Self Sabotaging
Self Sabotaging
Dear Tacit,

Every time I start to do better in Iife, I seem to find a way to mess it up again.  I just cannot seem to let myself do well.  Why does this keep happening?

Signed: Self-Sabotaging

Dear Self-Sabotaging,

Self-sabotage happens to a lot of people.  It is a pattern of intentional behaviour (something we choose to do or to not do) which results in our feeling less happy and being less successful in our goals.  Some people may not fully recognize or understand their self-sabotaging behaviors. They might engage in these behaviors without realizing the underlying motives or consequences.  Sometimes a person believes that these behaviours are the best option for themselves at the moment.  But after the fact, they realize that their choice actually held them back or prevented them from achieving what they really wanted (happiness, peace, healthy relationships, a new adventure in life, etc).

People can engage in self-sabotage for various reasons:

  1. Fear of Failure: Some individuals may sabotage their own efforts because they fear failing at a task or goal. This fear can lead them to unconsciously undermine themselves to avoid facing potential disappointment or negative outcomes (they would rather not try at all, rather than try and fail).  This can often be seen in people who have perfectionism tendencies and who set unrealistically high standards for themselves.
  2. Low Self-Esteem: Individuals with low self-esteem may not believe they deserve success or happiness. Internalized negative thoughts and beliefs can contribute to self-sabotage.  If someone constantly tells themselves they’re not good enough or capable enough, they may start acting in ways that align with those beliefs.
  3. Comfort Zone: Stepping outside one’s comfort zone (into a more positive result) can be scary and daunting – it’s a new experience and a person might not be used to it.  They might sabotage themselves to avoid the discomfort and anxiety associated with change or growth.
  4. Avoidance of Responsibility: Sometimes, self-sabotage serves as a way to avoid taking responsibility for one’s life or actions. By sabotaging themselves, individuals may shift blame onto external factors or circumstances.
  5. Past Trauma: Previous experiences of failure, rejection, or trauma can create deep-seated emotional wounds. Self-sabotage can be the brain’s protective mechanism, used to safeguard a person from re-experiencing similar pain.
  6. Control Issues: Feeling out of control can be distressing. Self-sabotage can provide a false sense of control in situations where individuals feel overwhelmed or uncertain.
  7. Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms: In some cases, self-sabotage can be a maladaptive way of coping with stress, anxiety, or other emotional challenges.

If you recognize that you might be engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors and want to change that pattern, here are some steps you can take:

Increase your self-awareness.  Reflect on your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Pay attention to situations where you feel stuck or where you’re not progressing despite your efforts. Keep a journal to track your thoughts and feelings. Identify any recurring negative patterns, self-talk or self-defeating beliefs.

Identify specific triggers or situations that tend to lead to self-sabotage. Does it happen when you’re under stress, facing a new challenge, or experiencing self-doubt?  Notice the patterns in your behavior before and during the self-sabotage.  Understanding what triggers your self-sabotaging patterns can help you anticipate and address it.

Challenge your negative belief patterns. Examine the beliefs you hold about yourself, success, and failure. Are there any negative or limiting beliefs that contribute to your self-sabotage?  Challenge these beliefs by questioning their validity. Replace them with more realistic and empowering beliefs.

Break down your goals into smaller, manageable steps. Set realistic and achievable milestones.  Avoid setting overly perfectionistic or rigid goals that may set you up for self-sabotage if you fall short. Learn how to see success in the learning and growth that comes from each situation.

Identify healthier ways to cope with stress, anxiety, and difficult emotions. Practice mindfulness, deep breathing, or relaxation techniques.  Engage in activities that promote self-care and well-being, such as exercise, relaxing hobbies, or spending time with supportive people.

Talk to trusted friends, family members, or a therapist about your struggles with self-sabotage. Opening up to others can provide valuable insights and emotional support.

Acknowledge and celebrate your successes, no matter how small. Positive reinforcement can help build confidence and motivation.  Taking the time to recognize the achievements you are accomplishing at every step of the process (not just at the end goal point) helps you get more comfortable in your connection to yourself.

Recognize that fear of failure or success is normal but it shouldn’t dictate your actions. Challenge yourself to take small steps towards your goals even when you feel afraid.  Get more comfortable with making mistakes.  Practice self-compassion and be kind to yourself, especially during setbacks or moments of self-doubt.

Changing self-sabotaging behaviors takes time and effort, but with persistence and self-awareness, you can break free from these patterns and create a more positive and fulfilling life.

Take care!

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