All too often in life, we become our own worst enemy. We dream the dream, but we don’t want to put in the effort. We aim for the stars but when it comes down to it we put off the inevitable work needed to get where we want to go. We’re afraid of moving forward so we cling stubbornly to where we are.
We all engage in self-sabotaging behavior sometimes, even though it takes us away from what we truly want. It traps us in a place where we’re not happy, under the guise of being easier than the alternative.
That’s why the art of getting out of our own way is something most of us need to practice. Today I’m sharing a step-by-step system to stop the self-sabotaging behavior and start living a more aligned life.
How To Stop Self Sabotaging Behavior
Stop Self Sabotaging Step #1:
The first step is simply to become self-aware of your thought patterns and actions. This mostly just requires us to slow down and pay more attention to the real you.
Here’s the trick: sometimes we fill our lives up with useless noise just so we don’t have to confront our real issues. Even behavior that doesn’t appear to be outwardly damaging – overly busy schedules, constant streams of social media etc. – can be a shield for what’s really going on.
That’s why taking time to check in with yourself throughout the day should be a regular practice. It’s yet another reason why practicing mindfulness and meditation is so useful! It takes some effort but it’s well worth it. Checking in with ourselves is an ongoing process, not a one-week only affair. It’ll take time to become reacquainted with your real thoughts and feelings.
If this seems challenging at first, try free-writing instead. Just take some time each day to do a brain dump: writing down all the random thoughts that pop into your head. I base this practice on Julia Cameron’s “morning pages” from her book The Artist’s Way. It’s meant to boost creativity but I find it to also helps improve overall concentration and gives you a deeper understanding of yourself.
Stop Self Sabotaging Step #2:
Recognize Your Self Sabotaging Behavior
Not all self-sabotaging behavior is obvious at first glance! While habits like excessive drinking or a constant need for excitement are red flags, most of the time self-sabotage is far more subtle.
But you can’t run and hide from yourself! If you’re being self-destructive, some part of you will be well-aware of that fact.
Begin to ask yourself:
- Is there something you want in life that you’ve never quite been able to achieve?
- What do you consistently fail at? (Imaginary or not!)
- What have you become angry or frustrated with time and time again?
- What are you avoiding?
- Is there something you are not putting your all into because you don’t want to admit failure?
So try to move past any justifications you might have and try to see your behavior for what it really is. Actions speak louder than words after all! Are you really aligning with the life you want?
Stop Self Sabotaging Step #3:
Understand The Why
Our external behavior always stems from our internal thoughts. Mindset really is everything! So learning to change our outside behavior always starts by finding the cause of our negative thoughts.
Self-sabotage can stem from a number of different issues but here are some of the most common reasons ones:
The biggest negative motivating factor is fear: fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear that we’ll face pain or rejection. Of course, we are more resilient than we think! We are perfectly capable of facing uncomfortable situations or even dealing with pain.
We’re afraid of growth. Or of putting in the work. Or of change. Or of failing. There are a lot of things we could theoretically be afraid of if we allow our imagination to get ahold of us. All growth takes us out of comfort zone. It’s much easier just to stay where we are rather than trying to forge a new path.
Running away from our fear only gives us an illusion of safety. In reality, there’s nothing we can do to prevent negative events from happening to us. A full life has both ups and downs. Shying away from the things that we want out of fear will neither protect us nor allow us to have what we really want.
This might be difficult to internalize at first but no one’s perfect (not even Beyonce!). The glossy world of social media has lead to a skewered vision of what life should be like. Just try to remember that the images we receive from other people are heavily filtered (literally and figuratively).
Likewise, the idea that others have some secret that we don’t have access to is totally erroneous. The people that you admire likely did not have any extra help along the way; they just managed to put their own fears aside long enough to make progress. That’s the only real difference between stagnation and success.
No one was born knowing exactly how to do something! Being a newbie is an experience we can all relate to. So avoiding doing something because it won’t be magically perfect is just a cop out. Life should not be an all or nothing game; reality is far too complicated for that!
Self-hatred can take multiple forms. But if you’ve got a little voice in your head telling you that you’re not worthy or deserving, you might be suffering from self-hatred.
It could be that you feel worthless and have stopped believing in yourself. It could be that you take criticism too much to heart or that you constantly engage in self-diminishing thoughts.
Often these thoughts are formed in our childhood and they can be difficult to shake off! The first step is to recognize them as being unhelpful. Gradually over time it will become easier to replace a negative thought with a more positive one.
Feeling anger towards ourselves or others can also result in self-sabotage. If you’re being overly aggressive in your relationships, try to take a step back and see where the anger is coming from. Typically this comes from resentment about some issue not being met. If there’s an issue that needs to be addressed, look for a healthy non-damaging way to do it rather than risk your relationship or career.
A certain level of worry is normal but it becomes problematic when it’s excessive. If your levels of worry actually prevent you from making decisions or taking action, then it’s time to stop.
There is only so much you can control in this world. Worrying about the opinion of others, over things that don’t matter or that are out of your control is just a waste of energy. Worry is just negative daydreaming! And you can choose to not engage with it.
Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrow, it empties today of strength – Corrie Ten Boom
A Need For Control
Control is an illusion, yet many people attempt to control certain aspects of their life (or the lives of people around them) in order to feel safe. Sometimes this need for control exhibits itself in self-sabotage: ending a relationship prematurely because we’re convinced it’s bound to fail. Again, the need for control is ultimately rooted in fear.
Stop Self Sabotaging Step #4:
You don’t have to be prisoner to those negative beliefs! Once you’ve noticed a self-sabotaging pattern, it’s time to challenge it.
If you’re experiencing a negative thought pattern, try to follow your thoughts to their “logical” conclusion (which is usually not very logical at all!). Self-limiting beliefs are only damaging when we accept them at face value and don’t question them. The truth behind the belief is typically never as scary or stressful as we’ve imagined it to be.
So ask yourself: Are your worries rational or exaggerated? What would a more realistic belief be?If you have a negative thought, (“I’ll never be able to do this”, “This always happens to me etc.”) is there another more supportive thought you can choose instead?
Stop Self Sabotaging Step #5:
Reward Positive Progress
I’m a big fan of plain ol’ positive reinforcement! Meaning: it’s a great idea reward yourself for your good behavior.
So when you’re trying to change your behavior, first take some time for some creative brainstorming. Ask yourself what you can do in order to make progress. Or think of ways to make the process more enjoyable. Finally, see if you break up your end goal into smaller pieces that are much easier to achieve.
Then after you’ve got a game plan, it’s time to implement the reward system. Think: booking a mani/pedi for a week of workouts completed. Allow yourself a night out after you’ve hit your work goals for the week. Or reward yourself for hitting your financial goals by buying yourself a treat.
The key is to remember to reward yourself for following through! You (and your dreams) are worth ultimately it so don’t downplay your progress!
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I hope this post serves you on your way to living a more aligned life! Please let me know how it goes and if you enjoyed it, remember to share!
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