabotaging behaviours (e.g., drinking, spending, gambling, etc.). The key is to truly be self-aware and see how your react and think in certain situations that leads you to self-sabotage.
You can ask others or a professional if they see anything alarming in the way you think and behave that stands in the way of your personal growth and happiness.
#2 Figure out the Root Cause(s)
Now that you might have an idea of which self-sabotaging behaviour(s) you engage in, the next step is to figure out the root causes.
I have listed a few causes for you to truly and honestly think about:
- Behaviours learned in childhood
- As a result from past experiences and relationships
- As a result of any kind of untreated trauma
- Issues with maintaining boundaries
- Issues with setting goals
- Issues with commitment
- Frequent boredom
- Imposter syndrom
- Fear of failure
- Constantly comparing yourself (and/or even being compared) to others
- Rejection in it’s very many forms
- Low self-worth, self-confidence, or self-esteem
- No belief or trust in yourself
You really need to dive deep into yourself to determine why you are self-sabotaging in the first place. There could many different causes that I have not listed. If you struggle coming with a reason by yourself or understanding where the root of your problems start, I recommend talking to someone you fully trust to help you.
You may also seek help from a professional whose job is to guide you safely into recognition of your unresolved trauma (causes) and offer solutions to the way you react (developed behaviours of self-sabotage.)
#3 Accept that Changing is Uncomfortable
Since self-sabotaging is a pattern of behaviour and therefore a way of you living your life (which is in fact a form of not-living by continuous self-sabotage.)
If you truly want to change, you will have to accept that changing is uncomfortable.
Honestly, change is super uncomfortable.
I used to weigh 20kg heavier and going through the changes of eating healthy, sleeping better, not drinking, and exercising was a lot. And I failed most days.
A lot of the days I went back to self-sabotaging my own health and happiness. But I made it because I sticked with the uncomfortable days for a very long time in order to see change and be changed. And since, I have never been happier. Every so often I learn to embrace discomfort when I know it will greatly benefit my life.
Temporary self-sabotage is very comfortable but without maybe realizing it; you’re living in increasing discomfort… You might come to a point you’ll be so down and so detached from your goals you might suffer from even greater problems such as anxiety, depression, and a very toxic lifestyle.
Self-sabotage is going to impact every area of your life. And that’s even more uncomfortable than the discomfort of change.
The immediate changes for rectifying self-sabotaging behaviour will be hard and uncomfortable but in the long run you will have a much healthier and happier life. One in which you don’t self-sabotage any long-term happiness you could build and maintain.
#4 Identify What You Really Want
Once you’ve committed yourself to discomfort, you will also need to identify what you really want. Take away all the limiting self-belief and ask yourself truly what do you want. What do you want from your life?
Do you want to get fit? Get a promotion? Publish a book? Graduate university? Buy a house? Lose weight? Travel overseas?
Now that you know that what is truly stopping you is you, you can form a concrete plan.
You know yourself and your self-sabotaging patterns. Now, how can you work through them in order to get the things you want in life?
Seriously evaluate your goals and don’t discredit them. This time, try to actually prioritize them and make a plan. A plan detailing all of the steps you need to take. Even if you’re tempted to self-sabotage, have extra steps that will keep you disciplined in your journey.
If you want to learn how to achieve your goals, you can read my separate blog post here.
SEE ALSO: How to Achieve Your Goals
#5 Form Good New Habits
Now that you’ve identified what you want and you’ve got your new goals set out for you, it’s time to form good new habits. These habits will ensure that you will reach your goals and counter your self-sabotaging behaviours.
A lot of the self-sabotaging behaviours go hand in hand with bad habits. Let’s go back to my personal example on procrastination.
If I know I tend to procrastinate my essays to the last few hours before it’s due, then I know that I should get into the good habit of working on my essay 1-2 hours a day starting a week before the deadline. Ensuring that I finish on time but that also have enough time to write something coherent as well as have more time to revise it before submitting.
There’s my new habit in place: setting aside 1-2 hours a day to work on my essay.
Remember, at first it’s quite uncomfortable but it is much needed if you want to stop self-sabotaging your life. Similarly as sticking through self-damaging habits, after a while, you will also incorporate these new good habits into your daily routine. They will go from conscious decision making and uncomfortable struggles to a way of living you won’t think twice about in the long run.
Here are some reputable books about forming and maintaining good habits to get you started:
- “Atomic Habits” by James Clear
- “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy
- “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey
- “Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior” by Richard O’Connor
Educating yourself on forming good and sustainable habits goes a very long way!
I hope you found these 5 steps helpful to stop self-sabotaging. Let me know what are some steps you’ve taken or even some of the books that you’ve read that have helped you stop self-sabotaging!
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